There are seven National Parks in Kentucky plus another two National Park Affiliated Sites.
The National Park sites in Kentucky are as varied as the state itself making it easy to spend time exploring this great state.
National Parks in Kentucky
It's easy to say that Kentucky has something for everyone. Kentucky's National Parks offer numerous outdoor activities including the longest known cave system.
History buffs will love the historical sites as well as the birthplace of the 16th President of the United States.
Perhaps simply take a road trip through Kentucky and find yourself at the Appalachian Mountains and Cumberland Plateau to the Kentucky Derby or visit the Bluegrass region with horse farms.
No matter what you choose, I'm sure that you will love Kentucky as much as I have exploring each of its national parks!
Top Things to do - View The First Lincoln Memorial, Kentucky Boyhood Home at Knob Creek Unit, go on Hiking, join Ranger Programs and Special Events, Enjoy a Picnic
Lodging - Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park does not offer on-site lodging. However, you can find lodging options in Hodgenville, nearby Elizabethtown, Bardstown, and campgrounds in the region
Camping- While Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park does not have campgrounds, you can find camping options in nearby areas, including Nolin Lake State Park Campground and My Old Kentucky Home State Park Campground. Additionally, private campgrounds are available in the region.
Park Address - 2995 Lincoln Farm Road
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park is located 50 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky. The 344-acre park includes the birthplace unit at Sinking Springs arm and the Boyhood Home Unit at Knob Creek Farm.
The birthplace unit centers on the one-room log cabin similar to the one President Lincoln was born in. The cabin is housed inside a massive granite and marble memorial building you have to see to believe. Within the visitor center, you can see the Lincoln family bible and watch a film about the 16th presidents early Kentucky years.
The Boyhood Home Unit was a private tourist attraction for years before being donated to the National Park Service in 2001. You can visit a log cabin, the overlook trail that passes through the forests where Lincoln played as a child, and also walk along Knob Creek.
Top Things to do - Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Hunting, Leave No Trace, Mountain Biking, Paddling, Picnicking in the Park, Rock Climbing, Swimming, Ranger-Led Activities and Special Events
Lodging - There are no motels or rental cabins located within the Big South Fork other than Charit Creek Lodge
Camping- There are five front-country campgrounds in the park with amenities ranging from hot water showers to a food storage locker
Park Address - 4564 Leatherwood Road
Oneida, TN 37841
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The park encompasses 125,000 acres. This park is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor recreation including camping, mountain biking, hiking, and water-based activities.
The park has multiple visitor centers and contact stations that you can visit to learn more about this gorgeous area.
Top Things to do - see the Visitor Center and Museum, Oliver Perry House, Reconstructed US Army Barracks, Walking Trails, Hall Community, Camp Nelson National Cemetery
Lodging - Camp Nelson National Monument does not have lodges or accommodations within the park. You can find lodging options in nearby towns like Nicholasville, Danville, or Lexington, Kentucky. It's advisable to check local accommodations for the most current information.
Camping- Camp Nelson National Monument does not have camping facilities
Park Address - 6614 Danville Road Loop 2
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Camp Nelson National Monument was established on October 27, 2018. Located in Nicholasville, Kentucky you can check out exhibits, the park movie, and hiking trails.
Camp Nelson was established as a Union supply depot and hospital during the Civil War. It was also a recruitment and training center for African-American soldiers and a refuge for their families.
Top Things to do - Hensley Settlement Tours, Hiking and Backpacking, Sightseeing and wildlife watching, Photography, seeing the Visitor Center, watching Park Films, Ranger-Led Tours, Being a Junior Ranger
Lodging - Cumberland Gap National Historical Park doesn't offer lodging within the park.
Camping- The 154-site Wilderness Road Campground is located approximately 3 miles from the park visitor center off of Highway 58 in Virginia.
Park Address - 91 Bartlett Park Road
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is located in southeastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and northeastern Tennessee. The park is 125 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. The 24,000 acres provide amazing opportunities to hike, camp, backpack, tour historic settlements and enjoy scenic driving.
The park protects an amazing area of the Appalachians at the meeting point of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. The park stretches along 20 mountaintop miles and includes forests, streams, and valleys that still look like they did when pioneers made their way westward through this area.
The park visitor center is located in Middlesboro, Kentucky and offers exhibits and a couple of park movies. Don't miss driving the 4-mile Skyland Road which winds up to the Pinnacle Overlook at 2,440 feet. You can see a great view of the Cumberland Gap area.
There are eighty-five miles of hiking trails that take you deep into the woods. More than 14,000 acres of the park is managed as wilderness!
Top Things to do - visit the Fort Donelson NB Visitor Center, Fort Donelson NB Autotour Route, Hike the Trails at Fort Donelson NB, Junior Ranger Program, explore Fort Heiman Unit
Lodging - Fort Donelson National Battlefield does not have lodging facilities within the park. You may consider nearby towns and cities like Dover, Tennessee, and Clarksville, Tennessee, which offer various hotels, motels, and other accommodations.
Camping- Fort Donelson National Battlefield does not have camping facilities within the park. However, there are nearby camping options available in the surrounding area. One option is the Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge, which is relatively close to the battlefield and offers camping facilities.
Additionally, there are several state parks and campgrounds in the region where you can find camping opportunities.
Park Address - 174 National Cemetery Drive
PO Box 434
Dover, TN 37058
Fort Donelson National Battlefield is located 80 miles northwest of Nashville, Tennessee. The park is located in both Kentucky and Tennessee with 1,063 acres protected.
You can take a self-guided driving tour through the battlefield and to historic sites within the park.
The Confederates built Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River to prevent a Union invasion of Tennessee. Fort Donelson was the site of a Civil War battle with Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant in 1862.
