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The 14 Best Trails in Indiana and Kentucky

Now that the temperatures are starting to cool outside and autumn is on the way, it’s a phenomenal time to start exploring (or start planning to explore) some of the country’s best hiking trails. 

If you live in either Indiana or Kentucky, you have tons of opportunities to explore. The Hoosier State may be famous for its race cars and farms, but it’s also home to some of the nation’s most spectacular state parks. For its part, the Bourbon State has hills and trains filled with a unique bluegrass beauty.

Whether you just want to hike for a day or camp out and explore for a week, we’ve got some guidance on where to start:

7 Scenic Hiking Trails in Indiana

It’s honestly hard to make a list of the “best of the best” because there are so many fabulous hiking trails all over. Indianapolis, in particular, has trails that are designed to suit all tastes and levels of activity, from treks through urban landscapes to trails that lead deep into the heart of nature. Here are our votes:

  1. Eagles Crest Nature Preserve: If you don’t want to go far away from Indy – but you still want to find a peaceful place to hike, you’ll love the solitude of this natural hardwood forest and this trail that loops back on itself.
  2. Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: Who says you have to totally leave civilization to hike in nature? Located on the Newfield’s campus, this hiking trail is 100 acres of organic art, the wild tangle of nature and curated art exhibits that are meant to be touched.
  3. Fort Harrison State Park: There are 1,700 acres to explore along multiple trails (and sledding in the winter), and it’s another place where urban residents can retreat from the world and reconnect with nature without traveling too far from Indy.
  4. Turkey Run State Park: The beautiful park in Marshall is home to “the Grand Canyon of the Midwest” and has amazing trails that can even lead you to a truly incredible aerial view of the countryside from a suspension bridge.
  5. Knobstone Trail: Do you need a challenge? If not any ole’ trail will do, why not tackle the longest natural trail in the entire state? This is not a trail for beginners, but the rewards for this difficult hike include glimpses of the Ohio River and more.
  6. Clifty Falls State Park: This is a favorite of many locals in the state because it has a multitude of trails for all difficulty levels (including one that allows leashed dogs). Located close to Madison, the views on these trails are truly breathtaking.
  7. Hemlock Cliffs National Scenic Trail: Located near the town of English, this is a popular spot for both hikers and campers because the scenery is considered some of the most beautiful in the state during all seasons. Plus, there’s a waterfall, making it a particularly romantic spot for wanderers to visit.

7 Scenic Hiking Trails in Kentucky

The hiking trails in Kentucky hold tremendous adventures for both beginning hikers and pros. There are trails in this state that will let you see some of the most incredible natural wonders in the nation, including underground caverns and gorgeous waterfalls. Try these trails:

  1. The Double Arch Trail: Located inside the Daniel Boone National Forest, this trial will take you past sandstone cliffs and through hemlock woods until you reach a grand view of the area from Courthouse Rock.
  2. Raven Run Sanctuary: There are several trails located in this nature sanctuary outside of Lexington, and some are geared toward families and kids, so this isn’t the place to go for total solitude – but it is a terrific play to build up your hiking skills and see some incredible views.
  3. Eagle Falls: Part of the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park: This is a 3-mile trail (round-trip) that will take you to a place where you can see the “Niagara of the South” from different vantage points. 
  4. Pine Mountain State Resort Park: Aptly located near the town of Pineville, this is Kentucky’s oldest state park – and it is filled with interesting trails to hike. One local favorite is the Chain Rock Trail, which is a quick one-mile round-trip destination that will take you to a spot that feels like it’s on top of the world.
  5. Mammoth Cave National Park: Again, there are all kinds of trails at all kinds of difficulty levels in this park, and many of them include unique geological formations and caves. The Green River Bluffs Trail is a particular favorite, but so are the Sinkhole Trail, Heritage Trail and Echo River Springs Trail.
  6. Carter Caves State Resort Park: If you only have a limited chance to go hiking in Northern Kentucky, head to this park and check out the Three Bridges Trail. The stone stairs and bridges alone are worth the walk!
  7. Natural Bridge State Resort Park: Do you long to go someplace where you can feel totally isolated and in tune with the natural world? There are 22,000 acres of wilderness in this park and multiple trails spanning more than 20 miles to explore. You’ll find amazing rock formations there, including the namesake “natural bridge” of stone.

Wherever you choose to explore, don’t delay: It won’t be long before the last green days of summer are gone and fall burns bright but fast. Grab the family or your favorite other person, put on those hiking shoes, pick up your walking stick and get going!