The Kentucky Wildlands: Hidden Gem of the South

The Kentucky Wildlands is a wide-open playground waiting to be explored. Spanning 14,000 square miles of beautiful wilderness across 41 counties of eastern and southern Kentucky, it’s largely “undiscovered” — in the true essence of the overused word. An easy drive from major cities in Kentucky, the Midwest, and the Southeast, a visit to these hidden gems is like unearthing a magical natural wonderland void of crowds and development. As told by Style Blueprint.

Image: Lisa Hunter | The Kentucky Wildlands

Ancient forests, waterfalls galore, and crystal-clear lakes offer outdoor lovers innumerable ways to play — from hiking and biking to sailing and scuba diving. While coal mining defined eastern and southern Kentucky for generations, a major shift has happened in recent years to invest in sustainable eco-tourism and protect the area’s extraordinary natural assets. Here are a few of the many reasons you should head to The Kentucky Wildlands this fall and beyond.

Weird & Noteworthy Natural Phenomena

The Kentucky Wildlands is home to the resplendent Red River Gorge (“The Red” to locals!). This canyon system boasts more than 600 miles of hiking trails, world-class rock climbing, 100 natural sandstone arches, dozens of waterfalls, and giant natural bridges.

Image: Red River Gorge

It’s also home to “The Grand Canyon of the South,” a 1,000-foot-deep gorge carved through the heart of Pine Mountain, and it’s the only place in Kentucky with class-five rapids for some truly thrilling rafting.

Cumberland Falls (called “Niagara of the South”) is a picturesque waterfall along The Sheltowee Trace Trail. It has the Western Hemisphere’s only regularly occurring moonbow, a rare white lunar rainbow that appears during or at the end of a full moon. In fact, it’s one of only two places in the world where moonbows occur regularly.

Image: G. Fuson | The Kentucky Wildlands

“Leaf Peeping” Without The Crowds

Fall colors sweep across The Kentucky Wildlands from late September throughout October. The best part? The crowds are slim, so you can stop, walk, and snap photos at your leisure. If you love expansive vistas that show off every possible color of autumn, head to the overlooks at Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Red River Gorge, Cumberland Gap, and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

Image: Dustin Robinson | The Kentucky Wildlands

If you prefer that up-close-and-personal leaf peeping, hike through The Daniel Boone National Forest: 708,000 acres of federally protected forest land filled with oak, poplar, maple, and beech trees.

Image: Dustin Robinson | The Kentucky Wildlands
Image: The Kentucky Wildlands

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