Hopkins County Is All About Adventure Outdoors and In

By: Kathy Witt

Pennyrile State ParkHopkins County in western Kentucky has had a rough-and-tumble streak since its founding more than 200 years ago in 1806. Its early settlers were Revolutionary War veterans and the county was named after Gen. Samuel Hopkins, an officer in the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812 who would later become a Kentucky legislator and U.S. Congressman. The area was also divided during the Civil War, its courthouse in Madisonville burned by Kentucky Confederates.

But today, Hopkins County and its county seat, Madisonville, have a friendly small-town feel in a great outdoors setting – and all the recreational opportunities that go along with it.  You’ll find a variety of lakes and parks, multiple wildlife management areas, a heavily forested 863-acre state park and Kentucky’s first Trail Town – Dawson Springs – with more than 100 miles of trails to explore.

Trail bikeHike or bike, ride an ATV or horse on these trails and others that crisscross the county’s grasslands and forests, river valleys and rolling countryside. If you’ve neglected Mother Nature, Hopkins County offers a chance to get reacquainted.

Fish for bass, bluegill, catfish and more at 784-acre Lake Beshear. Kayak or canoe Grapevine Lake or Lake PeeWee. Set up camp in Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park – and bring your horse. There are hitching posts and pull-through campsites designed for horse owners, plus lots of other amenities and the chance to ride more than 40 miles of horse trails within adjacent Pennyrile Forest.

horseback ridingEnjoy bird watching? Take your gear to the Tradewater River Wildlife Management Area and follow the birding trail, where you’ll also see bluffs, rock overhangs and small caves. Pack your clubs and drive to one of the county’s three golf courses or its world-class 18-hole disc golf course at Madisonville City Park. The park itself is a natural playground with fishing lakes, a walking trail, shaded picnic areas, swimming pool, volleyball and tennis courts, an amphitheater and more.

The Mahr Park Arboretum preserves a natural environment for native birds, fish, wildlife, plants, and wildflowers on 265 acres of rolling hills, mature trees, and fishing ponds. And geocachers can hunt for some 200-plus caches located within 30 miles of Madisonville.

Shopping & Strolling

Hopkins County has enough outdoor activities to challenge even the most committed outdoor lover, but there is plenty to discover indoors, too. Stroll through downtown Madisonville and visit shops like Amanda’s – perfect for boutiquers seeking quality, locally-printed t-shirts – and Mark of Distinction, with its charming floral arrangements and thoughtful home decor and gift items like pillows, wine accessories and University of Kentucky logoed items.

Pop into Flax & Wool, The Pink Door or Hattie James for fine women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories. For outdoor equipment and supplies, head to outdoor outfitters 45-70.

MuseumIf you’re looking for indoor entertainment, immerse yourself into the exciting world of virtual reality at The Ledge VR or attempt an escape at MadCity Escape Room. For those seeking thrills on wheels, look no further than Skyview Skatepark for all your skateboarding needs; and if your sport instead involves a bow and arrow, stop by Hunter’s Archery Retail Pro Shop & Range to take target practice with some of the nation’s best shooters.

For a unique glimpse into history, visit the museum at the Historical Society Museum of Hopkins County for one of the most surprising discoveries you’ll make here: an original 1910 Buick Buggybout – one of only three left in the world. This well-made two-speed manual with side-mounted lanterns, affordable at $550 more than a century ago, was the last of the two-cylinder, chain-drive designs for Buick.

Arts & Eats

If your time in the area is limited, plan it around the show schedule at Glema Mahr Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Madisonville Community College. Enjoy a variety of arts programming and arts education opportunities, including Broadway favorites, headlining musicians, classical music and dance productions, family-oriented programming, popular and culturally diverse events, and exhibitions of local, regional and national artists at the Anne P. Baker Gallery (free admission) and other locations.

Friday night liveCharming, friendly and family-oriented, Hopkins County has lots of restaurants where you’ll feel at home and be able to enjoy dishes the locals love. There’s Brother’s Bar-B-Quevoted Kentucky’s best barbecue; Country Cupboard, with its overflowing buffets; Gather, offering over-the-top milkshakes and desserts for everyone to share; Ferrell’s Snappy Service for old-school burgers; The Crowded House, for gourmet gastropub fare; and Big City Market & Coffee Bar with specialty coffee drinks, fresh-baked goods and gourmet lunch.

Whether you’re yearning for outdoor adventures or indoor memories, come to Hopkins County and experience small-town Kentucky with a big city feel. You’ll soon realize it’s a place you want to see again and again!

For more information, visit www.VisitMadisonvilleKy.com

If You Go

  • 45-70, 270-821-4570, website
  • Amanda’s, 270-619-1231, website
  • Big City Market & Coffee Bar, 270-825-0077, website
  • Brother’s Bar-B-Que, 270-821-1222, website
  • Country Cupboard, 270-821-6652, website
  • Dawson Springs, 270-797-2781, website
  • Ferrell’s Snappy Service, 270-821-7515, website
  • Flax & Wool, 270-245-2242, website
  • Glema Mahr Center for the Arts, 270-824-8650, website
  • Grapevine Lake, 270-824-2156, website
  • Historical Society of Hopkins County, 270-821-3986, website
  • Lake Beshear, 270-797-2781, website
  • Lake PeeWee, 270-824-2100, website
  • Madisonville City Park, 270-824-2156, website
  • Mahr Park at Hidden Hills Farm, 270-584-9017, website
  • Mark of Distinction, 270-821-6670, website
  • Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, 800-325-1711, website
  • The Crowded House, 270-825-1178, website
  • Tradewater River Wildlife Management Area, 800-858-1549, website