When Daniel Boone first crossed into what is now Kentucky more than 200 years ago, he found a naturally beautiful yet rugged landscape: a place of deep forests, high mountains, steep cliffs, pristine lakes, lush valleys, and abundant wildlife. Today these attributes draw millions of tourists each year. The antithesis of eastern Tennessee's traffic-congested, overdeveloped tourist traps, the southeastern highlands of Kentucky are picturesque and unspoiled, marked by small towns and winding, two-lane roads dotted with old barns, country stores, and the occasional antiques shop.
The Daniel Boone National Forest, headquartered in Winchester (tel. 859/745-3100; www.danielboonecountry.com), covers 21 Kentucky counties. Hiking, camping, rock climbing, fishing, caving, horseback riding, boating, exploring, and hunting are among the activities available to visitors. In addition to the 269-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, there are hundreds of shorter hiking trails to explore.
The park has several campgrounds (tel. 877/444-6777), but for lodges and cabins (as well as campsites), take advantage of the magnificent Kentucky State Parks (tel. 800/225-8747; www.parks.ky.gov), regarded as the nation's best. Resort parks such as Cumberland Falls (tel. 800/325-0063 or 606/528-4121) and Pine Mountain (tel. 606/337-3066) are revered for their scenic beauty, all-ages recreation, and ranger-led nature activities, as well as for clean, comfortable accommodations and lodge restaurants. Hiking is excellent in all state parks, where maps are available at each park's main Activities Center.
The Black Mountain ATV Park, located in Harlan County in the southeastern part of the state, offers 6,000 acres of terrain for motor-happy enthusiasts to traverse. For more information, call Cumberland Tourism (tel. 606/589-5812).
Another family-oriented attraction in the area is the Big South Fork Scenic Railway (tel. 800/462-5664 or 606/376-5330; www.bsfsry.com), located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area along the south-central Kentucky and Tennessee border. The slow-moving, scenic train ride departs from the small-town depot at Stearns and takes passengers to an abandoned coal-mining village and back. Tickets are $18 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $9 for children ages 3 to 12.
For detailed information about the scenic back roads and off-the-beaten path discoveries to be found throughout southern and eastern Kentucky, call tel. 877/TOUR-SEKY (868-7735) or visit www.tourseky.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.