This State Just Launched an Official Waterfall Trail—Here’s How to Visit Them All

This just might be the best—and most beautiful—way to cool off this summer.

A person sits at the edge of a watering hole at the base of a waterfall

Princess Falls is just one of the more than 800 waterfalls in the Kentucky Wildlands region.

Courtesy of the Kentucky Wildlands/Lisa M.

Just in time for spring’s surging waterfall season—and to help cool off during the hot summer months—Kentucky has a new trail that connects travelers with the old-growth forests, mountains, and, yes, cascading falls of the Bluegrass State.

Found in the Wildlands area (a 14,000-square-mile wilderness region spanning eastern and southern Kentucky), the newly established Kentucky Wildlands Waterfall Trail includes a curated collection of 17 of the most magnificent natural falls in this beautiful corner of the state.


“The trail is meant to expose visitors—many of whom might be unfamiliar with the area—to the unfiltered beauty of the region and encourage them to explore,” Tammie Nazario, director of the Kentucky Wildlands, the regional tourism office that established the trail, told AFAR. “We hope this easy-to-follow guide inspires them to plan a trip to experience some of the many waterfalls we have to offer.”

When narrowing the list of waterfalls down from more than 800 in the area to just 17, Nazario said her team weighed a variety of elements, including accessibility (for instance, considering if there is public parking nearby and if the path to the fall is doable even for beginner hikers) and uniqueness.

Some of the standouts include Yahoo Falls, the tallest waterfall in Kentucky at 113 feet, and Cumberland Falls, also known as the “Niagara of the South”—3,600 cubic feet of water spill over the sandstone cliff every second.

Throughout the process of creating the trail, the Kentucky Wildlands consulted with experts within the region (now official waterfall trail ambassadors) who were intimately familiar with the waterfalls to help zero in on the winning falls.

A kayaker at the base of Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

The trail includes Cumberland Falls, which is known as the “Niagara of the South.”

Courtesy of the Kentucky Wildlands/Greg Davis

“These 17 impressive waterfalls tie the Kentucky Wildlands together and best represent the area as a whole,” Nazario said. “Our hope is that the waterfall trail will be just a starting point for visitors and will encourage them to discover all the other waterfalls in our 41 counties that are just as amazing.”

Roughly 553 miles in length, the trail makes for an ideal road trip through the region or can offer some inspiration for day trips that visitors can take from nearby Lexington. Or combine it with doing some or all of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Some of the other notable falls along the Wildlands trail include Creations Falls in Wolfe County, a popular spot for swimming; Jenny Wiley Falls in Johnson County, featuring a staircase-style fall with natural pools between the steps; and Bad Branch Falls in Letcher County, with its 60-foot flume.

Dog Slaughter Falls in Kentucky surrounded by trees, mossy boulders and a fallen log

A moderate 2.5-mile out-and-back hike will bring you to the lovely 15-foot Dog Slaughter Falls.

Courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Tourism

The waterfall trail can be found on the Kentucky Wildlands website as an illustrated map, which is available for download. The website also includes photos of the falls, important details (such as the length and difficulty of the hiking path to the waterfall), and insider tips (such as good places to park and information on the best viewing points).

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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