Where to See Fall Foliage in Kentucky

Take the canopy walk at Bernheim Arboretum to see the changing colors from above
Take the canopy walk at Bernheim Arboretum to see the changing colors from above | © Daniel Dempster Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mike Title
12 October 2020

If you’re headed to Kentucky in late October, spend some time appreciating the area’s beautiful fall foliage. The colors are spectacular – particularly after a wet summer followed by a dry fall – and with Kentucky roughly 50 percent forest, there is no shortage of places to see them. Culture Trip has selected the best spots for you to enjoy a colorful and active fall trip to the Bluegrass State.

Bernheim Forest

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Near Clermont, 100mi (161km) north of Kentucky, Bernheim Forest is a unique place to hike past the many maples, dogwoods, magnolias and beeches as they erupt into fiery reds and oranges. The canopy tree walk offers a fantastic view and, more importantly, a study of the incredible trees as they transform at this time of year.

Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

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Winding Road through Autumn Forest Lake Cumberland State Resort Park Kentucky. Image shot 10/2007. Exact date unknown.
© Daniel Dempster Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
To the southwest of Kentucky, Lake Cumberland State Resort Park makes for a powerful reminder of nature’s wonders. It offers cabin and cottage rentals, or hotel rooms with incredible views of the season’s colors if you prefer a little luxury. If you fancy something a bit different, why not rent a houseboat and sleep on one of the largest lakes in the United States? Fishing is also encouraged, so prepare to see some incredible sights while you’re out on the glittering waters.

Old Louisville

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Old Louisville is situated about 100mi (161km) west of Kentucky, with visitors flocking here for its fascinating history and fantastic fall foliage. As you wander the historic neighborhood – including the largest collection of Victorian mansions in the United States – you’ll be treated to a backdrop of golden leaves, with Belgravia Courts in particular feeling like a movie set, tucked away from the noise of the city. Come nightfall, the gas lights truly take you to another time.

Red River Gorge

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Fall colors, Red River Gorge, Kentucky
© Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo
Red River Gorge is around 52mi (84km) east of Kentucky and arguably offers the best fall colors in the whole state, especially after wet weather. A range of hikes take you past natural sandstone arches and dense forests are crawling with wildlife. Make the ranger station your first stop (don’t forget to pick up maps and information for budding botanists or geologists), and rest your head at Birch Hollow Cabins in Stanton.

Horse Country

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Southern home in historic horse country of Lexington Kentucky in autumn
© Purestock / Alamy Stock Photo
At this time of year, a winding drive through the amazing colors of the fall is as romantic as it is rewarding. The drive around Lexington, known for its well-bred livestock, takes you into Kentucky Horse Country. As you head down the Versailles Road, you’ll pass old-timey farms and, once you hit Midway Road, you feel the intimacy of nature and the changing leaves really begin to stir. Old Frankfort Pike is the fiery highlight, before you finally make your way to Georgetown.

Big South Fork Scenic Railway

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The Big South Fork Scenic Railway is located in Southern Kentucky, only one-and-a-half hours’ drive from Knoxville and an ideal day out for the whole family. Ride the old steam trains, dating back to an era when logging and mining thrived, learn about the region’s fascinating history, and take in the stunning fall colors as you descend deep into the gorge, passing mountain streams and dense forest.

These recommendations were updated on October 12, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.