20 Kentucky State Parks

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

From its southern style cuisine to automobile manufacturing and Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kentucky is well known around the globe. But perhaps one of the most underrated things about the Bluegrass State are its state parks.

Kentucky has 44 state parks meaning no matter where you are based you are never too far away from a good outdoor adventure. Check out these Kentucky state parks the next time you plan a trip to the state.

Kentucky State Parks

20 State Parks in Kentucky

1- Pine Mountain State Resort Park

rock and fall colours at a lookout
One of the best Kentucky state parks for fall colours is Pine Mountain State Resort Park.

Pine Mountain State Resort Park is in the southeast of Kentucky and three hours’ drive from the state’s largest city Louisville.

There’s plenty to do at this state park, including 12 miles of hiking trails where you can take in some spectacular views (especially when the fall colours come in).

Hike to Chained Rock, Hemlock Garden, Honeymoon Falls, Rock Hotel and Timber Ridge.

Other activities in the park include the 18-hole Wasioto Winds golf course.

If 18 holes sounds a bit much then there’s the 9-hole miniature golf course which is perfect for families.

The resort is home to a swimming pool for overnight park guests.

The most popular place to stay at the park is Herndon J. Evans Lodge, which has an excellent restaurant where you can try their signature fresh catfish.

Pine Mountain State Resort Park is at 1050 State Park Rd, Pineville, KY 40977.

2- Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

Lake Cumberland at dusk
One of the most beautiful state parks in Kentucky at sunset is Lake Cumberland State Park.

Another southern Kentucky state park is the Lake Cumberland State Resort Park.

If you are visiting Lexington, you can be at Lake Cumberland in just 2 hours 15 minutes.

For accommodation in the area, check in at Lure Lodge for stunning views looking out across Lake Cumberland and an unparalleled experience.

There are also 29 cottages available as well as 75 campsites.

Of course, you’ve got to head to Lake Cumberland, the “Houseboat Capital of the World”.

At the marina you can rent fishing boats, pontoons, houseboats and ski boats.

You can also fish on the lake for largemouth, smallmouth, white and Kentucky bass as well as crappie, rockfish and walleye.

Land based activities include disc golf, miniature golf and hiking.

Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is at 5465 State Park Rd, Jamestown, KY 42629.

3- Kenlake State Resort Park

kayakers at Kenlake State Resort Park Kentucky
Another excellent Kentucky state park for kayakers is Kenlake State Resort Park.

Kenlake State Park Resort is in the southwest corner of Kentucky, around 1 hour 40 minutes’ drive from Nashville, Tennessee.

Kentucky Lake is at the heart of the park, providing plenty of fun water activities for the whole family.

Head to Kenlake Marina to rent boats and spend the day out on the water.

Cast a line on Kentucky Lake and you might just catch largemouth, smallmouth, white and Kentucky bass as well as bluegill channel, and blue catfish.

If hiking is more your thing, then take the Cherokee or Chickasaw or Coach Lester G. Mimms Trails.

You can either stay at the Kenlake Lodge, one of the park’s 34 cottages or there’s a 90-pitch campground.

Kenlake State Resort Park is at 542 Kenlake Rd, Hardin, KY 42048.

4- Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Natural Bridge State Resort Park is exactly what it sounds like.

It is here that you will find the park’s namesake bridge.

The natural sandstone arch spans 24 metres and is 20 metres high.

The arch was formed over millions of years due to weathering and hiking is the best way to see the bridge.

There are 10 hiking trails in the park, from short trails to longer seven and a half mile trails.

When you arrive, you can head first to Hemlock Lodge to pick up a trail map.

For fishing and canoeing you can head to Mill Creek Lake.

The surrounding area is covered in forest and tall sandstone cliffs.

This state park is just under an hour’s drive from Lexington.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park is at 2135 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY 40376.

5- General Burnside Island State Park

General Burnside is an Island on the Cumberland River in the south of the state, around 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive south of Lexington.

The park’s 18-hole golf course has been named the “best public golf course in Kentucky”, so why not test your skills with a round.

There’s a marina right next to the park that has everything you need from boat rentals to things you may have forgotten for your day trip.

You can rent out ski boats, fishing boats, pontoon boats and houseboats.
General Burnside offers picturesque camping with the lake breeze and beautiful views.

It’s a super tranquil spot with 94 spots.

General Burnside Island State Park is at 8801 US Hwy 27, Burnside, KY 42519.

6- Jenny Wiley State Resort Park

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park is on the banks of Dewey Lake in eastern Kentucky.

You just cannot beat the lake views at this park, especially in autumn.

There are also so many unique things to do in this state park.

You can take an elk viewing tour.

Elk was brought back to Kentucky as part of a wildlife re-introduction program in 1997.

Before that there were no elk in the state for around 150 years.

To learn more about the local environment and animals you can head to the nature centre which is at the bottom of the hill from the May Lodge.

There are also hiking trails, fishing on Dewey Lake, canoeing and kayaking as well as renting pontoons.

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park is at 419 Jenny Wiley Dr, Preslotsburg, KY 41653.