General Grant responded to Confederate Brigadier General Simon Buckner "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted" after Buckner asked for the terms of surrender.
This battle was the first significant Union victory. The park visitor center is being redone so there is a temporary visitor center in town.
Top Things to do - Cave Tours, Ranger -Led Programs, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Stargazing, Bicycling, Fishing, Horseback Riding, Hiking
Lodging - The Lodge at Mammoth Cave offers the closest option for overnight stays in the park. The Lodge is located directly next to the visitor center and features a mix of modern hotel rooms as well as historic cottages nestled in a woodland setting all within walking distance to cave tours and park trails.
Camping- Mammoth Cave National Park has three front-country campgrounds that offer common camping amenities and close proximity to the park’s visitor center area and cave tours.
The park also has 13 designated backcountry campsites or riverside camping options that offer opportunities to find solitude in the park’s rugged hills and majestic woodlands. Reaching these remote sites requires hiking, riding a horse, or paddling on the river for several miles.
Park Address - 1 Visitor Center Parkway
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007
Mammoth Cave National Park is located 85 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky. The 52,830-acre park includes the longest-known cave system in the United States. There are more than 400 miles of known passageways within the cave system.
Over 400,000 people take cave tours at the park each year. You can choose to do an easy hike or a wild cave tour that gets you belly to the ground crawling in the caves.
The visitor center is the perfect place to start your visit. Cave tours begin here and there are great exhibits and displays on the geology of the cave system. Just remember to not wear any clothes or shoes that you have worn in other caves to help prevent the spread of White Noise Syndrome that is affecting bats.
Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument
Top Things to do - visit Mill Springs Battlefield Visitor Center and Museum, Driving Tour,explore Zollicoffer Park, see Brown-Lanier House and Mill Springs Mill
Park Address - 9020 West Highway 80, Nancy, KY, 42544
Mill Springs Battlefield NM is the 421st National Park Site. This new park was established on September 22, 2020.
(description of the park)
The Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Nancy, Kentucky, preserves the site of the pivotal Battle of Mill Springs, a significant Union victory during the American Civil War in January 1862. Established as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1993 and later authorized as a national monument in 2019, it officially became a unit of the National Park Service on September 22, 2020. This monument encompasses several key areas associated with the battle, including the Confederate Mass Grave Monument in Somerset, the Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer Monument, the West-Metcalfe House, and the Mill Springs National Cemetery. The adjacent Mill Springs Battlefield Visitors Center and Museum offers further insights into the battle's history. As a relatively recent addition to the national park system, it provides a window into the events of the Battle of Mill Springs, spread across various locations in Pulaski and Wayne counties, including Zollicoffer Park, the Brown-Lanier House (open seasonally), West-Metcalfe House, and Mill Springs National Cemetery.
Top Things to do - visit Lewis and Clark Interpretive Pavilion at White Cloud, Lewis & Clark and the Kanza, Atchison County Historical Museum, Frontier Army Museum, Fort de Cavagnial
Lodging - Lodging along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Kansas can be found in cities and towns along the route, including Kansas City, Leavenworth, and Atchison. Various accommodations, such as hotels and inns, are available in these areas.
Camping- Camping along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Kansas is available in state parks, national forests, and private campgrounds near the trail. Lewis and Clark State Park and nearby national forests offer camping options. Check specific campgrounds for details and reservations.
Park Address - 601 Riverfront Dr.
Lewis and Clark NHT is approximately 4,900 miles long and crosses sixteen states following the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Lewis and Clark expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark officially started in May 1804 and ended in September 1806.
President Thomas Jefferson was determined to send an expedition to explore western North America and find a feasible water route to the Pacific Ocean.
Top Things to Do - Hike on the Trail of Tears, Complete the Junior Ranger Program
Lodging - There are no designated National Park Lodges on the Trail of Tears
Camping - I am not aware of any designated National Park Campsites along the Trail of Tears.
Park Address -
National Trails Office Regions 6/7/8
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
1100 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM.87505
Undoubtedly one of the darkest points in American History.
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which required the various Indian tribes to give up their lands in exchange for federal territory which was located around Oklahoma.
This came with great resistance but many eventually started traveling west. Others were forcibly rounded up and forced west including women, children, and the elderly. This came at a great cost as thousands perished on the harsh journey.
The 2,200-mile Trail of Tears crosses nine states and commemorates the forced relocation of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw from their native ancestral lands of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Closest National Parks to Kentucky
Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)
Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee)
Congaree National Park (South Carolina)
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
New River George National Park and Preserve (West Virginia)
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)
Kentucky National Parks
- Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
- Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (Ky, TN)
- Camp Nelson National Monument
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (also Tennessee, Virginia)
- Fort Donelson National Battlefield (Ky, TN)
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument
- Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (AL, AR, GA, IL, KY, MO, NC, OK, TN)
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, WA)
There are five National Parks in Kentucky with an estimated visitation of over 1.7 million visitors. These visitors produce over $142 million dollars in economic benefits through tourism.
Kentucky National Parks include 1 National Trail managed by the National Park Service, 3,454 national registers of historic places listings, 32 National Historic Landmarks and 7 National Natural Landmarks.
National Parks in Kentucky also include 1 World Heritage Site, 425 places recorded by the Heritage Documentation Program, over 1.8 million objects in the Kentucky National Park Museum Collections and over 1,634 Archaeological Sites.
Do you know how many National Parks you have visited? Check out our printable list of US National Parks in Alphabetical Order to count how many parks you have visited.
Want to go big and see how many of the 419 National Park Sites you have visited? Check out this printable list of all US National Park Sites.
Ever dreamed of becoming a Park Ranger? Check out this article on How to Become a Park Ranger.
If you love National Parks you might enjoy this list of Beers inspired by US National Parks.
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
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National Parks in neighboring states