Every summer, I catch myself saying “I should come back here in the fall” after discovering a new state park or hiking trail. When I spent a week camping in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest, this thought was especially relevant. I couldn’t help but imagine what the knobs and waterfalls, against a lush summer background, would look like in a couple months. If you find yourself needing a break this fall, a drive through eastern Kentucky could be your solution. Here are a few hikes that make the road trip worth it.
This trail gives you two waterfalls for the price of one 45-minute hike. To get to Eagle Falls, you’ll first pass by Cumberland Falls — its louder, larger and less charming precursor. Stop here for a moment to enjoy the view, but the real treasure is at the end.
Eagle Falls is a waterfall small enough to swim under. It creates a clear pool with crisp water. There is truly no better way to end a sweaty hike.
This hike is a rough one but completely worth it. Some must-haves? Water shoes, lots of water to drink, snacks, patience and a friend who is good at navigating. If you like to hike “off the beaten path” (literally and figuratively), Copperas Falls is your next destination. With a discrete trail entrance and no path after the first 100 ft., my best advice is to follow the Copperas Creek for about an hour. These falls are an oasis. It’s the perfect spot to have lunch, meditate, or set up a hammock and nap (like I did).
Double Arch, Courthouse Rock and Auxier Ridge
If waterfalls don’t excite you, surely some elevation and views will. If you do the full loop of this hike, you’ll be able to see Double Arch, Courthouse Rock and walk along the Auxier Ridge. With steep inclines and some climbing, this hike takes you from swampy jungle to rocky desert. Within minutes, the terrain changes, you feel a gust of wind and suddenly you’re at the top.
The easiest of all the trails is the one to get to Natural Bridge. If you are looking for a hike to go on early in the morning or late in the evening, this one would be perfect. And the views in the fall? I’m sure they only get better.
I always overlooked Kentucky when I thought about fun places to visit, but this state has more to offer than just being the birthplace of KFC. There is so much to do outdoors, and the trails alone are a reason to make this the destination for your fall road trip.
~Faith Volpe, Detroit Mercy ’23