13 Kentucky Waterfalls For A Misty Retreat
Explore Kentucky's most enticing waterfalls, including the Niagara Falls of the South.
There are few things more relaxing than a waterfall. Whether it's just a trickle or a towering cascade, their misty air and soothing sounds offer some of Kentucky's greatest escapes. Some of the state's falls are hidden away, reachable only by hiking trails. But others put it out there for all to see, as brash and bold as you please, like the roaring falls in southeastern Kentucky nicknamed the Niagara of the South. From falls popular among hikers and photographers to lesser known wonders, some of the South's best waterfalls await in the forests and state parks of Kentucky.
The famed Red River Gorge is one of Kentucky’s most spectacular adventure areas. At Creation Falls near Campton in Wolfe County, outdoor enthusiasts can bask in the shade by clear water and a sandstone beach. The fairly easy 1.5-mile hike makes Creation Falls appealing for families. (Bring bathing suits!)
Flat Lick Falls
There’s something magical about this nearly 30-foot fall located in the Flat Lick Falls Recreational Scenic Area of Daniel Boone National Forest. Maybe it’s the lush foliage, surrounding caves, and woodland setting—or perhaps it’s the accessibility. A half-mile, walkable loop allows hikers of all skill levels to enjoy the view. There’s even a paved trail to an overlook that includes a wheelchair-accessible viewing platform.
The Big One. The Niagara of the South. The Great Falls. Call it what you will, but this 125-foot wide cascade plunging over a cliff in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is nothing short of spectacular. The fall is known as the home to the western hemisphere’s only consistent moonbow, a phenomenon caused when the light from the moon is refracted through water droplets in the air. It's so faint that it's also called a white rainbow. Day or night, the thundering falls and surrounding scenery offer dramatic views.
At a little more than one third the height of Cumberland Falls, Eagle Falls is also located in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. What it lacks in stature it makes up for in a grand setting: It's located in a gorge with boulders tumbled about, overhanging rocks, and resplendent views of Cumberland Falls. Hike Trail #9 to reach the falls, although it can be challenging with a formidable number of stairs.
Located on the 1.35-mile Honeymoon Falls Loop Trail in Kentucky’s first state park is Honeymoon Falls. The waterfall is the largest in Pine Mountain State Resort Park. In an area known for commanding views, Honeymoon Falls is a standout. The 25-foot tall fall surrounded by dense pockets of rhododendron and old-growth forest.
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the boarder of Kentucky and Tennessee is known for its gorges and sandstone bluffs, rivers and streams—and waterfalls. Princess Falls, a curtain of water splashing into Lick Creek, is found along the Sheltowee Trace Trail, an easy, 1.3 mile walk from the Yamacraw Day Use Parking Area off Hwy. 92.
Hidden within Martins Fork Wildlife Management Area and State Natural Area in Harlan and adjacent to Cumberland Gap National Park, Quadrule Falls splashes 16 feet into the headwaters of Martins Fork below. The four-mile trail to get to the falls is upstream, so it takes some commitment, but it’s well worth the hike.
Dog Slaughter Falls
In spite of its graphic name, Dog Slaughter Falls near London in Daniel Boone National Forest has an Instagrammable setting in a sheltered cove framed by enormous, moss-softened boulders. Against a hemlock thicket backdrop, the falls whoosh 15 feet down into the clear waters at the confluence of Dog Slaughter Creek and Cumberland River.
Seventy Six Falls
Clinton County is the home of Seventy Six Falls, a sight to behold as it plunges nearly 90 feet into Lake Cumberland. Sheltered in a cove along Indian Creek, it is especially scenic from the lake’s shoreline, which is located down a narrow trail from the picnic area. No wonder boaters, houseboaters, swimmers, and paddlers seek it out for lazing blue-sky days away.
Fulling Mill Falls
In the Nature Preserve at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Fulling Mills Falls offers a relaxation spot (and photo op) like no other. The waterfall splashes and slides down one step to the next, with its lush greenery and moss-shrouded boulders. The falls originally provided water power to operate the machinery of the stone fulling mill at Pleasant Hill built in 1822. Find it on the 6-mile Shawnee Run Trail loop, 20 minutes from the West Trailhead.
Cove Springs Waterfalls
Within Frankfort’s Cove Spring Park & Nature Preserve, you can enjoy waterfalls mere miles from the state capitol. Set among forested ravines, wetlands, wildflowers, springs, and streams, the park offers multiple waterfalls. This 240-acre pocket of paradise has picnic facilities, Children’s Memorial, archery range, and walking trails, including the paved Sky Trail overlooking the city and a longer Wetlands Trail for wildlife viewing.
At Kentucky’s tallest waterfall, hikers can walk right up to the base and even slip behind the falls as it splashes 113 feet into the pool below. Yahoo Falls sits in the heart of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Whitley City. It's accessible by a scenic one-mile hike with some steep metal stairs. A seasonal waterfall, it can reduce to a trickle in the summer and shows its best self after a good rain.
This scenic cascade drops 130 feet down the steep, sloping face of Muldraugh Hill. Located north of Fort Knox, it lies in an area used for military training (and is subsequently sometimes closed to hikers), making it one of Hardin County’s true hidden treasures.
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