Destination – Kentucky, Daniel Boone National Forest – Part I: The Cumberland District

Destination – Kentucky, Daniel Boone National Forest – Part I: The Cumberland District

The Daniel Boone National Forest – in my best Donald Trump – is huuuuuuge.  daniel-boone-national-forest-mapThe forest lies in eastern Kentucky and extends from the Tennessee border to almost the Ohio border.  The forest is broken up into four Ranger Districts.  We visited the Cumberland District to the north and the Stearns District to the south.  We start with the Cumberland District.

Twin Knobs Recreation Area

In the Cumberland District we stayed in the Twin Knobs Recreation Area.  This recreation area contains one of the best public campgrounds we’ve run into so far.  The campground is situated on a peninsula surrounded by Cave Run Lake, a reservoir created by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1973 on the lower Licking River.

Cave Run Lake at Sun Set - Twin Knobs Campground.
Cave Run Lake at Sun Set – Twin Knobs Campground.

The camp hosts were amazing.  I watched them jump on a camp site within minutes of an RV pulling out.  The husband and wife team would clean the site, blow the leaves out and rake the gravel smooth.  The site was left perfect for the next camper to set right up.

Home for 4 nights - Twin Knobs Campground
Home for 4 nights, Murica! – Twin Knobs Campground

The recreation area is large enough to get a great bike ride in without having to risk the multitasking drivers on the main highway.  We took a ride down to the beach, which fortunately was closed for the season and completely empty.  That turned this area into a very nice, serene place to hang out and chill.

Cave Run Lake Beach - Twin Knobs Rec. Area
Cave Run Lake Beach – Twin Knobs Rec. Area

We went on only one hike within the recreation area itself, the Knob Overlook Trail.  This trail takes off from the campground and spirals up one of the hills in the area.  With each loop around the hill you gain some altitude and gain a unique perspective of the peninsula .   Eventually you reach the top, and once you recover from being dizzy you are rewarded with a 360 deg view of the Twin Knobs Recreation Area.  If the leaves were in full color or even off of the trees, the view would have been spectacular.

Cave Run Lake - from the Knob Overlook Trail
Cave Run Lake – from the Knob Overlook Trail

Red River Gorge Geological Area

We had been to the Red River Gorge before, but we decided to take the 40 mile drive down from Twin Knobs to the geological area to try a new trail.  The Red River Gorge is an incredible area and a great place to hike.  There are several rock shelters, many panoramic bluffs and numerous arches to discover.  We were a little early for peak colors, but there was enough color to make it feel like fall.

We hiked a 6 mile section of the 319 mile long Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, hoping to reach a bluff I had spotted on the topo map.  This time of year the forest is extremely dense.  We were hiking on a crystal clear, blue sky day, but deep in the bush it was quite dark and a little freaky as we kept thinking we were hearing a bear.

Sheltowee Trace early fall - Red River Gorge
Sheltowee Trace early fall – Red River Gorge

At one point we were within 50 yards of the bluff but couldn’t see it.  Since I didn’t trust my survival training (learning to read a topo map) we almost turned back before reaching the bluff.  The trail was so over grown and we had ascended and descended many false peaks, I was sure we got off onto a wrong trail.  I decided to go 5 more minutes and turn around if we didn’t reach it.  I’m glad we did, we almost missed this awesome view of a box canyon from above.

Sheltowee Trace Canyon Overlook - Red River Gorge
Sheltowee Trace Canyon Overlook – Red River Gorge

 

As I’ve mentioned before, give me a ridge over a gorge any day.  I could sit and contemplate my belly button for hours up here.

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Sheltowee Trace Canyon Overlook – Red River Gorge

If, like me, you thought Kentucky was just Mammoth Cave and the Kentucky Derby, you need to treat yourself, at the very least, to a visit to the Red River Gorge Geological Area.

In Part II, we’ll tell ya about our free camping experience in the southern Danial Boone National Forest.  I loooooooove Kentucky.

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