Kentucky locals and visitors are lucky to have a long list of wonderful state parks which offer access to amazing natural beauty and opportunities for all kinds of outdoor recreation. Most of Kentucky’s state parks have both campgrounds and lodges so that everyone can choose the type of accommodation they prefer.
1.Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Park
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It would be a real shame for any visitor to by-pass the interesting Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Park, which was the first monument established to honor the 16th president of the US. The park has been established on the site of the great man’s birthplace in rural Kentucky, where an impressive monument has been built from donations received from the public. Today you can see a replica of the simple log cabin where the Lincoln family lived (which has been enshrined inside the monument) and see the Sinking Spring, from which the family received all their water. You can watch a 15-minute introductory video at the Visitor’s Center and children can join a Junior Ranger’s program to learn about the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Park, 2995 Lincoln Farm Rd, Hodgenville, KY 42748, Phone: 270-358-3137
2.Big Bone Lick State Historic Site
Big Bone Lick is named for the amazing mammoth fossils which have been found on the site. It is believed that the prehistoric animals were drawn to the site by a natural salt lick deposit around the sulphur springs. Visitors are encouraged to start their exploration at the Visitor’s Center and Museum where you can get an overview of what the park offers and see some remarkable fossils and other exhibits. As you make your way along the Discovery Trail you will find interpretive panels explaining everything you see. You can go hiking along 4.5 miles of trails, do some bird watching or simply enjoy a few days of outdoor fun at the well-equipped campground which boasts a swimming pool, tennis courts, miniature golf and two playgrounds.
Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, 3380 Beaver Rd, Union, KY 41091, Phone: 859-384-3522
3.Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
Located on the 125,000 acre Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky and Tennessee, the Big Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, creating a magnificent playground for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. With such a large area of scenic gorges, sandstone bluffs and river frontage to explore you will need to spend a few nights in one of the park’s five campgrounds. Highlights of your visit could include white-water rafting (equipment rentals available), kayaking excursions, hiking and backpacking, horse-back riding excursions and rock climbing. Ranger-led activities include star-gazing, guided hikes and nature talks. Other activities include visiting a coal mine or riding the Big South Fork Scenic Railway.
Big South Fork National River Recreation Area, 4564 Leatherwood Rd, Oneida, TN 37841, Phone: 423-569-9778
4.Breaks Interstate Park
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Located in the Jefferson National Forest, which spreads across southwestern Virginia and southeastern Kentucky, the Breaks Interstate Park is the ideal destination for an active family vacation. You can choose from several accommodation options including lodge rooms, lakeside cabins, forest cottages and campgrounds. There is a long list of activities to keep everyone in the family happy. Water activities include canoeing and kayaking, boat tours, fishing, swimming and white-water rafting. Those who prefer to keep their feet dry can enjoy more than 20 miles of hiking trails, most of which are suitable for families. Golfing is available near-by and a seasonal outdoor theater offers movies and musical events.
Breaks Interstate Park, 627 Commission Circle, Breaks, VA 24607, Phone: 276-865-4413
5.Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park
Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park is the ideal getaway when you feel the need to escape the city and spend some time surrounded by natural beauty. The park lodge overlooks the beautiful 1,200 acre Buckhorn Lake which offers excellent water sports from May to October. In addition to the lodge there are five self-catering cottages where you can relax with family and friends. There are two short hiking trails suitable for the whole family and you can do some wildlife watching along the way. You can launch your boat at the marina which also offers fishing boats and pontoons for rental. Other activities include swimming, mini golf and a kiddies playground.
Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, 4441 Kentucky Highway 1833, Buckhorn, KY 41721, Phone: 606-398-7510
6.Camp Nelson National Monument
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When you visit Camp Nelson National Monument outside Nicholasville you can combine a family day out with the chance to brush-up your knowledge of history. Camp Nelson played a prominent role during the Civil War, first as a supply depot and hospital and later as a recruitment camp and refugee center for escaping slaves. At the Visitor’s Center you can watch a short orientation film and see museum exhibits from the original camp. You can join a guided tour of the reconstructed barracks and the “White House” to learn about the part played by the camp during the war. In addition, you can explore over five miles of hiking trails to uncover various earthworks and fortifications which were used to safeguard the camp.
Camp Nelson National Monument, 6614 Old Danville Rd, Loop 2, Nicholasville, KY 40356, Phone: 859-881-5716
7.Carr Creek State Park
Carr Creek State Park in Knott County is a beautiful family-friendly recreational area offering camping, boating and excellent bird-watching. You are welcome to bring along your RV and spend a few days relaxing and “mucking about with boats”. The Littcar Campground offers 45 serviced campsites with water and electric hook-up for your RV (some sites also have sewer hook-ups). Facilities at the park include a beach area for swimming, a bathhouse, picnic areas and restrooms. Fishing and bird watching is rumored to be good and children can have fun biking, canoeing, playing horseshoes and toasting marshmallows around the camp fire.
