Kentucky National Parks
Whether you're exploring the beauty above ground or the largest cave system in the world below, Kentucky will captivate you. Come #FindYourPark in Kentucky.
Kentucky National Parks
Table of Contents
5 National Parks in Kentucky
Other NPS-Affiliated Sites in Kentucky
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
Located in Hodgenville, KY, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park commemorates the birthplace and boyhood home of America's 16th president. Stop by the visitor center and memorial building to look at things like an original Lincoln family bible, an overview of Abraham Lincoln, and the pioneer life the Lincolns lived here during the early 1800's. Then explore the nearby Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek. Hiking trails and picnic areas are also available.
The Visitor Center, Memorial Building, and grounds open daily 9:00 am - 5:00 p.m. (ET)
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area - KY, TN
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects 125,000 acres of the Cumberland River Plateau in Southern Kentucky and Northern Tennessee. The park is ideal for outdoor recreation like white water rafting, hiking, camping, and rock climbing. In Kentucky there are two visitor centers for the park - the Blue Heron Interpretive Center and the Stearns Visitor Contact Station. Ranger-lead programs like hikes and interpretive talks are available, and guests can also take a ride on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway between Blue Heron and Stearns.
The Blue Heron Interpretative Center and Bookstore are open April 1 through October 31, between 11:00 am - 4:00 pm ET, Wednesday through Sunday.
The Stearns Visitor Center is open Saturdays and Sundays, from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, 9:00-5:00 pm ET.
Camp Nelson National Monument
Camp Nelson was originally established as a Union supply depot during the Civil War but came to be known as one of the largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers. It also served as a refugee camp for wives and children.
Today, there are several areas for guests to explore at Camp Nelson, including a reconstructed barracks depicting camp life during the war, a museum with artifacts from the period showing the important role Camp Nelson played during the war, and a trail system with interpretive markers.
Park and Visitor Center are open Tuesday - Saturday 9 am - 5 pm
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park - KY, TN, VA
The Cumberland Gap is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains, worn down by wind and water, that provided a path for settlers moving west through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The park ranges from one to four miles wide and is about 26 miles long, encompassing 24,000 acres.
The Park is a haven for plants and wildlife and is also a popular recreation area. With over 80 miles in hiking trails, the park provides a great place in which to view wildlife, camp, or just enjoy the outdoors. The Gap Caves offer an opportunity to explore underground also.
There are two visitor centers for this park, one just south of Middlesboro, Kentucky, and the other near Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. The larger one in Kentucky includes a museum and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., March 15th - November 14th, and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., November 15th - March 14th. It is closed on Christmas Day.
Fort Donelson National Battlefield - KY, TN
Fort Donelson was a Confederate Fort during the American Civil War, and when the Union captured it in 1862, it proved a pivotal moment. It forced the Confederacy to give up southern Kentucky and large parts of Middle and West Tennessee. This allowed Nashville to be developed into a major supply depot for the North and allowed them to permanently take control of this vital supply route.
Today, guests can explore the Fort Donelson National Cemetery, the surrounding battlefields, and the Dover Hotel where General Ulysses S. Grant accepted a full and unconditional surrender from General Simon B. Buckner of the Confederacy.
The visitor center is open daily 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail - PA, OH, WV, KY, IN, ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, WA
The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail marks the historic journey by Merriweather Lewis and William Clark along 4,900 miles of wilderness from Pennsylvania all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. The Trail connects 16 states - Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon - and includes museums, landmarks, exhibits, and Visitor Centers along the route. For a complete list of markers and things to see and do, click here.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. At over 400 miles (and growing!), it's a stunning place to visit. Mammoth Cave was established as a National Park in 1941, but of course its history reaches far beyond that. Native Americans have a 4000+ year history here, and there are some really great stories and folklore to learn about during your visit.
Ranger-led tours of the caves are a highlight, and there are many to choose from. We did the Domes and Dripstones tour with our kids and had a great time. It takes you through some of the very best parts of the cave without getting muddy. For that, you'll want to book one of the wild Cave Tours.
Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument
The Battle of Mill Springs took place here in 1862 and was the first significant victory for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Today, the Battlefield has a Visitor Center and Museum, park, and one of twelve original National Cemeteries established by Congress. Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument was signed into law in 2019 by President Trump.
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail commemorates the forceful removal of the Cherokees from their homes in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. States participating the the Trail are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. More than 16,000 Cherokee were relocated between 1838 and 1839, and the trail documents their stories of suffering, illness, and death, but also preserves their routes and important sites along the Trail.