Kentucky Fall Foliage: A MapQuest Guide
Kentucky fall foliage features brilliant hues and spectacular scenery. The changing colors of leaves in autumn is one of nature’s most beloved rites of passage -- and makes for one of the most popular and inexpensive getaways for families. As part of LeafQuest -- a MapQuest series helping leaf peepers across North America find easy and rewarding destinations -- here are three recommended spots for viewing Kentucky fall foliage. — Andres Jauregui
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Known to some as the "Niagara of the South," misty Cumberland Falls is a 125-foot-wide, 60-foot-high veil of water that spills into a boulder-strewn basin. The majestic falls are famous for a rare natural phenomenon -- the lunar rainbow, or "moonbow," that is produced by light reflecting off the surface of the moon. Evening hikes to the falls are particularly popular in autumn, since cooler temperatures bring lower humidity and fewer mosquitoes. In fall, the surrounding woods abound with dogwoods, sweetgums and hickories peaking in reds and yellows.
Highway 90, Parkers Lake, KY 42634 | Get Directions
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
In Kentucky, bourbon isn't just a liquor -- it's part of the local identity and a point of pride. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a network of byways located off the Bluegrass Parkway (south of Interstate 64, east of Louisville) that links the various distilleries in the north-central part of the state. Even if the region's distilleries aren't on the itinerary, fall color views from the road are bound to be spectacular in late October, particularly in the horse-raising counties closer to Lexington, where splashes of vibrant blue ash, black walnut and burr oak punctuate fields of bluegrass. Start your quest in picturesque Bardstown, which hosts the Kentucky Bourbon Festival every autumn.
1 Court Square, Bardstown, KY 40004 | Get Directions
Red River Gorge
The Red River Gorge canyon system, located largely within Daniel Boone National Forest, is a 29,000-acre destination for leaf peepers in search of a little adventure. The gorge's dramatic geological formations -- sandstone cliffs, natural bridges and waterfalls -- make for fantastic scenery, as does the seasonal foliage that sweeps through eastern Kentucky's mountains in early to mid-October, featuring yellow buckeyes, tulip poplars and bigleaf magnolias. Begin your quest inside the park at the Gladie Learning Center.
Gladie Learning Center, 3451 Sky Bridge Road, Stanton, KY 40380 | Get Directions
Fall photo slideshow of Kentucky state parks.
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Want other great fall-foliage destinations? Check out more LeafQuest.