Carr Creek State Park, 2086 Smithboro Rd, HWY 15, Sassafras, KY 41759, Phone: 60-642-405
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8.Carter Caves State Resort Park
If you are looking for a great outdoor recreation area for a family vacation you need look no further than the Carter Caves State Resort Park in Olive Hill. Offering a long list of recreational activities for all ages, Carter Caves Resort can accommodate you in the comfortable lodge, a self-catering cabin or at the campground which boasts 89 serviced campsites. You can spend your days exploring by foot, bike or horseback (Equine campsites available) along 26 miles of trails or head to the lake for fishing and boating. There is a large pool where you can cool down on hot days. The highlight of any visit to the park is a subterranean adventure tour through Cascade Cave and X Cave.
Carter Caves State Resort Park, 344 Caveland Dr, Olive Hill, KY 41164, Phone: 606-286-4411
9.Columbus Belmont State Park
Scenically perched on a river cliff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River, Columbus Belmont is a small but very attractive state park offering excellent views, hiking and a campground for RVs and tents. The park is built on the site of a Confederate fortification built during the Civil War and includes a small museum and a Civil War Trail where you can walk in the footsteps of the Confederate soldiers and see the trenches they dug. Also at the museum you will find a snack bar and gift shop and mini-golf (open from May to September). The shady campground is open all year round (but there is no water hook-up in winter).
Columbus Belmont State Park, 350 Park Rd, Columbus, KY 42032, Phone: 270-677-2327
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10.Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
You can leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind you as you head to the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park for a relaxing outdoor family vacation. You can stay in the delightful Du Pont Lodge or opt for a cabin, cottage or campsite – whichever you choose you will be close to the action. The highlight of any visit to the park is seeing the beautiful 125-foot wide Cumberland Falls – you can hike up to the large view-site or arrange to see the falls from the river by boat or kayak. Other activities at the park include hiking, bird-watching, gem mining at the Cumberland Falls Mining Company, swimming, rafting and fishing for bass, catfish, panfish.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, 7351 Hwy 90, Corbin, KY 40701, Phone: 606-528-4121
11.Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
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Cumberland Gap National Historical Park covers over 24,000 acres of magnificent landscape in the Appalachian Mountains. The area encompasses cascading waterfalls, remarkable rock formations carved by wind and water and an extensive trail system which has been traversed by thousands of Native Americans, Kentucky pioneers and migrating buffalo. You can join a ranger-led cave tour or a tour of the historic Hensley Settlement or go hiking and backpacking along over 80 miles of scenic trails which will lead you past dozens of Civil War and pioneer sites. The park can be accessed from both Kentucky and Virginia and you can get all the information you need from the Visitor’s Center.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, 91 Bartlett Park Rd, Middlesboro, KY 40965, Phone: 606-248-2817
12.Dale Hollow Lake State Resort
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At Dale Hollow Lake State Resort you can forget the stress and care of everyday life and immerse yourself in an enormous outdoor playground which offers activities for everyone in the family. If you hate the thought of camping you can opt to stay at the beautiful 60-room Mary Ray Oaken Lodge which overlooks the lake. Campers can park their RV or tent at one of 145 campsites surrounded by beautiful forests. A long list of activities awaits visitors including hiking, biking and horseback riding along a network of attractive trails, boating on the lake, guided cave tours, mini-golf and swimming. Golfers can tee off at the Dale Hollow Lake Golf Course for a challenging 18-hole links round.
Dale Hollow Lake State Resort, 5970 State Park Rd, Burkesville, KY 42717, Phone: 270-433-7431
13.E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park
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Louisville residents are fortunate to have the 539-acre E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park just outside their town. Here an area of rolling farm lands has been converted to offer residents and passers-by a large green space where they can enjoy a wide variety of indoor/outdoor activities. Just a few of the activities on offer include archery, badminton, basket-ball, tennis, a one-mile walking/jogging track. In addition there are fourteen soccer fields, a softball court, a BMX cycling track and a huge swimming pool. Younger visitors will love the splash park and the children’s playground. You are also welcome to picnic or bring your dog to enjoy some off-leash time at the Dog Park.
E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, 3000 Freys Hill Rd, Louisville, KY 40241, Phone: 502-429-7270
14.Fort Boonesborough State Park
When you bring the family to Fort Boonesborough State Park they will enjoy both a fun day out and a history lesson rolled into one. Fort Boonesborough has been carefully reconstructed to form a working fort where you can watch a collection of craftsmen and artisans re-create the pioneer days at the fort. Demonstrations include candle-making, black-smithing, weaving and much more. If you would like to linger for a few days you can book a campsite on the banks of the Kentucky River. The campground has a large swimming pool, showers, rest rooms and a laundry. You can try your hand at boating, fishing, hiking and miniature golf.
