Are you ready to experience fall in Kentucky? From cute little towns surrounded by fall foliage to hiking trails and waterfalls, there are tons of places in The Bluegrass State to explore the beauty of fall. While Kentucky sees the highest number of visitors in June, visiting in the fall is highly recommended!
The fall season offers a stunning show of vibrant foliage that peaks between mid-October and early November depending what part of the state you visit. Visiting in late October gives you the best chance of seeing the amazing fall colors for yourself!
Kentucky is known for a lot of things: being the horse racing capital of the world, its unique vibrant grass, moonshine, bluegrass music, the UK basketball team, fried chicken, and much more. One thing that you don’t hear enough about Kentucky is how beautiful it is in the fall! Fall in Kentucky is beautiful no matter if you’re a traveler who prefers to get out into nature or someone who prefers to stay in the city. Which of these beautiful places to experience fall in Kentucky will you visit first?
10 Best Places To Experience Fall In Kentucky
The most iconic and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kentucky is Cumberland Falls near Corbin, Kentucky. This waterfall is epic and is a must see while visiting Kentucky in fall. There is a gem mine, trails, a large observation desk, a resort, and camping options available. The Cumberland Falls Campground will give you a great starting point for a day spent exploring Cumberland Falls!
There’s also a sandy beach at the falls that is lovely to sit at during the fall season. You can see the Cumberland River in front of you and a wall of rock formations and fall colors beyond the water. From the beach, turn left into the large boulders and you will have access to a secret view of the falls!
While visiting Cumberland Falls, make sure to visit the Pinnacle Knob Lookout. An easy 1.2 mile out and back trail will take you to the lookout tower. Climb the stairs to the top and you will be rewarded by amazing views of the mountains. The views are particularly stunning when waves of fog have filled the gaps between the mountains. This is one of the best views to see vibrant leaves during fall in Kentucky!
Hike The Cracks in The Rocks
Just fifteen minutes from Tennessee is the Crack in The Rocks Trail. It’s located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and is one of the best places to be in nature during fall in Kentucky! If you are looking for a hiking trails in Kentucky that will showcase the beauty of fall, look no further!
If you aren’t much of a hiker, you can see the Cracks in The Rock via a less than a mile hike from the Blue Heron Mining Community parking lot. Or if you are looking for more adventure, you can extend your trip by taking the 6.4 mile Blue Heron Loop Trail. If you take this option, consider parking at the Overlook Parking Area. By parking here you can take a short walk to see the Blue Heron Gorge Overlook before heading to The Cracks In The Rocks.
This hike is ranked as moderate and includes climbing several wooden staircases. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash and don’t be surprised if you are sharing the trail with rock climbers! If you plan on staying the night in the area, you may want to consider staying in Tennessee as the closest restaurants and accommodations are there.
Cumberland Gap National Park
If you’re looking for sprawling mountain views full of exciting fall colors, then the Cumberland Gap National Park is the place for you! Camping, backpacking, hiking, and guided tours are all available to the visitors of the park. You can take guided tours of the caves and of the settlements in the park as well. When it comes to hiking, the park has more than eight miles of trails to choose from. There’s a large variety of trails for every type of traveler! From short trails with no elevation gain to more strenuous trails, they can all be found in the park.
Fall in Kentucky offers visitors a spectacular show of fall colors. The viewpoints in the Cumberland Gap offer you some of the best views of those beautiful fall colors that the state has to offer! This park covers three states: Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Given this perfect location, there are so many things to do in all three states around the park.
There are a couple museums nearby that make for great additions to your Cumberland Gap bucket list! First is The Little Congress Bicycle Museum. This museum is a unique little stop that showcases many bikes from a bygone era. Then there’s the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum is also a good option to learn about the history of the area!
Explore Thoroughbred Alley
One of the most unique things to do in fall in Kentucky is to drive along Old Frankfort Pike. This is known as Thoroughbred Alley and is insanely beautiful. This road starts in Lexington and ends in Frankfort. This road has a lot of history that is important to not only Kentucky, but to a lot of places all around the world.
The history of horses in Kentucky began along this road before Kentucky had even became a state. This road has had other names in the past and was once used as a main path to travel between major cities in the state during the revolutionary way. The amount of history that this road has lived to see is amazing and what it produces to this day is equally as amazing. Today, Kentucky produces more Thoroughbred foals than anywhere else in the United States.
For beautiful fall pictures, it doesn’t get much better than Old Frankfort Pike. There are many farms along the sides of the road where you can see horses running through the fields and the multi-million dollar barns that they get to stay in from time to time. Some of which allow visitors. It is quite common to see expensive, glowing crystal chandeliers through the windows of the barns!
If you love learning about the history of the places you travel to, then Frankfort is one of the best places that you can visit during fall in Kentucky. Frankfort is the capital city and as such has been home to a large number of historical events for the state. The buildings, streets, and museums of the city can allow for you to see what Kentucky was like in the past, present, and what it will be like in the future.
Walking the streets around these historic government building, homes, and museums while being surrounded by stunning fall foliage is incredible. This is the perfect place to take photos on your travels and to learn about the state as a whole. Aside from the government buildings, there’s also many other cool places to visit in Frankfort. For nature lovers, head to the Salato Wildlife Center or Cove Spring Park. The wildlife center showcases indigenous species of the state as well as walking trails, while Cove Spring offers hiking trails and a waterfall.
