For those who love the outdoors, Kentucky’s capital city invites you to “take a hike.” There are some 40 miles of hiking trails scattered throughout Franklin County. Put together in one place, they would equal nearly twice the distance between Frankfort and Lexington.
Whether you’re a casual stroller, a brisk walker or a serious hiker, there’s bound to be a trail just for you.
For the casual stroller with an interest in art, the trail at Josephine Sculpture Park (.9 miles) offers an easy walk with the bonus of an outdoor art exhibit.
If you are more interested in nature than art, the .5-mile Vaughn Branch Nature Preserve Trail begins in the parking lot and ends at the large sycamore tree – a symbol of the preserve’s forest eco-system.
Those wanting a bit of a longer hike have several options – great walks with sides of history, bird watching and spectacular scenery.
Fort Hill in Leslie Morris Park has a fascinating history. On this site in 1864, a local militia repulsed an attack by Confederate raiders. The 1.2-mile Fort Hill Loop takes hikers on a trek through Civil War history, passing a cave and at the highest elevation, revealing a beautiful view of the city.
For intermediate length hikes, there is both a Riverview Park Trail and a Lakeside Park Trail. The 1.9-mile Lakeview Trail is considered an easy one, although there are several small hills along the route.
At 1.4 miles, the Riverview Park Trail is one of Frankfort’s most picturesque with overlooks on the Kentucky River. The mostly flat trail follows the river from Ward Oates Amphitheater to Buffalo Trace Distillery. If you plan your hike well in advance, you can end it with a tour and tasting at Kentucky’s oldest continuously operating distillery.
Thorobred Trail (1.8 miles) is a scenic paved trail that is great for dog walking and bird watching. Purple martins, wood thrush, protonotary warblers, black vultures and cardinals are all easily spotted during the summer months, according to the Frankfort Audubon Society.
Another place to do a little bird watching while you walk is on the network of trails at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary. The trails meander through 370 acres of woodlands and meadows bordering the Kentucky River.
Hikers not on a tight time schedule might consider exploring one of the longer trail systems such as those at Cove Springs Park, Salato Wildlife Center, Capital View Park Mountain Bike Trail and West Sixth Farm.
Cove Springs Park, with its 240 acres of wetland, streams, springs, waterfalls, forested ravines and 6.7 miles of hiking trails, is one of Frankfort’s favorite playgrounds.
Separated into three areas – lower and upper coves and wetlands area, the park is a certified nature preserve.
The Lower Holly Loop, Holly and Osage Loop and the Boardwalk and Creekside Trail are the longest at 1.5 miles, 1.9 miles and 1.4 miles respectively.
The Sky Trail (.6 miles) is a paved trail, while the Meadow Ledge Upper Trail (.9 miles) and the Raceway Spur (.4 miles) are the closest trails to the scenic waterfall near the parking lot.
In addition to the hiking trails, Cove Springs Park has a popular archery range for testing your skill with bow and arrow as well as some art installations that you might just stumble upon.
Salato Wildlife Center, as its name suggests, is the place to go for viewing animals and birds such as elk, deer, bison, black bear, bobcats, wild turkey and bald eagles.
But it also has four miles of hiking trails for all levels of hikers. The most popular hike is the 2.41-mile, round trip Pea Ridge Loop, which is described as a primitive hike through cedar and oak/maple/hickory forests. The trail has several ascents and descents and has been described as “moderately to extremely strenuous.”
In addition to the hiking trails, Salato has two fully stocked lakes for fishing.
For those who enjoy both hiking and mountain biking, there are 12 miles of trails open for both sports at Capitol View Park.
As a bonus, some of the trails provide an excellent view of the Kentucky State Capitol Building.
The newest addition to the hiking scene can be found at West Sixth Farm. As the location where Lexington-based West Sixth Brewing grows the Chinook and Cascade hops for its award-winning IPAs, the farm is also home to four miles of hiking, mostly for intermediate and expert hikers, although the .7-mile Farm Loop Trail is an easier way to take in the lush scenery.
Other trails are mixed use for running, hiking and mountain biking, and they also have cornhole and disc golf as alternatives or additions to the trails. Whatever your choice of activity, don’t leave without stopping in at the taproom for a cold, local brew and some food from their food truck- West Sixth Cantina!