Fort Boonesborough State Park, 4375 Boonesboro Rd, Richmond, KY 40475, Phone: 859-527-3131
15.General Burnside Island State Park
If you are looking for a great place to play golf that also offers good family activities you should consider the General Burnside Island State Park. The park is located on an island in Lake Cumberland and offers one of Kentucky’s most scenic golf courses as well as a host of lake-side water-sports. The island has a very scenic 94-site campground which is open from April to October; the campsites feature hook-ups and there are shower rooms and restrooms on site. You can have hours of fun on Lake Cumberland – if you don’t have your own boat you can hire one at the marina – fishing boats, ski-boats, pontoons and even houseboats are available.
General Burnside Island State Park, 8801 S. Hwy 27, Burnside, KY 42519, Phone: 606-561-4104
16.General Butler State Resort Park
© General Butler State Resort Park
A beautiful hill-top lodge welcomes you to the General Butler State Resort Park where you can sit back and relax or enjoy an action-filled family vacation. The lodge offers comfortable rooms with great views but you also have the choice of renting a family cottage or one of the 100 shaded campsites which are available year-round. Hikers can enjoy wildlife watching as they explore the trails, some of which are also suitable for mountain bikes. You can hire a canoe, row boat or pedal boat (summer only) and set off to explore the lake, where fishing is rumored to be very rewarding. Other park activities include swimming, tennis and mini golf and there is a playground for younger visitors.
General Butler State Resort Park, 1608 Hwy. 227, Carrollton, KY 41008, Phone: 502-732-4384
17.Kingdom Come State Park
Located at an elevation of 2,700 feet, the Kingdom Come State Park offers sweeping views of the surrounding pristine landscape. You can come for a day of hiking, fishing and boating or bring along your tent to one of four primitive campsites where you can enjoy campfires and stargazing. Hikers can explore a network of trails which cover over five miles of rugged mountainous terrain while motorists and mountain bikers can follow the Little Shepherd Trail to the summit of Pine Mountain. Fishing is very popular at this park and pedal-boats can be hired during the summer months. The whole family can enjoy some mini golf and a visit to the nature center.
Kingdom Come State Park, 502 Park Rd, Cumberland, KY 40823, Phone: 606-589-2478
18.Lake Barkley State Resort Park
Hugging the shore of picturesque Lake Barkley, the Lake Barkley State Resort Park is a great destination for a relaxing family vacation. You can check into the comfortable Lake Barkley Lodge or reserve one of the campsites and spend some time getting closer to Mother Nature. The whole family can enjoy exploring the five hiking trails and everyone can have hours of fun on the lake. You can rent fishing boats, pontoons and jet-skis at the Lake Berkley Marina and cyclists have seven miles of paved trails to enjoy. Golfers can enjoy a round on the 18-hole Boots Randolph course and the lodge complex has a fitness center and games room.
Lake Barkley State Resort Park, 3500 State Park Rd, Cadiz, KY 42211, Phone: 270-924-1131
19.Lake Malone State Park
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There is nothing that kids love more than camping which is why scenic Lake Malone State Park is an ideal recreational destination for the whole family. The park offers both serviced campsites for RVs and primitive camp sites where you can set up your tent and enjoy star gazing and barbecues around the campfire. The lake is surrounded by impressive 50-ft sandstone bluffs and extensive hardwood forests - there are two very scenic family-friendly hiking trails which will take you past some ancient rock walls which were once used by Native Americans. Fishing is known to be excellent on Lake Malone and you can hire equipment on site. Motorized water sports are allowed on the lake and you can enjoy everything from kayaking and canoeing to jet-skiing, water-skiing and scenic boat trips.
Lake Malone State Park, 331 S. R. Rd 8001, Dunmor, KY 42339, Phone: 270-657-2111
20.Mammoth Cave National Park
Protecting and showcasing one of the world’s longest cave systems, the Mammoth Cave National Park is a must-see on your Kentucky itinerary. To date, over 400 miles of caverns have been explored and the cave system gets its name from the enormous size of some of the caverns. There is a comfortable lodge in the park or you could choose to bring a tent or RV to one of five campgrounds. Although the highlight of any visit to the park is undoubtedly a guided cave tour there are many other activities on offer. You can go boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing on the river, hit the biking trails or explore over 80 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, Phone: 844-760-2283
21.Mineral Mound State Park
Offering a fun day out for the whole family, Mineral Mound State Park is nestled along the shores of Lake Barkley, where it is home to the scenic and challenging Mineral Mound State Park Golf Course which is open all year round. While golfers can enjoy the beautiful fairways and greens, non-golfing family can have fun on the lake. Youngsters can enjoy fishing off the pier and if you have your own boat your can launch it from the Mineral Mound Launching Ramp. The park also has an attractive picnic area where you can enjoy a relaxing picnic and do some bird watching.
