The Best Camping in Kentucky

Whether you prefer sitting back with a fishing pole or exploring historic caves, camping in Kentucky offers activities for you! Kayak, lounge on the beach, or lace up your hiking boots at gorgeous Kentucky campgrounds.

Location
Kentucky
Dates
Check In – Check Out
Guests
2 Adults

About Kentucky Camping

Home to natural monuments like Red River Gorge and Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky offers exciting and fulfilling camping experiences. From waterfalls and formidable rivers to still lakes and even a coral reef, the Bluegrass State is filled with natural attractions of every type.


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Kentucky Camping FAQs

While Kentucky doesn’t top outdoor travel lists, there are more than a few outdoor pursuits worth exploring here. The state is home to one of the most beautiful sections of the Appalachian Mountain Range, which makes camping in Kentucky plentiful and enjoyable.

What’s the Best Time of Year to Go Camping in Kentucky?

Both fall and spring are extremely pleasant times to go camping in Kentucky, while summer is not so ideal. If you can only travel during the summer months, the higher elevation sections of the Appalachians are your best choice. It won’t be the most comfortable camping experience in Kentucky, but summer in the Appalachians is going to be more moderate than in other parts of the state.

What Are the Top Outdoor Activities in Kentucky?

While known for its horse racing, Kentucky is more than just its equestrian roots. The state hosts a national park and national forest, making both hiking and camping in Kentucky great activities in the cooler months. When the weather heats up, find a lake to spend some time at and enjoy the water.

What Are the National Parks in Kentucky?

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave is the only national park in Kentucky, but it’s one of the more unique spots in the entire national park system. This site offers expansive options for camping in Kentucky, with three frontcountry campgrounds complemented by double-digit options for backcountry tent sites.

Summer visitors will love heading down to the cave when it’s over 90 degrees on the surface; the cave stays 54 degrees year-round.

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park preserves the “first great gateway to the west.” This area served an important part of the westward expansion of the early United States. Apart from learning about the earliest peoples and figures of the land, you’ll have the better part of 100 miles of trails to choose from.

Daniel Boone National Forest

If you want to truly spread out, the Daniel Boone National Forest has more than 700,000 acres to explore and 600 miles of trails for your usage. Daniel Boone offers tons of sites for those looking to go camping in Kentucky. Since this is a national forest, those who want to go dispersed camping can skip the established frontcountry sites.

Red River Gorge Geological Area

If you want to skip the crowds heading to Mammoth Cave, Red River Gorge is an underrated gem for hiking and camping in Kentucky. When the leaves change colors in the fall, Red River Gorge becomes otherworldly and transforms into one of the best photo opportunities in the state.

What Are Some of the Most Popular State Parks in Kentucky?

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Home to its namesake Cumberland Falls, this park attracts hikers who want to experience one of the most breathtaking natural areas in the state. Cumberland Falls measures 69 feet high and gives off what’s called a “moonbow” phenomenon.

Resort-style state parks are one of the more beginner-friendly options for camping in Kentucky. As this park offers plenty of comfortable amenities (and horseback-riding), hesitant family members will be easier to win over when you take them to Cumberland Falls.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

While you can hike the scenic trail, sore legs will appreciate the skylift that Natural Bridge State Resort Park offers. If you want to head below ground to beat the heat, make sure to take the tour of the Natural Bridge Cave. After a long day, the onsite Hemlock Lodge (much more luxurious than the name suggests) promises a restful night of sleep.

Green River Lake State Park

This smaller Kentucky state park offers nearly 30 miles of multi-use trails, but the lake is the biggest draw. Whether you want to fish or just spend a lazy afternoon on the lake, Green River has a lower rate of visitation than Natural Bridge or Cumberland Falls State Resort Parks.

Note the lack of “resort” in Green River Lake State Park’s name. While relaxing, this isn’t the place for those wanting luxurious camping in Kentucky. There are RV and tent sites, but all 60 of the tent sites are primitive.

Carter Caves State Resort Park

One more good cave tour to add to the list! Cascade Cave is the most popular stop at Carter Caves State Resort Park, but lots of above-ground fun is available here too. With multiple natural bridges, you’ll have plenty of hiking ahead of you to fully appreciate everything that this park offers.

What Are the Top Attractions in Kentucky?

Churchill Downs

There’s nothing more quintessentially Kentucky than horse racing. Okay, maybe bourbon, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Even if you aren’t here for the Derby, this historic landmark should be on your itinerary. Take a tour if you have time, and you’ll be surprised by just how massive the complex here truly is.

Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoo is always one of the most popular activities for families visiting Kentucky. With all sorts of animals and exhibits, it’s easy to spend a day here and have a blast (while accidentally learning a thing or two).

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

If it’s not horse racing, it’s bourbon in the Bluegrass State. While it’s the home of Jim Beam, bourbon enthusiasts know there’s a lot more complexity to Kentucky’s whiskey scene to be appreciated. Admittedly, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is more of a pilgrimage in its own right. With 41 distilleries, you may have to pick just a couple to see while you’re here. You can always come back!

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

This Kentucky landmark preserves 3,000 acres and offers a history lesson on the Shaker community. From 1805 to 1910, this religious group was prominent in this section of the state, forming the third-largest community of Shakers in the country. Now, the village exists as a historical tour, green open space, and unique lodging opportunity for travelers passing through.

Where’s Some of the Best Food in Kentucky?

Proof on Main – Louisville

Located in a 21c Museum Hotel in downtown, Proof on Main serves up American fares in a modernized brick-accented space. The simple upscale menu pays homage to its Kentucky heritage, and the drink menu will delight any adventurous cocktail aficionado. A mint julip, though, is a must.

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn – Owensboro

You weren’t going to leave Kentucky without trying the barbeque, were you? Didn’t think so. While there are probably more choices than you’ll know what to do with, simplify your life and head straight to Moonlite. With its long list of smoked meats (including mutton if you want to feel like a medieval king), you’ll want to pencil in a nap after your meal.

Wunderbar! – Covington

This fun spin on German food and ambience really lives up to the name. With a full menu of craft beer to go along with German-style small plates, this is the perfect place to spend a warm spring afternoon.

Claudia Sanders Dinner House – Shelbyville

Want to have dinner in the home of Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame? Yeah, he was actually a real person. While he wasn’t a military colonel, he really was a Kentucky Colonel. The restaurant bears his wife’s name and serves up Southern-inspired comfort foods in an elegant and inviting, yet casual, setting.

While known for horse racing and fried chicken, Kentucky has plenty of hiking trails, as well as over a thousand caves to explore! If you can time it correctly and visit during the peak of fall, camping in Kentucky stacks up against any competitor in the eastern United States.