7- Carter Caves State Resort Park

Carter Caves
Exploring Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky is fun.

Carter Caves State Resort Park is on the shores of Smoky Valley Lake in north east Kentucky.

You can’t visit Carter Caves State Resort Park without taking a cave tour.

These caves were formed millions of years ago.

When going on a cave tour you will be equipped with helmets, headlamps, kneepads and coveralls and you can expect to get a bit muddy and wet.

From underground to on the water, fishing is one of the best activities to enjoy on Smoky Valley Lake.

The lake is also the state’s first trophy bass lake.

There are 33 miles of hiking trails around Carter Caves, many of which showcase the area’s unique geological features.

You can expect to see natural bridges, sinkholes, cliffs and a boxed canyon.

Carter Caves State Resort Park is at 344 Caveland Dr, Olive Hill, KY 41164. From Lexington it takes around 1 hour 30 minutes.

8- Green River State Park

If you are staying in Louisville then Green River State Park is an excellent place to visit, it’s just 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive.

This park is ideal for a family visit or enjoying with friends.

There are 28 miles of hiking, biking and horse riding trails that allow you to reconnect with nature.

You can enjoy fishing on the Green River Lake where you can expect to find white, largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, muskie, bluegill and Kentucky bass.

Other park activities include swimming at the campground beach, miniature golf on the 18 hole course and volleyball.

If you plan on staying overnight there are 167 RV spots and 60 primitive camping sites.

Green River State Park is at 179 Park Office Rd, Campbellsville, KY 42718.

9- Grayson Lake State Park

kayaker beneath a small waterfall at Grayson Lake State Park
One of the popular state parks in Kentucky for kayaking is Grayson Lake State Park.

Grayson Lake State Park is 1 hour 50 minutes’ drive from Lexington.

During the summer it’s well worth renting canoes or kayaks and paddling to Grotto Falls.

Cliffs and boulders are dotted around Grayson Lake and you will be able to paddle through narrow channels.

It’s a great way to spend some time on the water.

There aren’t a ton of hiking trails at the park but there is the three-mile Lick Falls trail and the popular 0.8-mile Beech Hemlock Forest Trail where you can see some distinctive rock formations.

There’s also the Hidden Cove Golf Course which offers an excellent spot for golfers.

Grayson Lake State Park is at 314 Grayson Lake State Park Rd, Olive Hill, KY 41164.

10- Greenbo Lake State Resort Park

Another northeastern state park is Greenbo Lake, which water lovers will enjoy.

You can rent pontoons, John boats, canoes, pedal boats and kayaks.

There’s an excellent community swimming pool that has a waterslide and a children’s play area.

It should be noted that there is no swimming in the lake.

There are plenty of other things to do in the park like hiking some of the 33 miles of trails, horse riding, miniature golf, and there’s also an outdoor theatre which hosts performances and festivals during the summer months.

Greenbo Lake State Resort Park is at 965 Lodge Rd, Greenup, KY 41144.

11- Lake Barkley State Resort Park

Lake Barkley is a 58,000 acre (23,471 ha) reservoir in Livingston County in southwestern Kentucky.

Here you will find the state park and plenty of things to do.

There’s an 18 hole championship golf course, six miles of hiking trails, seven miles of biking trails and even the Lake Barkley Fitness Center where there’s an indoor pool, sauna and racquetball courts.

Anglers can be seen out on Lake Barkley fishing for largemouth, Kentucky bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie.

There’s also the Lake Barkley Marina where you can launch boats.

You can also stay at the Lake Barkley Lodge which offers lovely rooms with private balconies or stay at the campground which is open seasonally.

Lake Barkley State Resort Park is at 3500 State Park Rd, Cadiz, KY 42211.

12- General Butler State Resort Park

General Butler State Resort Park is close to the Ohio River on the Kentucky-Indiana border.

If you fancy making your trip to General Butler State Resort Park an overnight adventure then you can check into the Butler Lodge.

There are 53 rooms with private balconies that overlook either the pool or hillside.

There are also 24 cottages to choose from as well.

There are also 100 campsites.

There are biking and hiking trails to enjoy as well as miniature golf, a playground and tennis.

There is also the Butler-Turpin Home museum which is at the back entrance of the park.

Head to Butler Lake for fishing, canoeing, kayaking and boating.

General Butler State Resort Park is at 1608 KY-227, Carrollton, KY 41008.

13- Fort Boonesborough State Park

Fort Boonesborough State Park is next to the Kentucky River around 35 minutes’ drive outside of Lexington.

Fort Boonesborough was the second settlement in Kentucky.

American pioneer Daniel Boone reached the Kentucky River on the 1st April 1775 and he and his men moved to the fort you can see today.

Today the fort has been reconstructed as a working fort and you can see inside the cabins, blockhouses and see replica furnishings.

There are also 18th century life skills and craft demonstrations that take place around the fort.

There is a lot of interpretive signage around the fort which allows you to learn more about the history of the area.

Other activities include boating on the Kentucky River, fishing, hiking, miniature golf, and the museum.

