At once inspiring and beautiful, the wilderness of Kentucky makes locals and visitors alike feel at home. As winter ends and spring arrives in full force, it’s time to dust off your hiking gear and eagerly head outdoors. With stunning waterfalls tumbling down rocky ravines, ancient arches, and hardwood as far as the eye can see, the Bluegrass State during spring is magical and needs to be experienced firsthand. Retracing the historic wilderness that made Daniel Boone famous, the natural wonders of Kentucky will inspire you year round.
Before you head out and explore the majesty of the state, a stop to J&H Lanmark Store is needed to get you the very best outdoor gear in Lexington. Started in 1972 as an army surplus store, J&H has transformed into a great backpacking store for any outdoor enthusiast. Thanks to a stellar selection of outdoor apparel, equipment, and supplies, including Osprey packs, the store and staff will ensure you have an incredible time exploring the greater Lexington region and beyond.
Mammoth Cave National Park is the logical place to start your outdoor adventures, as it is Kentucky’s only National Park. Considered to be the largest cave system in the world, it is aptly named. The first tours of the caves started in 1816, making Mammoth Cave one of America’s oldest tourist attractions and an ideal location to kick-off your 2016 explorations.
The park has 84 miles of hiking trails, 21 miles of biking trails, and breathtaking trips into the cave system itself. While the caves can get crowded in the summer months, an off-season trip to the depths of these caverns of Kentucky is exactly what is needed to start quenching your thirst for adventure. Keep in mind that if you do take a guided tour of the caves, large backpacks are not allowed. The Osprey Syncro or Raven are perfectly sized to ensure amazing day-treks in and around the park.
Away from the crowds and organized tours of Mammoth Cave, Courthouse Rock is a classic hike. Weaving through the woods of Daniel Boone National Forest, the Courthouse Rock Trail is one of the must-do trails in the Red River Gorge. At 7.4 miles out and back, this trail features the classic forest hikes of Kentucky, as well as the chance to stand and enjoy a sweeping panorama from a rocky dome.
For those looking to expand their adventure from Courthouse Rock, combine this hike with the Auxier Ridge and Auxier Branch trails, and take the side trip to Double Arch. This 8-mile loop will give you unrivaled views, and is a great way to start your hiking season. For the best day possible, load up your perfectly-designed pack from the Osprey Kestrel/Kyte series with your gear and head out into the natural beauty of Daniel Boone National Forest.
Across the road in the same region, the always-popular Grays Arch Trail is yet another classic trek into the wilds of southeast Kentucky. Spanning 80 feet across and 50 feet high, Grays Arch is considered by some to be a difficult hike. The trail is a three-mile loop that gains 500 feet of elevation. If you are interested in the fauna of the region, the trail up to the arch is a perfect spot to view and explore the plant life. before showing off the stunning arch. Hiking here in the spring also increases your chances of seeing the seasonal waterfall that occurs at the arch.
While hiking in the natural beauty of Kentucky is incredible, spring also means that it is time to head out on your bike, and put in some serious miles around the best scenic routes in the state. Two hours southwest of Lexington, the Brier Creek Mountain Bike Trails in Nolan Lake State Park make for an excellent day pedaling through the wide forests on a fantastically-maintained dirt track.
With five different destinations and 9.2 miles of trail, you can challenge yourself with great climbs, and enjoy skilled descents and fun technical challenges all while checking out the spectacular views of Nolin Lake. With Osprey’s amazing line of biking backpacks and their new hydration system, it is hard to beat a day biking on the trails in Kentucky’s wooded areas.
Closer to Lexington, the Cave Run Lake Mountain Bike Trail has 23 miles of singletrack trails, each worthy of getting a feature in an outdoor magazine. Weaving around corners, through forests, and over wooden bridges, the trails in Daniel Boone National Forest will leave you craving more weekend adventures here. While there was a time that this wasn’t a great mountain biking destination, years of hard work and trail restoration have once again cemented Cave Run as a top-tier mountain biking destination in the state. Hit the trails with your Osprey Raptor 14, fill up your brand new hydration reservoir, and see for yourself.
Spring has sprung, and so should your sense of adventure for exploring the sights of Kentucky.