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Hit the trail

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November hiking offers surprising advantages at state parks

“Everyone wants to hike in the summer,” laments naturalist Bret Smitley, “but it is hot, buggy, and snaky in the summer. In November, it is cool. You can see through the woods and see the rock arches and the waterfalls easier. It is the perfect time to be outside. With the proper clothing, when you start hiking you get warmed up pretty quickly.”

Smitley, who works for Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, guides hikes and some of the other activities during the park’s Outdoor Family Adventure, which is set for Friday and Saturday, November 27–28 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. In addition to hiking, there are activities for the entire family, including archery, birding, storytelling, and astronomy.

“We have at least four programs on both days,” Smitley says. “In the daytime we usually provide guided, shorter hikes of 1 to 2 miles.”

For an afternoon adventure, see how accurate you can be with a bow and arrow during archery practice, or use your creativity during a craft session. At night, the park’s high-powered telescopes come out and the newly renovated terrace becomes an observation spot. Jupiter is usually prominent in the night sky at this time of year, as well as a multitude of stars. But it is the full moon that gives the park the attraction that makes it famous.

“Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is the only place left in the world to see a moonbow,” says Park Manager Roy Johnson. “The moonbow comes out during a full moon. To the naked eye, it is solid white, but the rainbow colors come out in photos.”

This adventure weekend is free and no reservations are needed for the activities. Lower winter lodge rates are available for those staying overnight.

Happy trails

There are 12 trails—ranging from a quarter-mile to almost 11 miles—to explore at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, each offering a different perspective:
-0.25 mile: Laurel Trail and Trail #8
-0.5 mile: Campers Path, Cumberland Falls, and Rockhouse trails
-1 mile: Civilian Conservation Corps Memorial Trail
-1.25 mile: Wildflower Loop
-1.5 mile: Eagle Falls Trail
-2.5 miles: Anvil Branch Trail
-4.5 miles: Blue Bend Loop
-5 miles: Cumberland River Trail
-10.8 miles: Moonbow Trail

More trailblazing

If you can’t make it to southeastern Kentucky, you can hit a hiking trail in every area of Kentucky. Here are a few:

Civil War Trail at Columbus-Belmont State Park
Hike through massive trenches and bluffs that were developed by Confederate soldiers to protect their fortifications. Columbus-Belmont State Park is on the site where Confederate fortifications were established during the Civil War to protect the Upper Mississippi Valley. In addition to the trails, a park museum provides visitors with a complete guide to area and Civil War history.

Connell Nature Trail at Barren River Lake State Resort Park
This 1-mile nature loop has an easy to moderate trail rating and features an old farm cistern, partial views of the beach, seasonal streams, wildflowers, ferns, and deciduous trees.

Cross Country Trail at Carter Caves State Resort Park
Designed for hearty hikers, this 8.3-mile trail begins at the Welcome Center, passes through the Shangra La Arch, and runs parallel to Smoky Valley Lake before crossing Smoky Creek over a suspension bridge and ascending a hill leading to Johnson Homeplace Backcountry Primitive Campsite (permit required to camp). The trail crosses the lake spillway and joins Three Bridges Trail, passing by Fern and Raven natural bridges, for a return to the Welcome Center.

Steve Brackett Memorial Trail at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
Breathtaking views of cliff chains and plant life as well as some of the oldest trees in the park are found on this 1-mile trail. There is also a chance to see whitetail deer and wild turkeys.

Each state park offers multiple hiking trails. To find out more about each park and its trails, go to then click on “DO” and choose “hiking.” The parks are listed in alphabetical order; simply scroll down.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
7351 Hwy. 90, Corbin
(606) 528-4121

Columbus-Belmont State Park
350 Park Road, Columbus
(270) 677-2327

Carter Caves State Resort Park
344 Caveland Drive, Olive Hill
(606) 286-4411

Barren River Lake State Resort Park
1149 State Park Road, Lucas
(270) 646-2151

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
75 Theatre Court, Prestonsburg
(606) 889-1790

Debra Gibson Isaacs from November 2015 Issue

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