15 Best State Parks In Kentucky For Any Adventure

Choose your adventure.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Kentucky State Parks

Kentucky’s state parks are filled with natural beauty and magnificent views, but there’s nothing one-size-fits-all about them. From tent and RV campsites with plenty of elbow room and cabins tucked away in the woods to resort lodging, a stay at one of the state's 45 parks—17 of them classified as resorts with lodges and restaurants—is all about possibilities. As are the adventure possibilities: hiking, biking and horseback riding, miniature golf, championship golf, and disc golf, caving, boating and fishing, swimming at the beach or pool—even an indoor pool complex. 

Each park has its particular charms, from nature preserves with rare flowers to caving, boating, horseback riding, and biking. Choose your adventure then pick your park or vice versa; either way is a win when planning a Kentucky state park vacation.

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Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Kentucky State Parks

Known for its namesake Cumberland Falls—the Niagara of the South—expect commanding views from the water the crashes down this sixty-eight foot sandstone cliff. You can see it most spectacularly from the Eagle Falls Trail. Plan your visit to catch that rarest of phenomena: the ghostly white arc of a moonbow. Also called a white rainbow or a lunar rainbow, it occurs less than 10 percent as often as a regular rainbow.

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Greenbo Lake State Resort Park

boats at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park

Kentucky State Parks

SCUBA lovers—this park’s for you. Bring your gear and suit up for adventure (April through October) at the 10-acre SCUBA Refuge, the only one among Kentucky’s state parks. Not quite that adventurous? Rent a kayak or pedal boat or zip down the waterslide at the park’s community pool. Visit for Murder Mystery Dinner Theater or a Quilt Show. Or simply enjoy 33 miles of scenic multi-use trails set within 3,300 acres of forestland.

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Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Kentucky
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The geologic stunner for which this park is named is a natural sandstone arch that stretches out across 78 feet and sits 65 feet above the ground. Hike Trail #1 directly to the 30-foot-wide “sidewalk” known as Natural Bridge or ride the Sky Lift for treetop views. This park offers stunning views year-round but is truly breathtaking during fall foliage season. Don't miss the scenic pool complex with zero-depth pool, stone bathhouse, and wading pool with fountain and floor bubbles.

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Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

fossils in Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Kentucky State Parks

Their 1804 expedition got more press, but explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark also visited Big Bone Lick, Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology, at the behest of Thomas Jefferson. See bison herds roaming the fields year-round, a wooly mammoth and other Ice Age animals trapped in the mud edging a salt lick at the Megafauna diorama pit and a full Harlan’s Ground Sloth replica skeleton among the museum’s colorfully presented exhibits.

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Pine Mountain State Resort Park

Hikers at Pine Mountain State Resort Park

Kentucky State Parks

Most U.S. state park systems date to the 1930s, developed with assistance from Great Depression-era federal programs including the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration—but Pine Mountain was ahead of the curve. Established nearly a century ago in 1924, Kentucky’s first state park is known for gorgeous sweeping vistas and is especially scenic in the spring when the mountain laurel and red buds bloom. Come for festivals, concerts, delicious down-home cooking, and those Instagrammable views.

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Carter Caves State Resort Park

Carter Caves State Resort Park

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Hike to a softly illuminated underground waterfall on the scenic Cascade Cave tour at this resort park—one of only two state parks with guided and wild cave tours. Learn about a key ingredient used in making gunpowder found in one of the caves that links Carter Caves to the War of 1812. Strap on the (provided) headlamp and helmet to muck about on the wild Bat Cave tour. Warning: Waddling required as cavers need to duck walk for approximately 130 feet through this rugged subterranean world.

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Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park

Dale Hollow, KY

Kentucky State Parks

Dale Hollow’s lodge and Island View Restaurant are perched atop a bluff overlooking the lake and forests beyond. It is home to a nationally ranked golf course and a nautical-themed, ADA-accessible 18-hole mini golf course where putters cross over streams to sink their putts. Get wet and muddy at a wild cave named Cindy, hike to Eagle Point Trail overlook for a bird’s-eye view of Tennessee, and rent a boat and go island exploring. The best time to catch sight of eagles? December through February.

