Fall in Kentucky is a sensory experience, marked by crisp and cool mornings, pumpkin- flavored everything, the smell of bonfires, and, perhaps above all else, the colors of the changing leaves. Together, these beautiful trees—the bright reds and oranges of sugar maples; the plum purple of ash; the yellow of poplars, birches, and willows; and the dark red of dogwoods, redwoods, and sassafras—paint the landscape. Although one’s mind naturally goes to the mountains when it’s leaf-peeping time, every region of the state has wonderful sites for taking in the colors of fall.
Within the city, head to the Olmsted Parks. The summit of Iroquois Park is hard to beat, but the view from Hogan’s Fountain at Cherokee Park is also nice. If you’re willing to go a bit further afield, hike through the colorful forests of Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area.
Bardstown, The Bourbon Trail, and Frankfort
Bernheim Arboretum is a prime choice for fall beauty, especially if you venture out onto the Canopy Tree Walk. The trails at Salato Wildlife Education Center should also satisfy any need to have leaves crunching underfoot.
Lexington and Horse Country
For an in-city escape in Lexington, take a stroll through the University of Kentucky Arboretum, where color abounds. In nearby Winchester, seek out Lower Howard’s Creek Nature & Heritage Preserve. A bike ride from Midway to Versailles, past tree- and fence-lined horse farms, is sure to wow.
Northern Kentucky and Covered Bridge Country
The trip out to Rabbit Hash is certain to please those looking for a perfect fall drive. Add the trails at Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve and Dinsmore Woods State Nature Preserve for a full day of leaf-peeping excitement.
You’ll find excellent fall colors throughout Appalachia, but the area’s parks are the place to be. Take the colors in while rafting at Breaks or Cumberland Falls, climbing in Red River Gorge, hiking at Pine Mountain, or elk watching at Jenny Wiley.
Bowling Green, Cave Country, and South-Central Lakes
Enjoy autumn from the water while paddling the Green River, or take in a bird’s-eye view of the trees on a zip-lining trip with Mammoth Cave Adventures. The shoreline view from a houseboat on Dale Hollow Lake or Lake Cumberland is also mighty nice.
Owensboro, Paducah, and Land Between the Lakes
Land Between the Lakes is a kaleidoscope of color in fall. A drive down the length of the natural recreation area via The Trace will provide plenty of views, but to really absorb it all, consider saddling up and seeing it on horseback or doing a multi-day backpacking trip.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Kentucky.