Southern Kentucky Vacations Region
Experience the lake life in this south-central Kentucky region that’s home to pristine lakes, hidden coves, miles of shorelines, beautiful beaches and lakeside getaways. Enjoy a lake adventure, escape into nature at one of the area’s five state parks or the national recreation area, taste some delicious fresh-caught fish and explore historical sites. Below we’ve highlighted a few of the many towns and attractions in the region to help you plan your next road trip!
Downloadable Road Trip Ideas
Known as the “Houseboat Capital of the World,” Lake Cumberland is the largest lake in Kentucky and one of the largest and most-visited in the eastern United States! With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, whether you’re looking for a spectacular lake sunrise or sunset, excellent fishing, waterskiing or paddling, you’ll find all that and more on the lake. There’s several marinas to dock or rent a boat in the surrounding towns and counties, including Lake Cumberland State Resort Park in Jamestown/Russell County. In addition to renting a fishing boat, pontoon, houseboat or ski boat at the marina which is open April-October, visitors can hike to a scenic lake overlook, swim in the pool, play tennis, miniature golf or try their hand at geocaching.
Golfing & Fishing
Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park offers breathtaking views of the approximately 28,000-acre Dale Hollow Lake in far south-central Kentucky…But, did you know it also has a beautiful nationally-ranked golf course designed by nationally-acclaimed architect Brian Ault? The 18-hole scenic course features hilly terrain, bent grass tees leading to zoysia fairways, large greens, two ponds, rock outcroppings and more. Before or after a round of golf, fish the lake – it’s one of the nation’s premier bass fisheries. If you’re new to fishing or looking for some local advice, consider a guided fishing trip. These local guides have years of experience fishing the lake, know where the fish like to hang out and can share insider tips to help make your fishing expedition fun and rewarding.
In a region known for its lakes, fish is of course a staple on local menus. There are several varieties of tasty fish to be found in these lakes, but the all-time favorite is catfish. A flour and cornmeal dusting spiked with buttermilk is usually the crispy coating of choice, with many restaurants putting their own creative spins on the popular entrée. After a day on the lake, make sure at least one meal includes fried fish and other local favorites such as pinto beans and cornbread, traditional sides like coleslaw, collard greens and fried apple pies. Sip local spirits near Burkesville at Southern Kentucky Distillery, producing Kentucky bourbon, moonshine and vodka, or a regional winery such as Up the Creek Winery, Cedar Creek Vineyards, Cave Hill Vineyard & Winery. Also visit local breweries Jarfly Brewing Company and Tap on Main Brewing.
Water Park Fun!
Have a splashing good time at the SomerSplash Waterpark in Somerset-Pulaski County! Open during the summer months, there’s fun for the whole family from a relaxing lazy river and thrilling slides. The park features three body slides, a tube slide, a double-loop super bowl slide, a speed slide that’s 40 feet high and an enormous 298,000-gallon wave pool with waves up to 4 feet tall. There’s also a winding lazy river, a wading pool and an interactive kiddie play area for younger children. Better pack the swimsuits!
Hike to Kentucky’s tallest waterfall – Yahoo Falls – near Whitley City in McCreary County. Located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, the trail is a moderately easy hike but there are steep metal stairs near the falls. You can walk right up to the base of the falls and even behind for a unique perspective. There’s a network of other trails around the waterfall to extend your hike. Other nearby waterfalls include Licking Creek Falls and Princess Falls, plus Cumberland Falls lies at the eastern edge of the county.
Mountain Biking & Horseback Riding
There are ample opportunities for mountain biking and horseback riding throughout this area of southern Kentucky, with four Kentucky Trail Towns in the region and miles of multi-purpose trails throughout. Green River Lake State Park near Campbellsville has 28 miles of multi-purpose trails for bikers, hikers and horseback riders – bring your horse and camp at Green River Stables near the park. Stearns in McCreary County is close to both the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area with trails for biking and more. You can also trail ride with your horses at nearby sites, including the Barren Fork Horse Camp, Bell Farm Horse Camp and others. Take a guided horseback trail ride or a riding lesson at Hidden Cave Ranch on American Bashkir Curly Horses near Burkesville; the nearby Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park has trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Near Somerset, try the mountain biking trails at Pulaski County Park and other area parks.
Hop on a train!
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area encompasses 125,000 acres of rugged gorges and forests along Kentucky’s southeastern border with Tennessee. Enjoy a unique view of wide open vistas, roaring rivers, and the history and charm of Appalachia during a ride on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. Headquartered at the historic Stearns depot in McCreary County, the train travels 600 feet down into the gorge before stopping at the Blue Heron Coal Mining Community, a National Park Service outdoor interpretive site.
Visit the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Nancy, Kentucky’s newest addition to the National Park System and the site of the first major Union Army victory during the Civil War. The battlefield extends from Nancy to Mill Springs, a distance of about 9 miles. A driving tour consists of 10 stops with interpretative signs at each site. Or, visitors can hike a trail on the battlefield to explore more than 14 interpretative signs. Explore the Visitor Center and Museum operated by the Mill Springs Battlefield Association, the Mill Springs National Cemetery, Zollicoffer Park, the Brown-Lanier House and the Mill Springs Mill and monuments.
Local Artists & Shops
Browse local shops featuring work from local artists. The Mountain Craft Art Center near Parkers Lake in the northern part of McCreary County is open seven days a week and provides an outlet for crafters, artisans and musicians to display their works. Nearby is Junkyard Pottery, with hand thrown pottery creations ranging from bowls to vases and more. In Stearns, you’ll find the Kentucky Coal Crafters store with hand-carved coal objects. Somerset has tons of local shops including The Market on Main and the Yellow Umbrella Gift Shop at the Carnegie Community Arts Center.
Looking for some great music? Check out Somerset’s annual Masters Musician Festival set for July 16-17, 2021. It’s a premier summer music festival celebrating a wide variety of genres from the blues to bluegrass, celtic to rock ‘n’ roll, jazz to country to Americana and everything in between. The 2021 lineup will feature performances by Blues Traveler, Kelsey Waldon, The Steeldrivers and more. The festival will be held on Festival Field on the Somerset Community College campus.