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General Butler State Resort Park

General Butler State Resort Park

Kentucky State Parks

Enjoy one of Kentucky’s most famous (and delectable) culinary sensations—the oh-so-cheesy Hot Brown—at Two Rivers Restaurant, overlooking the confluence of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. Canoe, kayak, or pedal boat on Butler Lake or drop a line in for bass, crappie, and bluegill (and if you didn’t bring a fishing pole, the park will lend you one for free). Catch the sunset from the overlook on the Butler Lake Trail and visit the 1859 Greek Revival-style Butler-Turpin Home Museum.

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Green River State Park

Green River state park campground

Kentucky State Parks

The entire campground at this nature lover’s paradise—all 167 RV campsites and 60 primitive/tent sites—sits along the shoreline of Green River Lake. Go horseback riding on nearly 30 miles of all-purpose trails. Wriggle your toes in the sandy beach fronting the 8,200-acre lake. Visit the marina to rent jet skis, ski boat, fishing boat, or pontoon. Create your own wildlife safari and look for eagles, turkey, hawks, deer, and more.

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John James Audubon State Park

John James Audubon State Park museum

Kentucky State Parks

One of the few places in the world to see a rare double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s masterwork, The Birds of America (1827-1838), which showcases the artist/ornithologist’s life-sized watercolors of North American birds, is at this state park. It sits in the three-gallery museum inside a turreted stone chateau, in a fairytale setting surrounded by forest. A wetlands boardwalk, Nature Center, cottages and campgrounds, fishing lake, and hiking trails within a State Nature Preserve add to the park’s allure.

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General Burnside Island State Park

General Burnside Island State Park golf course

Kentucky State Parks

It’s golf, island style, at this serene state park surrounded by Lake Cumberland. The Brian Ault-designed public course—a winner of multiple “Best in Kentucky” awards in the category of golf course—offers gorgeous waterfront views from every hole.

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Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

Fisher in Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

Phyllis Mille/ Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

Enjoy a 60,000-acre lake for houseboating, fishing and watersports, Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery Visitor and Environmental Education Center, and activities including disc golf, mini golf, tennis, and geocaching. The 63-room Lure Lodge lives up to its name with enticing lakeside views from Rowena Landing Restaurant, the lobby with its cozy stone fireplace and private balconies, plus indoor swimming pool complex that includes a hot tub. New this year is the Wake Zone bar, 3D archery featuring life-size targets of deer, bear, and turkey and astronomy in the fall.

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My Old Kentucky Home State Park

The musical production, “The Stephen Foster Story,” within My Old Kentucky Home State Park

The Stephen Foster Story

America’s first pop star rocks the stage during “The Stephen Foster Story,” the official outdoor musical of Kentucky and the state’s longest-running outdoor drama that includes such timeless tunes as “Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and Kentucky’s state song, “My Old Kentucky Home.” Take a guided tour of the mansion museum, with 75 percent of its contents original to the home built 200 years ago. Come for an event—a ghost tour, a program about Victorian mourning and funerary customs, or a holiday performance of “An Old Kentucky Christmas Carol.”

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Lake Barkley State Resort Park

Lake Barkley, KY

Kentucky State Parks

Located near Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, this park has plenty of recreational options. Rent a boat from Lake Barkley Marina. Enjoy lakeside dining at Windows on the Water Restaurant, where you can pair Kentucky fare with Kentucky wine and spirits. Swim year-round in the heated indoor pool, part of the park’s fitness center, which also includes machines, a free-weight room, racquetball court, sauna, and wet-steam room. Play video games and ping pong in the game room or 18 holes of championship golf.

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Rough River Dam

Rough River Dam

Kentucky State Parks

Lounge on the beach, play disc golf on an 18-hole lakeside course, and practice navigational skills on the orienteering course—one of the few state parks with such a course—at Kentucky’s smallest resort park. The park is famous for its live music, with Bluegrass every month and Friday night patio concerts throughout the summer, and spring and holiday craft shows that spotlight Kentucky-made products.

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