Kentucky is known for horse racing, bourbon, bluegrass music and natural beauty. Bounded by the Ohio River in the north and the Appalachian Mountains in the east, it’s home to impressive state parks and forests. Daniel Boone National Forest and the sprawling Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area are just two such places in a state full of opportunity for hiking, cycling, kayaking, fishing, camping and, of course, horse riding. Here’s our pick of the best spots to go camping in Kentucky.
The tiny town of Biddle is about 11mi (18km) north of the city of Georgetown, which is rumored to be the birthplace of bourbon. It’s also in the heart of Kentucky Horse Country and there’s a whole host of equine-inspired attractions – including the 1,200-acre (486ha) Kentucky Horse Park, which combines a working horse farm, international equestrian competition venue and educational theme park. The Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm is another highlight, where you can meet retired racehorses. Planning to explore this part of the Scott County region? Book a stay in a rustic cabin at the nearby Otter Creek Homestead.
If you’re looking for luxury camping in Kentucky woodland, head to this 65-acre (26ha) property. Otter Creek Homestead has a canvas tent with a bed set up in a grassy clearing, complete with a nearby timber cabin offering natural spring water, electricity, wood stove and cosy lounge chairs. While the secluded site might feel remote, it’s actually conveniently located near Georgetown, Louisville and Lexington – and is just 15mi (24km) from the Makers Mark distillery. If you’re a keen hunter, head to Rolling Fork Wildlife Management Area, which offers 2,900 acres (1,170ha) for deer and turkey hunting. The camp keeper, Linda, also offers homemade pretzels and a soap-making experience in the cabin.
The city of Williamsburg, known as the gateway to the Cumberlands, is nestled in the foothills of Daniel Boone Country. The Daniel Boone National Forest is just 20 minutes away, but it’s also worth making the longer trip to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which encompasses 125,000 acres (50,000ha) of the Cumberland Plateau. Williamsburg itself is home to the Kentucky Splash Waterpark, which includes an 18,000sqft (1,672sqm) wave pool, a lazy river, and a children’s activity pool, alongside a miniature golf course and a campground. Alternatively, get away from it all at a primitive backcountry site at the nearby Cumberland Riverfront Campsite.
This peaceful spot is part of an expansive campsite, located directly on the banks of the Cumberland River. Site 4 is one of the most secluded plots on the campsite, and is overlooked by a mature sycamore tree. It’s a backcountry site, so you’ll need to arrange all your own gear – and there’s no generators allowed at the primitive sites – but the site does have a fire ring for proper camping vibes. You’ll also be able to take a dip or cast a line into the Cumberland River, one of the region’s premier trout fishing destinations.
Campsite 1 at this private property, near Williamsburg, offers the opportunity to pitch a tent in a serene clearing surrounded by trees right on the banks of the Cumberland River, making it the perfect destination for canoers and kayakers. Hikers will love the proximity to the sprawling Daniel Boone National Forest, which boasts more than 600mi (965km) of trail, and horses and riders are also welcome at the site. If you are bringing a horse trailer, pick a spot in the field before the driveway.
Located less than 20 minutes’ drive from Williamsburg, this secluded backcountry campsite is conveniently located to some of Kentucky’s best parks and family-friendly attractions. It’s 16mi (26km) to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, which is known for its beginner-friendly horseback riding trails, fishing and birding; 11mi (18km) from Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort, where you can try your hand at everything from whitewater rafting to canoeing and kayaking; and 11mi (18km) from the Kentucky Splash Water Park, which is also home to a miniature golf course.
The south-central city of Monticello spans both the Mississippian plateau and the eastern Kentucky coal fields, and is known for its spectacular natural beauty. One of the most popular attractions is the nearby Lake Cumberland, a sprawling 50,250-acre (20,300ha) lake that’s known for its excellent fishing and as the ‘houseboat capital of the world’. Here, you’ll find a marina with 100 open slips, alongside fishing boats, pontoon boats, houseboats and ski boats for rent. There are countless private campsites around the lake, or head further inland to the Hidden Hilltop Hideaway to discover 32 acres (13ha) of pristine wilderness.
Tucked away on a forested hillside in southern Kentucky, the aptly named Hidden Hilltop Hideaway campsite is 32 acres (13ha) of pristine wilderness. The canvas tent is set in a secluded clearing, and you’ll be able to spot white tail deer, wild turkeys, owls, northern cardinal and blue jays from the furnished timber deck. The nearby homestead also boasts plenty of wildlife, with miniature zebu, quail and free-range chickens and ducks. Fancy a farm-fresh breakfast to start the morning right? Order fresh chicken or quail eggs and hot coffee in a French press from the friendly camp keeper.
The state’s first certified Trail Town, Dawson Springs is the perfect destination for outdoor adventure. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region with some real camping in Kentucky – Nature Calls at Adler Farms offers the choice of cabin, pop-up camper or sites to pitch a tent. Go hiking and mountain biking on the trails at the Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park or the Jones-Keeney Wildlife Management Area, or take to the calm waters at Lake Beshear in a canoe or kayak. If you’re looking for something to get the adrenaline pumping, take on the 7mi (11km) stretch of Class I rapids at Tradewater River.
The first site at Nature Calls at Adler Farms features a pop-up camper, with extra tent sites available at the pond if you’re traveling as a larger group – and it’s conveniently located for fun family adventures. Guests have access to two ponds on the site, as well as 10 acres (5ha) of woods and fields to explore. The Lake Beshear spillway and boat dock is less than 3mi (5km) away, and it’s just 5mi (8km) to the Tradewater River, which is popular for kayaking and fishing. Fancy some more high octane family fun? Head to Ventura River Water Park for speed slides, a wave pool and an action river.
Planning some romantic camping in Kentucky? This rustic cabin – playfully named the Love Shack – is set up as a secluded couples retreat at the back of a 10-acre (4ha) farm in Lake Beshear, just 5mi (8km) from Dawson Springs. The cabin has a comfy double bed and includes solar power, a gas grill and fire pit; the site also boasts solar showers and a toilet. There are woods and fields to explore and two ponds, as well as Alex the Herbalist, who offers teas, oils, and soaps for sale, along with herbal consultations and meditation ceremonies.
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