Daniel Boone National Forest

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Daniel Boone National Forest Overview

Who was the real Daniel Boone: rejecter of civilization or determined settler? Well, like many interesting mythic figures, Daniel Boone was a paradox. He was both, which makes this a fitting forest to be named after him. The Daniel Boone National Forest combines rugged wildlands and ready civilization. Appealing small towns, comfortable state park lodging, and a great recreation infrastructure make this a tip-top forest for adventuring.

Located in the eastern Kentucky mountains, the forest runs from the northern to the southern part of the state. The land is generally rugged and characterized by steep slopes, narrow valleys, and cliffs. In the southern end of the forest, slopes are not as steep, and ridge tops are generally more flat. Top attractions of this forest are cliffs, sandstone arches, and canyon-like hollows and valleys. Like the Big South Fork NRA, Daniel Boone's neighbor to the south, the area reminds many of southwest canyon country, although it gets enough rainfall to sustain a mixed hardwood forest. Think Escalante with lots and lots of trees.

The southern districts—Stearns and Somerset—don't draw nearly the same crowds. And with treasures like Natural Arch Scenic Area and Beaver Creek Wilderness, the area is preferred by those who like their wildlands lonesome and unspoiled.

Hike the Sheltowee Trace
The renowned 268-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail runs from Tennessee almost to the northern edge of Kentucky. On its journey, the trail packs in the Big South Fork area, Cumberland Falls, Natural Bridge State Park, and the Red River Gorge. That's a lot of first-class scenery and nature. Hike it in pieces or thru-hike it. Either way, the Sheltowee is an extended journey through some of the most varied and wild terrain east of the Mississippi.

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Canoe the Cumberland
The Cumberland is the most renowned paddling river system in Kentucky. And the North Fork of the Cumberland is the section most often referred to as simply "the Cumberland." This beautiful and historic waterway winds through some of state's most varied landscapes. And the tenor of the water varies, too—from congenial Class I to rapid whitewater. Check the stretch from Williamsburg to Cumberland Falls, and then from below the falls. Above Cumberland Falls is a relatively easy 17-mile route featuring some minor Class I to Class II whitewater. Below the falls, the river really starts to roar; it's the only whitewater river in Kentucky that is normally runnable year-round.

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Wilderness Fish the Beaver
Beaver Creek is a small stream that packs a wild wallop. It flows through the beautiful Beaver Creek Wilderness Area. This is a rainbow trout river pure and simple: No other fish is stocked. And since this is a wilderness area, accessible only by foot and horseback, a backpacking fishing trip along the Beaver is a capital way of escaping the pressure of too many other anglers, as well as civilization in general.

Climb the Red River Gorge
The sandstone cliffs at the Red River Gorge have become an international-class climbing destination. Rock faces throughout the gorge can appear featureless or heavily pocketed. The quality of the rock ranges from crumbly sand to rock hardness, and walls range from slabs to dead vertical to radically overhanging. The gorge is especially noted for its plethora of overhangs. Not interested in heights? Whether or not you want to do it, climbing can be a great spectator activity. Grab a guidebook to find established climbing routes. Maybe you will get inspired after all and want to take some climbing lessons.

Bike the Caney Trail
Ned Branch Trail and Lakeside South Loop are superior off-road experiences. Combined with the Twin Branch Trail, you can piece together a nifty seven-mile-plus loop. This ride is mostly through forest, with some stretches near the cliff line. If you want an extended off-road experience, the Sheltowee Trace is open to bikes, except through wilderness areas. You'll also find road cycling routes through the Red River Gorge.

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Camp Twin Knobs
Twin Knobs is a nifty family campground. As well as hiking and biking trails, the campground offers horseshoe and basketball courts, a windsurfing area, and lagoons for tying up boats. It even has a designated dog-swimming area. Some sites have views over Cave Run Lake.

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