“Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining,
Shine on the one that’s gone and said goodbye … .”
One can imagine the late great Bill Monroe, the author and performer of that classic bit of Americana music, sitting on a bluff some cool Kentucky evening. He stares down at the Ohio or Mississippi River, lamenting his lost love and feeling as blue as the strain of grass that gives the Commonwealth of Kentucky its signature nickname: “The Bluegrass State.” The greenery was introduced by European settlers centuries before Monroe penned his ode to heartache.
To visit and understand the state is to understand it through melody and hard stomping, flatpicking, and uproarious music. Its winding roads recall the long, broad fretboard of a stand-up bass moving, undulating, and propelling underneath the traveler.
Its low hills and medium-sized mountains communing with the sunset in the southern sky prove that harmony exists and is alive and well within its state lines. Its deep hollers and foreboding cave systems belie the secrets of all great music: mystery rooted in ancient, natural wisdom.
In this sense, Kentucky is nothing if not romantic. Luckily, its romance, charm, and beauty are preserved quite well in its State Parks system for all who fancy a trip to the commonwealth.
Here are some can’t-miss Kentucky State Parks!
Cumberland Falls State Park: This park contains one of Kentucky’s signature attractions. The massive falls that make up the water feature are known for miles around as a welcoming place for outdoor lovers of all types. Popular activities include hiking more than 17 miles of trails, fishing the Cumberland River, camping at one of the many sites scattered about the properties, and even mining for ancient gems like quartz, ruby, pyrite, and sapphire. There is no shortage of incredibly fun activities at this location.
Jenny Wiley State Resort Park: There are few places in the mid-south as rustic and naturally beautiful as Dewey Lake, which is the big ticket item at this site in Prestonsburg, KY. It would come as no surprise to learn that Dewey Lake is a hotspot for fishermen for miles around, and its hiking and biking trails are some of the most popular in Eastern Kentucky. Visitors can even take a tour to sight elk, which were reintroduced to the area in 1997, a pretty rare wildlife sighting in this part of the country. This park has something for everyone!
Natural Bridge State Resort Park: This spot offers a unique look at the area’s geology with one glaring, beautifully daunting feature: the 65-foot high and 75-foot long natural bridge made of sandstone rock formed over millions of years. Visitors can hike to the top or simply take one of the sky lifts to the base of the bridge and walk across or merely take in the natural wonder of this unique rock structure. Elsewhere in the park, birding is a popular pastime, as well as fishing and canoeing in Mill Creek Lake. Campsites are available, as are many designated picnicking areas for those seeking a day trip in the beautiful Kentucky backwoods.