Discover highways and byways less traveled with a scenic fall drive
Fall is right around the corner – and what better time to take a road trip in Kentucky than when temperatures start cooling down, the leaves start changing colors and those scenic views become even more beautiful! Road trip travelers from near and far can take advantage of the state’s central location to explore Kentucky’s hidden gems. Let’s discover some of the roads less traveled!
1. Old Frankfort Pike & Pisgah Pike near Lexington
In central Kentucky, take a relaxing drive through Horse Country on Old Frankfort Pike (KY 1681). This 16.9 mile scenic byway connects Frankfort and Lexington, winding its way through with beautiful scenic horse farms surrounded by rock and wooden fences. Check in on some of horse racing’s most accomplished athletes at the more than 450+ farms dotting the hills, and catch glimpses of future stars. There’s also Pisgah Pike nearby, an approximately 5 mile long roadway running north and south from Old Frankfort Pike to U.S. 60 between Versailles and Lexington. On the Lexington end, you’ll find an authentic stone castle – The Kentucky Castle, and further east along U.S. 60 is Keeneland, an internationally renowned racecourse and the Thoroughbred industry's leading auction house.
Travel Tip: Hungry? Stop in Wallace Station Deli and Bakery, an unassuming eatery created by popular Chef Ouita Michel, featured on Guy Fieri’s popular show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives!" If you turn north onto U.S. 62, you’ll end up in the charming, historic town of Midway with plenty of antique shops, boutiques and restaurants.
2. The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway
The Red River Gorge National Geological Area has some of the most deeply forested terrain surrounding the paved roads – bikers especially enjoy it. This popular area has several natural outdoor attractions that draw visitors from near and far away. World-renowned for rock climbing and rappelling opportunities, the Gorge is one of the top destinations for these activities in the country! Soar through the area on a zip line for the ultimate adventure tour. There are plenty of trail opportunities in the area, too, as well as some great sites to camp or rent a cabin. Visit Natural Bridge, a beautiful 78-footlong sandstone arch located surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest – it’s one of the most visited attractions in the state.
Travel Tip: Drive along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway for colorful foliage in the fall and the spectacular Nada Tunnel – the one-lane tunnel is 900-feet long and was created in the early 1900s for timber hauling.
3. Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway in western Kentucky
Explore Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area by traversing the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway, the major road running north and south through the peninsula surrounded by Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The full length of “The Trace” is 43 miles, from Grand Rivers to Dover, TN. It’s a beautiful, nature-filled drive with ample opportunities for fun, educational stops along the way. Start in Grand Rivers at Lighthouse Landing, then take a walk along the rocky beach at Moss Creek Day Use Area. Rent a canoe or kayak (or bring your own!) to explore the many water trails. Mosey on down to the Woodlands Nature Station for insight on local wildlife, and drive through the Elk and Bison Prairie for even more wildlife viewing. Cap off your Kentucky drive with a stop at the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory, and take in a show in the 40-foot dome of the theater.
Travel Tip: Fill up on delicious, down-home cooking at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement in Grand Rivers. The beloved restaurant and shops are great for wandering – take in the outdoor sights while waiting for a table.
4. Country Music Highway in eastern Kentucky
Kentucky has been the birthplace and inspiration for so many musicians, so take in the sights and sounds of the Bluegrass State's country music heritage by driving along the Country Music Highway (U.S. 23). This scenic roadway rambles through seven counties in far eastern Kentucky, hugging the border of West Virginia and passing by some of Kentucky’s most beautiful state parks. Music and storytelling traditions run deep in this part of Kentucky, which has produced more hit country artists than any other region per capita, including Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, The Judds, Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tom T. Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam and Patty Loveless.
Travel Tip: Start in Ashland at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center to find a special display dedicated to the Judd’s and take in a show at the Paramount Arts Center, a restored 1930s art deco building hosting theater performances, concerts and private events. Continue south to the Paintsville area and visit the U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum featuring exhibits and memorabilia about the area’s country music stars. Don’t miss Loretta Lynn’s Homeplace in “Butcher Holler” and Webb’s Grocery Store. This singer-songwriter’s birthplace and family home is nestled between two fog shrouded mountains up a “holler” in Van Lear. Visitors wishing to tour Loretta Lynn’s homeplace will need to stop in Webb’s Grocery, a historic general store.