Mineral Mound State Park, 48 Finch Lane, Eddyville, KY 42038, Phone: 270-388-3673
22.Nolin Lake State Park
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A beautiful lake side location ensures that the Nolin Lake State Park is a popular choice with campers and boating enthusiasts who would like to visit the near-by Mammoth Caves. The campground offers serviced shady campsites for RVs as well as several primitive tent sites, some of which have lake views. Hikers and mountain bikers will enjoy exploring the nine-mile Brier Creek Trail system which is considered to be moderately strenuous. There is a sandy beach where children can play and swim – open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. Bring along your boat to enjoy on the lake.
Nolin Lake State Park, 2998 Brier Creek Rd, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, Phone: 270-286-4240
23.Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park
At Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park it is easy to forget all about your daily nine to five. Here, surrounded by nature, you can relax, recharge and have a fun family vacation. Accommodation options include lodge rooms, rental cottages and a campground which caters to RVs, tents and even equestrians. You can simply sit back and relax at the lakeside or choose from a wide variety of activities including a round of golf on the 18-hole course. There are hiking trails suitable for everyone including several family-friendly short walks and equestrians and mountain bikers also have a selection of trails to explore. For fun on the water you can head down to the boat dock to rent canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and more.
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, 20781 Pennyrile Lodge Rd, Dawson Springs, KY 42408, Phone: 270-797-3421
24.Rough River Dam State Resort
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Overlooking a 5,000 acre lake and surrounded by beautiful forests, Rough River Dam State Resort offers an ideal vacation destination for all ages. You can opt for a comfortable lodge room with a view of the lake or spread out in your own self-catering cottage. You can have some fun learning all about orienteering on the 3.8km forest course, play basketball at the Lodge or campground, play some disc golf or hike the Lake Ridge trail or the Folk Lore trail. Boating enthusiasts will love the marina where you can go boating, kayaking, fishing or paddle-boarding. Other resort activities include swimming, tennis, volleyball and mini-golf.
Rough River Dam State Resort Park, 450 Lodge Rd, Falls of Rough, KY 40119, Phone: 270-257-2311
25.Yatesville Lake State Park
If you love camping, hiking, fishing and mucking about in boats then the Yatesville Lake State Park could be ideal for your next family vacation. You can bring your tent or RV to one of the 27 serviced campsites or opt for total seclusion by choosing one of four boat-in campsites, which are only accessible by boat. The campground offers showers, restrooms and a laundry. Boating enthusiasts have access to two launch ramps and fishing on Yatesville Lake is rumored to be excellent. In addition to boating you can enjoy the odd round of golf – the park boasts its own scenic golf course. Other activities include hiking, biking and horse-back riding and there is a playground for young visitors.
Yatesville Lake State Park, 2667 Pleasant Ridge Rd, Louisa, KY 41230, Phone: 606-673-1492
25 Best Kentucky State & National Parks
- Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Park, Photo: Stephanie Frey/stock.adobe.com
- Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, Photo: Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Photo: jctabb/stock.adobe.com
- Breaks Interstate Park, Photo: George Preece/stock.adobe.com
- Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, Photo: Tim/stock.adobe.com
- Camp Nelson National Monument, Photo: Sherman Cahal/stock.adobe.com
- Carr Creek State Park, Photo: patronestaff/stock.adobe.com
- Carter Caves State Resort Park, Photo: johnsroad7/stock.adobe.com
- Columbus Belmont State Park, Photo: todja/stock.adobe.com
- Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Photo: rodneyodellphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Dale Hollow Lake State Resort, Photo: Olga Itina/stock.adobe.com
- E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, Photo: gilles lougassi/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Boonesborough State Park, Photo: jackienix/stock.adobe.com
- General Burnside Island State Park, Photo: naka/stock.adobe.com
- General Butler State Resort Park, Photo: General Butler State Resort Park
- Kingdom Come State Park, Photo: aheflin/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Barkley State Resort Park, Photo: Neels/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Malone State Park, Photo: R. P. Jennings/stock.adobe.com
- Mammoth Cave National Park, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- Mineral Mound State Park, Photo: satori/stock.adobe.com
- Nolin Lake State Park, Photo: Tomasz Zajda/stock.adobe.com
- Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, Photo: Oleg/stock.adobe.com
- Rough River Dam State Resort, Photo: R. P. Jennings/stock.adobe.com
- Yatesville Lake State Park, Photo: yarohork/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: ehrlif/stock.adobe.com