The Complete Guide to London, KY: A World-Class Cycling Town
Sandwiched between Daniel Boone National Forest and Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park, is London, Kentucky, one of state’s designated "Trail Towns." This honor is bestowed upon a select number of towns based on a combination of access to natural features like trails and rivers, as well as amenities such as outfitters and places to eat and sleep. With its close proximity to several popular parks and world-class fishing on Laurel River Lake and Wood Creek Lake, it’s easy to see why London is gaining the reputation as a gateway to adventure.
Perhaps the most well-known activity in London is the Redbud Ride, hosted by London Downtown annually in the spring. This popular road cycling event twists through horse country over gently rolling hills and past undulating white fences. Springtime is also when the ride’s namesake buds are in full bloom. The race is organized with four color-coded routes that vary from a beginner and family-friendly 24-mile route to the much-lauded century ride. Dubbed by some as one of the best 100-mile events in the entire country, the century ride draws more than 1,000 riders from over a dozen states.
The Kentucky Century Challenge is a compilation of four cycling events in Kentucky—the Redbud Ride in London, the Horsey Hundred in Georgetown, Bike Morehead in Morehead, and the Hub City Tour in Elizabethtown. Those who complete three of the four score a special jersey.
Another popular annual event is the spooky Thriller Ride, a Halloween-themed cycling tour through Laurel, Jackson, and Clay counties. The Thriller Ride offers three routes to appeal to riders of all levels.
The county and city tourism has put together a helpful website loaded with cycling routes to help visitors explore the best of Southeastern Kentucky's sometimes challenging—but always scenic—road riding. The courses vary from the easy 25-mile Halloweenie Route to the 27-mile moderate Hopper Creek Route to the epic 59-mile Half Century Plus Route.
In addition to the epic road riding in Laurel County, London is making efforts to cultivate the growing mountain biking scene in the area. The city has been working hard to develop and maintain a series of mountain bike trails . There is even a small pump track and skills course in Wellness Park behind Somerset Community College for newbies and half-pints to learn to shred.
The most popular mountain biking trails in the area are part of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The trail begins in northern Kentucky and travels 333 miles south to its terminus in Tennessee. Broken into three sections, about 100 miles make up the "London District." This is rugged country with towering cliffs, and the trail frequently follows narrow ridges, descends into gullies, and often winds past historic homesteads and rusting oil wells.
Families who mountain bike should definitely try out The Lake Trail, which mainly runs along the Laurel River Lake in Daniel Boone National Forest. It’s a beginner-friendly 10.8-mile out-and-back route with terrific views. The trail rolls by the Holly Bay Marina, which has a small deli and grocery to grab a picnic lunch en route. They also have a campground that would be an excellent base of operations.
London is also home to the thickly-wooded Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park, honoring the pioneers that were brave enough to settle in the wilds of Kentucky. The seven buildings featured in the Mountain Life Museum recreate a rustic settlement and display tools and relics of the era. There are two hiking trails offering 8.5 miles to explore this historic area. For a unique experience, don’t miss the freshly minted Tree Top Adventure's zipline course that has activities suitable for almost every age. There is also a 136-site year-round campground with full amenities including showers and a grocery store.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS AND EVENTS
The London-Laurel County Farmers Market begins on the first Saturday of May and continues every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning through the end of October. It’s a great place to meet local producers and support the local economy.
And let's not forget a visit to Dog Patch Trading Post, a store that has been a traditional stop for generations of travelers passing through these parts. Offering everything from fishing supplies to jewelry, and everything else in between, this is a must-see for anyone exploring the area.
Fancy a gander at the world’s largest skillet? Then London’s World Chicken Festival is the place to be. On the last weekend in September each year, the town lays out the red carpet for fried chicken aficionados and celebrates the life of Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Visit the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum in the nearby town of Corbin to learn about the origin of the world famous deep-fried deliciousness that is KFC.
While looking for adventure, check out Air Raid Park, where you can practice your trapeze act or have a fierce game of dodgebal!. If motor sports are more your speed, look to London Dragway or Wildcat Off Road Park. Looking for target practice? Center Target has an indoor gun range and conceal carry classes. Then, wind down at Robinson Stave Cooperage learning why using White Oak barrels makes great bourbon.
WHERE TO GET SOME GRUB
When hunger strikes, check out our dining options from fast food, coffee, ice cream, and family style restaurants at London Dining.
The variety of options for outdoor activity mean that London is a perfect place for those seeking outdoor adventure. Learn more about London and plan your trip here.
Originally written by RootsRated for Kentucky Tourism.