The best of the state’s natural beauty and adventure
Kentucky has 49 state parks—and we encourage you to visit them all. On these pages you’ll find 20 categories with a selection of the best state parks to visit for each one. The list is not all-inclusive: For example, more than three state parks have swimming pools, but these are the ones we recommend you try first. Enjoy this guide to Kentucky State Parks, compiled with the help of the staff at the Kentucky Department of Parks.
If you’re a golfer, there’s really no need to travel out of state. Some of the courses at Kentucky State Parks are nationally recognized by Golf Digest magazine. Interested? Check out the Getaway to Golf overnight packages and the Golf Trail Card Pass for unlimited access.
State parks offer hundreds of miles of some of the finest trails to be found. Hiking is a great way to see the diversity of wildlife, geography and geology within the parks.
Visit these parks: Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Pine Mountain State Resort Park, John James Audubon State Park, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Carter Caves State Resort Park, Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site
Feel the tug of a striped bass so big he can pull a boat around—or a big muskellunge that can double over a heavy-duty fishing pole. No gear? No problem. Many state parks offer a fishing loaner program for guests. Just ask and the park will likely lend you a fishing pole and tackle.
Visit these parks: Kenlake State Resort Park, Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, Lake Barkley State Resort Park, Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, Barren River Lake State Resort Park, Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, Taylorsville Lake State Park
Kids and Kentucky State Parks are hand in glove through programs like Hike and Explore day at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park. Youngsters and the whole family can compete for prizes in the Family Adventure Quest program. Load up the car, name your team and follow the trail of curious quests.
Visit these parks: Carter Caves State Resort Park, Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, Fort Boonesborough State Park , E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park
Mark your calendar for Memorial Day weekend, the official start of swimming season at state park pools.
You’ll find great campgrounds and facilities in the parks, from primitive campsites for those who want a little more wilderness experience to developed RV sites for the pampered campers who want all the comforts of home.
State park restaurants have come a long way in recent years—serving fresh, locally grown cuisine and Kentucky Proud products. Some parks have hired highly skilled chefs and on special occasions offer bison and wild game dinners.
Climb in the saddle at one of the wrangler-led guided horseback rides. Walk, trot or lope along miles of self-guided trails through seldom-seen sections of the parks.
There is no shortage of boating opportunities at the state parks. For those who don’t own boats, rental pontoons, fishing boats, kayaks and even houseboats are available for a wonderful time on the water.
According to historians, Columbus-Belmont State Park was the site where an unknown Union general first caught the attention of President Abraham Lincoln. That general was Ulysses S. Grant. State parks give us an amazing wealth and diversity of knowledge.
Carter Caves State Resort Park holds the highest concentration of caves in Kentucky. Guided tours through multiple passageways showcase dazzling formations and a 30-foot waterfall.
Visit this park: Carter Caves State Resort Park
Bikers can take in the incredible scenery and feel the burn in their legs as they loop and leap their way along miles of rugged trails.
The owner of a large brick home in Richmond had central heating and indoor plumbing installed—in the mid-19th century. The homeowner, Cassius Clay, not only was a well-known abolitionist and politician but also way ahead of his time in “creature comfort” technology. White Hall is just one of the beautiful historic homes across Kentucky.
State park amenities are ideal for family gatherings and reunions. Reserve a large block of rooms for the kinfolk and enjoy the cuisine at one of the 17 state resort parks.
Must-see natural wonders
Kentucky is blessed with amazing natural diversity. These natural wonders and a lot more can be found at the state parks and should be on anyone’s bucket list.
Visit these parks: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Kingdom Come State Park, John James Audubon State Park, Carter Caves State Resort Park, Pine Mountain State Resort Park
There are plenty of romantic locations at the state resort parks—and teams are available to offer assistance and take a little stress out of the all-important wedding planning.
Visit these parks: Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, Rough River Dam State Resort Park, Kenlake State Resort Park, My Old Kentucky Home State Park, E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park
Guided wild elk viewing is a state parks program. So are songbird walks and bald eagle tours. You might see deer, wild turkey and even catch a glimpse of a black bear in some parks.
Canoeing and kayaking are great ways to see the state parks and stay in shape. Water of all kinds is abundant in the parks and motorless, quiet paddling makes it much easier to hear the delicate sounds of nature.
The state park museums will make you think and wonder about history. What were Israel Boone’s last moments like? How did naturalist and artist John James Audubon paint close-up likenesses of wild birds in such detail? Think, wonder and gaze upon priceless artifacts at the park museums.
You don’t have to travel to the coastline to feel the sand between your toes at a public beach. We have our own beaches right here in Kentucky.
Visit Kentucky’s state parks for more information.