Kentucky parks provide ways to escape to nature this fall
By Sara Sybert
Whether you’re an outdoor recreation enthusiast or a glamper, there’s plenty of options for an outdoor adventure in Kentucky this fall. While each Kentucky state park has something to offer, we found two that will help you get away from it all.
Mountain Views in Eastern Kentucky
Once known as Dewey Lake State Park, Eastern Kentucky’s Jenny Wiley State Resort Park was renamed after legendary pioneer woman Jenny Wiley, who survived capture by Native Americans in 1789.
Situated in the Eastern Kentucky Mountains near Prestonburg, Jenny Wiley offers a relaxing mountain setting. According to Park Manager Julian Slone, it’s the rustic setting of the park overlooking Dewey Lake that makes it such an ideal outdoor adventure location.
“Jenny Wiley has something for everyone—boating, camping, hiking, mountain biking, fishing,” says Slone. “We host family reunions, group events and weddings.”
Special events at the park, as well as its Elk Tours, in which visitors are able to view the elk within the park, are popular among outdoor enthusiasts. “We are offering Elk Tours for the first time since COVID started, beginning in October,” says Slone.
Those wanting to explore the park can enjoy more than 10 miles of trails.
The park boasts two eating facilities, the Music Highway Grill and Dewey’s Tavern, both of which Slone says serve a wide variety of foods.
Lodging at Jenny Wiley includes the 49-room May Lodge overlooking Dewey Lake and surrounded by pines and mountains. The park also has 18 cottages as well as a 121-site campground with utility hookups, shower buildings and a dump station for campers. Boat-in campsites are available and can only be accessed by water.
For those who are into the arts, Jenny Wiley has an outdoor theater called the Mountain Arts Center. The venue hosts live performances from a variety of genres.
Nature lovers can really get their fix in the Nature Center. Located at the bottom of the hill from May Lodge is the interpretive center that offers exhibits on natural, cultural and historical facts of the region. A look at Beech Forest will show you more about the animals in the park and an informational program will teach you more about who Jenny Wiley was and her story. There’s also a replica coal mine to give you a feel for what it looks like under the park.
An Adventurous Escape in Western Kentucky
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park is located in the heart of Western Kentucky, just outside Dawson Springs. Designated as a state park in 1954, Pennyrile is named for the Pennyroyal plant that grows throughout the wooded area in the park.
The park itself is just over 860 acres, but is surrounded by a more than 15,000-acre state forest. Small but mighty, Pennyrile State Park offers an easy escape from big cities like Louisville and Nashville.
“Pennyrile is a rustic back-to-nature hideaway,” says Park Naturalist Haley Joseph. “A true hidden gem in Western Kentucky, it’s like you picked up a part of Eastern Kentucky and set it down in Western Kentucky. While a lot of areas in Western Kentucky are flatter compared to Eastern Kentucky, Pennyrile has a diverse landscape filled with bluffs.”
Trails meander throughout the park, giving you a chance to get in touch with your more nature-oriented side.
Outdoor adventures abound at Pennyrile, where you can enjoy a variety of activities including boat rentals, kayaking, canoeing, row-boating, pedal-boating, sunbathing and swimming, mini golf, an 18-hole golf course, fishing, horseback riding and miles of hiking through its seven hiking trails.
“We are the only Kentucky State Park with lakeside cottages and private docks,” says Joseph. “It’s a wonderful place to take your family on an adventure.”
Lodging accommodations at Pennyrile feature a 36-site campground open mid-March through mid-November with utility hook-ups, showers, restrooms and even laundry facilities.
If you’re not one for camping, but still enjoy getting outdoors, then the park’s cottage and lodge accommodations are ideal. Rustic cottages and guest rooms are available for rent year-round in the central lodge. The cottages come with one or two bedrooms, kitchens, and even cooking utensils while daily maid service is offered in the lodge.
And since nothing is more than 1 mile from the lake at Pennyrile, you won’t have to feel like you’ve been completely disconnected from society.
This family-friendly vacation spot is perfect for families of all sizes and kids of all ages. It’s an easy escape from the city without venturing too far out into the wilderness.