Head to Kentucky for this Enchanting Waterfall Trail

The Kentucky Wildlands Waterfall Trail highlights 17 of some of the most unique and accessible waterfalls across southern and eastern Kentucky. The trail not only provides logistical information like length, difficulty and how to access each trail, it also highlights waterfalls with special features, including the tallest waterfall, an ADA-accessible waterfall and family-friendly falls and trails. With more than 14,000 square miles and 800+ waterfalls in this part of Kentucky alone, the trail makes it easy for people to explore the ancient forests, mountains and unspoiled terrain of The Kentucky Wildlands—those who do will be rewarded with breathtaking waterfall views.

The Kentucky Wildlands Waterfall Trail illustrated map – courtesy of The Kentucky Wildlands

“We are incredibly excited to debut this trail so that those unfamiliar with the area can better understand and navigate the diverse beauty of the Wildlands,” said Tammie Nazario, Director of The Kentucky Wildlands. “We want to encourage people to discover the natural wonders here, which include an abundance of beautiful waterfalls, and we hope this easy-to-follow guide inspires them to plan a trip to experience some of the many we have to offer.”

No two falls are alike on The Kentucky Wildlands Waterfall Trail. Featured waterfalls include Cumberland Falls, also known as the “Niagara of the South,” the 113-foot Yahoo Falls, and Creation Falls, which has a plunge pool great for wading. The trail incorporates everything from wheelchair- and stroller-accessible hikes like the one to Flat Lick Falls to more challenging routes such as the rocky climb to Eagle Falls.

The entire waterfall trail can be found online. The trail is displayed on an illustrated map that gives visitors a glimpse of what each of the 17 falls looks like and where it’s located within The Kentucky Wildlands. Visitors can download a waterfall guide as well as access photos of the falls, important details and insider tips on the website. Below are a just a few of the featured waterfalls on the trail.

Within the Daniel Boone National Forest lies a rare double waterfall, Pine Island Double Falls, where two powerful blue cascades meet in the middle and plunge into a pristine aquamarine pool below. You can access this impressive hidden gem via a 1.4-mile trek that follows a creek and features numerous natural wonders, such as caves, gorges, canyons and rock formations. As with most waterfalls, the best time to visit is right after a heavy rainfall.

Dog Slaughter Falls in Kentucky by Joshua Michaels – Unsplash

Dense stands of hemlock and rhododendron and massive boulders line the one-mile path to stunning Dog Slaughter Falls. A second path to the falls, twice as long as the first, is easily accessible and both are considered only moderately challenging, making them good options for families, as well as nature lovers. Upon arriving you can take in the falls from many vantage points surrounding the blue plunge pool, which also makes a gorgeous swimming hole.

Venture into the rugged Red River Gorge to Creation Falls with its family-friendly plunge pool that’s great for wading. The 1.4 mile out-and-back Rock Bridge Trail is considered moderately challenging and is one of the most visually stunning trails in the Gorge. Along the way to the arch (rock bridge) for which the trail is named, you’ll come upon magnificent Creation Falls. If you start the loop going clockwise, you’ll descend first into the woods to a scenic creek.

On the south side of Pine Mountain lies Bad Branch State Nature Preserve, home to Bad Branch, a designated Kentucky Wild River and Bad Branch Falls. Impressive year-round, the 60-foot waterfall lies at the end of a moderate one-mile well-maintained trail that takes you through old timber roads, a shady gorge, and hemlock forest surrounded by sandstone cliffs. Climb over boulders, enjoy the spray and watch for rainbows in the water at the foot of the falls.

Cumberland Falls in Kentucky by Lauren Barton – Unsplash

Roaring Cumberland Falls at 68 feet tall and 125 feet wide certainly lives up to its “Niagara of the South” moniker. 3,600 cubic feet of water spills over sandstone cliffs into the gorge below every second to create an awe-inspiring sight and sound. View these majestic falls from above or below in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. Visit during a full moon for the chance to witness a rare moonbow, one of only two that occur in the world.

The section of the Sheltowee Trace Trail that leads to Princess Falls takes you along Lick Creek as it parallels the Cumberland River. You’ll spot many small waterfalls and interesting rock formations worth exploring along this relatively flat and easy trail, making it ideal for young hikers. Using the trailhead from the upper tier of the parking lot avoids much of the muddier trail conditions. These photogenic falls are named after Cherokee Princess Cornblossom.

Streams trickling over rock cliffs, lush greenery and wildflowers line the way to jaw-dropping Anglin Falls, located in the wooded ravine of John B. Stephenson Memorial Forest State Park. The short 1.7-mile out-and-back hike up to Anglin Falls is mostly uphill and offers views of limestone outcroppings and small caves with a few challenging spots. It’s considered a moderate route, though, taking less than an hour to complete with benches for resting along the way.

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