An easy drive from Louisville, camping at Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area offers a convenient escape into the Kentucky wilderness. After pitching your tent among stunning, aromatic cedar trees, head out to enjoy a wealth of adventure that the park has to offer: hiking, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, archery, hunting, and disc golf; after all that activity, you’re virtually guaranteed a good night’s sleep.
Otter Creek Recreational Area. @jdshrock
WHAT MAKES IT GREAT
After a brief recent closure, the park is now a favorite among Kentucky outdoor lovers. In 1947, it was donated to the City of Louisville by the federal government in recognition for the city’s service during World War II. But in 2009, budget shortfalls led the city to shut it down. The state then took over and reopened it as a state park in 2011, much to the delight of local outdoor enthusiasts. A historic landmark is Morgan’s Cave, which was a hideout for Morgan’s Raiders in the Civil War. Unfortunately, the cave is now closed for the protection of its bat population.
But there’s plenty else to keep campers occupied: 24 trails of hiking and mountain bike trails, dedicated equestrian trails, fishing, hunting, and even disc golf. With so many options for activities, the expansive park is a great choice for active types who like to soak up the outdoors in as many ways as possible. Make the campground your home base, and try something new each day.
Spend one day at the creek, swimming, floating, or canoeing (bring your own), and another at the Ohio River, where coal barges ship their wares up and down. Go swimming at the Blue Hole (be careful of the potentially strong current), then rip up some singletrack on your mountain bike. As you ride, soak up overlook views of the Ohio River and Otter Creek, and take advantage of access to low-lying creek beds. All 24 total miles of trail are open to hikers, but bikers and equestrians are limited to certain trails; be sure to plan ahead accordingly. In the summer, fishing is another option: Smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and sunfish can all be found here. In winter, the creek is stocked with rainbow trout—including 14- to 20-inch—in four areas. (Catch-and-release rules are in effect October through spring; call ahead for specific dates when the creek is stocked for the best days to fish.)
After a full day outdoors, Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area delivers with its camping options, too: Primitive sites, electric sites, and cabin rentals are all available. There’s even something for the equestrians, with campsites designated for families with horses. Cabins are ideal for families or groups, with an open room layout and seven twin-size bunk beds, sleeping 14 people total. Other creature comforts include refrigerator, table and chairs, and AC and heat, but no water. Walk-ins are welcome, but not advised in the summer.
WHO IS GOING TO LOVE IT
The park is full of beautiful wooded areas, giving campers the feel of seclusion and access to wilderness areas without an arduous trip to reach them. Outdoor-loving families will especially appreciate the variety of activities for all ages, as well as the immersion in wildlife. Anglers, both experienced and novice, will love being able to cast a line on their camping adventure.
The park’s excellent trails are a strong draw for mountain bikers and horseback riders. Disc golfers have a home here too, thanks to the challenging, scenic course, one of the first in the United States and Kentucky’s first. It has lots of trees and a low canopy, but it’s a nice spot for beginners to hone their skills.
DIRECTIONS, PARKING, & REGULATIONS
Otter Creek State Resort Park is located at 850 Otter Creek Park Road, Brandenburg, Kentucky, 40108.
Hours: Open Wednesday through Sunday from dawn to dusk. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except on holidays. Closed on New Year’s Eve and Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Day.
The office is open 9 am-4 pm, Monday through Saturday.
Parking is in designated parking areas, and no alcohol is allowed on premises.