Fort Boonesborough State Park is at 4375 Boonesboro Rd, Richmond, KY 40475.

14- Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Cumberland Falls
One of the most famous state parks in Kentucky is Cumberland Falls State Park.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is on the Cumberland River in southern Kentucky and of course, the park’s crowning jewel is Cumberland Falls.

This place is not only beautiful but it’s one of the few places in the world that creates a “moonbow” and can occur at either end of the full moon.

The park is also home to a gemstone flume, where you can rinse material with water and they will reveal beautiful coloured crystals.

There are lots of gem stones to discover at the park including quartz, ruby, fluorite, moonstone and topaz.

You can also enjoy the 17 miles of hiking trails, horse riding trails, and swimming.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is at 7351 KY-90, Corbin, KY 40701.

15- Carr Creek State Park

Along Carr Creek Lake you will find a state park by the same name.

This state park is in eastern Kentucky around 1 hour 45 minutes from Daniel Boone National Forest.

The area of Carr Creek Lake was home to some of the state’s earliest pioneering settlers and settlements dating back to 1770.

Today this is a wonderful state park to visit with friends and family.

The area’s marsh environment is quite unique for eastern Kentucky but it provides a beautiful playground for green heron, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, red-winged blackbird and warblers…so keep your eyes peeled.

You can rent pontoons or fishing boats at the park’s full-service marina.

Fishing on the 750-acre lake leaves you with a good chance of catching good bass, crappie, and walleye.

Carr Creek State Park is at 2086 Smithboro Rd., HWY 15, Sassafras, KY 41759.

16- My Old Kentucky Home State Park

My Old Kentucky Home State Park is around 50 minutes’ drive south east of Louisville.

The farm at this state park was the inspiration for Stephen Collins Foster’s song “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!”.

This park is the state’s oldest and most popular historic site.

The mansion at the farm was originally built between 1812 and 1818.

The original occupant of the house was Judge John Rowan and then in 1922 his descendent Madge Rowan Frost decided to sell the 235-acre estate to Kentucky.

Aside from taking a tour of the famous mansion you can head to the Kenny Rapier Golf Course for 18 holes, there are two tennis courts, and plenty of opportunities for birding as well.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park is at 501 E Stephen Foster Ave, Bardstown, KY 40004.

17- Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site is in the northern part of the state, just 30 minutes south of Cincinnati in Ohio.

While technically named a historic site, this place has all the qualities of a park.
When you arrive at the park you will want to head straight to the visitor centre.

Here there are palaeontology displays, information about Ordovician geology and plenty of things about Ice Age mammals, Native American history and science.

If you plan on visiting with a group of kids then there are also outreach programs.

Bison are one of the park’s top attractions.

You will be able to see bison every day of the year all around the park.

If hiking is your thing, then head out along the 4.5 miles of hiking trails.

There are a variety of landscapes to discover at the park from forested ridges to the water of Big Bone Creek.

There are also two playgrounds, a seasonal swimming pool, tennis and miniature golf.

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site is at 3380 Beaver Rd, Union, KY 41091.

18- Columbus-Belmont State Park

Columbus-Belmont State Park is on the banks of the Mississippi River on the Kentucky-Missouri border in the western part of the state.

Camping at the park is great fun because you can look out over the Mississippi River.

The river cliff campground has 38 sites, grills and utility hook-ups.

The park’s museum is a great place to learn more about the Civil War.

There’s also a miniature golf course, a 2.5-mile hiking trail and boat ramps to launch your boats onto the Mississippi River.

Columbus-Belmont State Park is at 350 Park Road, Columbus, KY 42032.

19- Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park

Dale Hollow Reservoir is 111 km ² and you will find it and the Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park in southern Kentucky right on the border with Tennessee.

Avid golfers will appreciate the nationally ranked 18-hole golf course at the park.

The hilly terrain will challenge even experienced amateurs.

There’s also a pro shop and driving range and miniature golf course as well.

The park is home to 15 miles of multi-purpose trails suitable for hiking, biking, horse riding and motorcycle riding.

The Mary Ray Oaken Lodge provides some of the best accommodation in the park, with views over the large lake.

If camping is more your style there are 145 campsites set in the woodland.

Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park is at 5970 State Park Rd, Burkesville, KY 42717.

20- John James Audubon State Park

John James Audubon State Park is close to the Ohio River in western Kentucky, around 2 hours’ drive from Louisville.

You will definitely want to check out the museum.

This museum interprets the life of John James Audubon who was a French American artist.

You can view more than 200 objects and artifacts from Audubon’s time in Kentucky as well as many original pieces of artwork.

Next, check out the Audubon State Park Nature Center, which is in the same building as the museum.

Inside the center there’s a wildlife observation room, a theatre and a discovery and learning centre.

There are also 6.5 miles of trails, many of which start at the nature center.

John James Audubon State Park is at 3100 US Hwy 41, Henderson, KY 42420. 

Previous articleChiang Mai At Night
Next articleFood in Thailand – 20 Classic Thai Dishes
harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!