Daniel Boone National Forest
The legendary scenic beauty of Eastern Kentucky is embodied in the Daniel Boone National Forest, a huge area that covers 672,000 acres in 21 counties. When you visit here you are seeing the spectacular land that Daniel Boone once explored – steep forested ridges, magnificent natural arches, rushing streams, abundant wildlife and lush vegetation. You can also enjoy the whole spectrum of outdoor activities – camping, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, boating, fishing, hunting, canoeing and whitewater rafting. The forest has an incredible variety of trees, including red and white oak, chestnut, hickory, yellow poplar, basswood, beech, sugar and red maple, hemlock, and shortleaf, pitch and Virginia pine. The forest contains two large lakes and many streams, including six Kentucky Wild Rivers.
Muskie, Bass, Crappie, Catfish, Bream and stocked Trout attract fishermen. The 257-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail extends the length of the forest and links many of the developed recreation areas. The trail runs through deep canyons, along narrow ridge tops, past rivers and lakes, and through areas of strikingly beautiful rimrock cliffs. Sheltowee Trace links with the Jenny Wiley National Recreation Trail and with other major trail systems in the Red River Gorge, Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake, Cumberland Falls and Big South Fork areas. There are an additional 235 miles of trails within the forest. KY-89, a Kentucky Scenic Byway, runs from KY-490 in Rockcastle County to the Jackson-Estill county line. The portion south of McKee parallels the Rockcastle River and Sheltowee Trace.
About 50 miles east of Lexington is the Red River Gorge Geological Area, a favorite for day hikes and backpacking. The rugged Clifty Wilderness is also located in the gorge. Beaver Creek Wilderness, featuring rock shelters, vertical cliffs and waterfalls, is 17 miles southwest of Somerset. Nearby is majestic Cumberland Falls.
There are two popular lakes at each end of the forest – Laurel River Lake near Corbin/London and Cave Run Lake near Morehead – both with campgrounds and marinas. The Pioneer Weapons Hunting Area is next to Cave Run. There’s also canoeing and whitewater rafting on the Cumberland River, Rockcastle River and Red River, all national wild and scenic rivers.
The U.S. Forest Service on KY-801 has a great visitor center with maps, exhibits and an audiovisual, M-F 8-4:30, 606/784-5624. The Lakeview Ridge Hiking Trail begins here, following the Sheltowee Trace for 1.25 miles and then proceeding for 4 miles high above the lake. Nearby is the Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery, one of the largest state-owned warm-water hatcheries in the country, covering 300 acres with 111 rearing and brood ponds (free, June-Aug M-F 7-3, KY-801 S, 606/784-6872, restrooms not handicapped accessible).