If you’re looking for museums or historical sites, there are plenty to choose from! The Liberty Hall Historic Site, Capital City Museum, and the Leslie Morris Park at Fort Hill. The Leslie Morris Park is home to a Civil War era fort and it also offers views over the city of Frankfort! Last, but not least, are the Kentucky River tours. If you really want to enjoy the fall foliage while learning about the area, consider taking a boat tour along the Kentucky River!
Dog Slaughter Falls
This waterfall is one of the most beautiful places to experience fall in Kentucky. It’s very popular and the fall colors really shine around the waterfall. Falling a little more than fifteen feet, this water fall is a convergence of the Cumberland River and Dog Slaughter Creek. The waterfall empties into a swimming whole that can be much needed during the summer months. You may not want to swim in the fall, but don’t worry, you will still enjoy the beauty of the falls!
This waterfall is the Daniel Boone National Forest in the southern part of the state, just fifteen to twenty minutes from Tennessee. The trail is an out and back trail that is around 2.4 miles long. This trail can get very slippery and muddy so hiking boots are recommended. It’s highly trafficked, but well worth the visit to see the natural beauty for yourself, especially during the fall!
Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridge is a popular feature in the ever so popular Red River Gorge. Although it’s popular year around, it’s really a fan favorite in October as it’s one of the best places to visit during fall in Kentucky. Don’t let the number of visitors deter you! A trip to Natural Bridge is like a right of passage for visiting Kentucky.
The Red River Gorge has more than one hundred naturally formed sand stone arches and there are countless trails that can be hiked out to these arches. A fun fact about Kentucky, it’s not only the Red River Gorge that has all of these natural arches, they can be found all around the state. More than 1,100 have been officially documented!
There are many trails that can take you up to the Natural Bridge. The most common is the Original Natural Bridge Trail. It is a heavily trafficked trail that is 1.2 miles up to the top of the bridge. This is the quickest way up so you should be prepared for many wooden and rock stair cases and elevation gain. Just before you get to the top of the trail you will have to go through what people call “Fat Man’s Squeeze” or “Fat Mans Misery”. There is a skinny walkway between two tall slabs of rock that you must walk through before walking into the bridge, you’ll have to take your backpack off for this!
Once you get to the top you will have access to stunning views of the fall colors surrounding the bridge! If you’re looking for a more exciting way down from the bridge, consider taking the Rock Garden trail. It’s beautiful and takes you through a variety of different natural features that really adds to your experience in the gorge. If hiking isn’t your thing, no worries! You can ride the sky life up and down from the bridge!
Head up to northern Kentucky along the Ohio River for some of the best experiences you can have during fall in Kentucky! Bellevue is a small town with an amazing beach park. The Bellevue Beach Park offers views of Cincinatti over the Ohio River, playgrounds, and walking paths. The town has a number of unique shops and restaurants, including: Dannyelles Bellevue Tavern and Schneider’s Homemade Candies.
Bellevue is just ten minutes outside of the popular town of Newport Kentucky. A place you should definitely consider visiting when in Bellevue! Newport is home to Newport on the Levee which has an aquarium, parks and walking paths along the river, restaurants, mall, shops, and dessert shops. One of the most famous stop on the levee is Tom and Chee which was is famous for being on Shark Tank in 2013!
Just ten minutes north of Bellevue and Newport is Cincinatti, Ohio. A trip to Cincinatti is another option for a side trip from Bellevue. There you can visit a zoo, botanical garden, art museums, see William Howard Taft’s former home, Coney Island Park, and much more!
Dive back into the beautiful autumn colored leaves in Daniel Boone National forest! The Courthouse Rock trail is one of the best things to do in fall in Kentucky! A common hiking path is the forest is taking the Courthouse Rock trail to Auxier Branch Loop Trail. This is a 5.1 mile that is heavily trafficked and gains more than 1,100 feet of elevation.
You will walk along large rock facing, take rock staircases, and see breathtaking views of the rolling hills all around the trails. The trail is beautiful any time of year, however, visiting in the fall just can’t be beat. The trail is about twenty minutes away from Natural Bridge State Park and only ten minutes away from Nada.
Nada is home to the famous Nada Tunnel. The tunnel is was blasted out in the early 1900’s and used as a railway tunnel for lumber. Once the forest had been cleared, the tracks were removed and dirt was lain to make way for horse and pedestrian traffic. Today, there is now pavement to accommodate one lane of traffic, but the the tunnel remains unlit. If you are into the spooky or paranormal, this may be worth a visit for you. Legend has it the tunnel is haunted by a tunnel worker who lost his life to a stick of dynamite in the tunnel.
Turkey Foot Campground
If your goal for spending fall in Kentucky is to be surrounded by stunning natural beauty, then a night or two at the Turkey Foot Campground is a must! The campground is about an hour south from the Natural Bridge State Park and is overflowing with gorgeous areas to explore. There are fifteen spots and the best part of that it’s free! However, you should keep in mind that they work on a first come, first serve basis and don’t don’t offer any reservations.
You will be camping between walls of vibrant fall foliage along the War Fork Creek. The creek is stocked with trout for fishing, there are horseshoe pits, and all of the sites are within walking distance of the creek! This campground is surrounded by popular outdoor attractions. You have Flat Lick Falls to the south, a Sheltowee Trace Trailhead to the west, and Cave Run Lake to the northeast!
There’s nothing like experiencing fall in Kentucky! The state is full of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and intriguing history. From hiking trails and waterfalls, to cities on rivers and famous restaurants, there’s something for everyone in the Bluegrass State!