With 52 Kentucky state parks, this US state is one of the best places in the world to explore the outdoors. Its state park system is one of the best developed in the country, and offers a diversity of outdoor experiences, including mammoth caves, forests, and mountain lakes.
One of the earliest-founded Kentucky state parks is Natural Bridge State Park in Powell County. Located in the midst of the breathtaking wilderness of the Daniel Boone National Forest and close to the fascinating geological site of the Red River Gorge, the centerpiece of this state park in Kentucky is a natural sandstone bridge. This natural stone arch spans 78 feet and is 65 feet high; it was created through erosion over thousands of years. Visitors can view the natural bridge from an overlook, or climb down to the bottom of the arch using the Fat Man Squeeze passageway. Those unable to walk the trail to the natural bridge can take the Sky Lift, a cable car system that transports tourists to the bridge. Natural Bridge State Park also offers an extensive network of trails ranging from moderate to strenuous in difficulty, and hikers will be rewarded by a number of other rock formations, including the Balanced Rock, a rock which has been weathered so that its midsection is narrower than both its top and its base. Visitors to Natural Bridge State Park can also take part in guided backpacking trips and other education activities.
Travelers interested in learning about the area's history at a state park in Kentucky should consider visiting My Old Kentucky Home State Park. The park features a historical Federal-style mansion, called Federal Hill and built in the early 1800s by the wealthy Rowan family. It was the inspiration for Stephen Foster's ballad, "My Old Kentucky Home," which is now the official state song. Today visitors to the park can tour the mansion and its formal gardens, and they can also learn about its history from costumed tour guides. A campground is also available during the summer months for those who want to sleep outdoors. My Old Kentucky Home State Park also has an outdoor amphitheatre on its grounds and features musicals, such as Stephen Foster - The Musical, during the warmer summer months.
One of the most spectacular Kentucky state parks, both above ground and beneath, is the Carter Caves State Park. Although it may be less well-known than Mammoth Cave National Park, its trails and forest are beautiful to explore and also features the highest concentration of caves in Kentucky. The Carter Caves system, as well as the Cascade Caves, draws many visitors to the park, and tourists can take guided tours of these spectacular caves, which include a visit to a thirty-foot subterranean waterfall in Cascade Cave. Unfortunately some caves, including Bat Cave, have been closed until further notice to protect the endangered Indiana Bat from the threat of disease. However, the remaining caves are still breathtaking and well worth the visit. As a state resort park, Carter Caves State Park is a great state park in Kentucky to visit on your family vacation, as it also offers accommodation in a lodge, a cottage, or at the campground, as well as a golf course, and opportunities for fishing, hiking, and numerous other outdoor activities.