Bridges, caves, wildlife, watersports: Kentucky offers summer action in every direction
Kentuckians are a lucky lot. We can point a compass in any direction and find adventure to fill a weekend: hiking, caving, covered bridges, scenic splendor, wild animals, water fun, antiquing. Here are four reasons to pack your car and hit the road this summer:
Covered bridges to the north
Did you know that 800 covered bridges once spanned Kentucky waterways? Today, 13 authentic covered bridges remain, with three of them strutting—or spanning—their stuff in Fleming County, the self-proclaimed “Covered Bridge Capital of Kentucky.”
The 63-foot Goddard White Covered Bridge, open to foot and vehicle traffic, is a historically reconstructed bridge that spans Sand Lick Creek. The circa 1870 Grange City Covered Bridge and Ringo’s Mill Covered Bridge (circa 1867 to 1869) are examples of multiple kingpost trusses; each 86-foot bridge spans Fox Creek. These two bridges are closed to vehicle traffic. Ringo’s Mill is open to pedestrian traffic, but Grange City is not. All three make scenic photo ops.
In keeping with the yesteryear theme, Flemingsburg has a half-dozen antique shops and malls, perfect for a lazy afternoon’s browse. For day two, check out Maysville, just 25 minutes north, which offers a veritable nirvana for lovers of antiques, boutiques, and galleries.
Area lodging: Par-A-Dox Farms Bed and Breakfast, (606) 267-9003, a historic farm home, has three guest rooms on 530-acre working cattle farm. In Maysville: French Quarter Inn, (800) 966-9892, on the banks of the Ohio River.
Down under south adventures
Head to Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo in Horse Cave to pat a kangaroo. Visit its Bird Garden and meet a laughing kookaburra, known as the “Bushman’s Alarm Clock.” Take a cup of nectar into the aviary—but watch out! The silly and brilliantly colored rainbow lorikeets will seek it out, landing on your head, shoulders, and arms to lap it up with their brush-tipped tongues.
Cauliflower in a cave? Tour Mammoth Onyx Cave, included in admission to Kentucky Down Under, and see this cave formation, along with cave popcorn, stalagmites, and stalactites. Try this cave’s new lantern tour or the new zip line adventure across the mouth of the cave at Hidden River Cave.
At Mammoth Cave National Park, the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave is an absolute must-see with its beautiful arched portal to the underground.
Spend the night in the park at one of the campgrounds, Mammoth Cave Jellystone Park or at Mammoth Cave Hotel. Few streetlights make it a very dark place indeed—perfect for star gazing. Tune into the night noises, and frogs, crickets, and night birds will provide live musical entertainment.
Scenic splendor in the east
Visit Kentucky’s first linear state park at Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail in Whitesburg for a true adventurer’s hiking or backpacking experience. Fifty-eight miles of pristine hiking trails are already open in this developing long-distance trail that will eventually span 120 miles from Breaks Interstate Park to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.
You’ll be treated to challenging and rugged sawtooth terrain; breathtaking cliffline views and the dramatic scenery of the Cumberland Plateau; the gravelly calls of ravens and the trills of songbirds; and crystal-clear mountaintop streams, mature forest canopies, and virgin timber.
“You’ll also see lots of bear signs,” says Shad Baker, president of the Pine Mountain Trail Conference, “trees marked by the males, bear scat, footprints along the trail.”
Pine Mountain Trail is a segment of the Great Eastern Trail, the newest long-distance hiking trail in the country, stretching from central Alabama to the Finger Lakes region of New York through nine states, linking existing trails in the Appalachian Mountains.
Wild, watery west
With enough activity to fill every weekend of your summer, Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area is a boater’s paradise, an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and a wildlife lover’s dream.
For great wildlife viewing, visit the Elk & Bison Prairie, Woodlands Nature Station, and Nature Watch Area. You can spot elk, bison, and songbirds in the Prairie and view a variety of native wildlife at the Nature Station and Nature Watch Area. Some 260 species of birds and 55 species of mammals make their home in Land Between The Lakes.
The miles and miles of shoreline of Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake—combined, the largest body of water between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico—beckon boaters, fishers, swimmers, and sunbathers. There are golfing, horseback riding, biking, hiking, hunting, camping, and more than 100 miles of off-highway vehicle trails.
Other options: In Grand Rivers, stop at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement for a charbroiled pork chop lunch and a round of mini golf, or catch a Branson-style variety show at the new Badgett Playhouse. Take on the Dueling Demon speed slides at Venture River Family Water Park in Eddyville. The area is also an oenophile’s idea of heaven offering three wineries—Eddy Grove, Ruby Moon, and Purple Toad.
Kathy Witt from June 2015 Issue