Kentucky - Mountains & Bluegrass



Eastern Kentucky

W Va 152 near Huntington begins our three state journey near the Kentucky border.
W Va 152 near Huntington begins our three state journey near the Kentucky border.

This two day ride near the Kentucky & West Virginia border provides plenty of curves and rural back-country roads. W Va 152 ends at US 52 on the West Virginia side. A few miles south, US 119 joins us before crossing over into Kentucky at South Williamson and heading west for Baxter. Take US 421 a mile south to KY 38 eastward to Appalachia, VA where Bus 23 heads down to Big Stone Gap, VA in the valley below. There's food and lodging - even a Wal-Mart and a campground.

See larger map with directions.

KY Hwy 7 returns us just west of our starting point.
KY Hwy 7 returns us just west of our starting point.

Day 2 takes us across the ridge back to Kentucky on curvy Hwy 160 thru Cumberland and on to Hwy 588, which takes us north to Blackey, KY. There we cross the bridge turning right onto Hwy 7. Don't miss the left on Racoon Rd (Hwy 7) at Hueysville just north of 80. US 460 joins us at Salyersville, where there's lots of food east on 460. (See below for another 130 mile loop.) We're still headed north on Hwy 7. Just north of West Liberty, Hwy 7 turns right and heads for Grayson and I-64, about 20 miles west of our starting point on Day 1.  See larger map with directions.

Kentucky Hwy 588 bridge in Lackey connects us to KY 7 northbound. Google Maps photo.
Kentucky Hwy 588 bridge in Lackey connects us to KY 7 northbound. Google Maps photo.

Just looking for an afternoon ride? Shorten the above route via KY 32.


Here's another 130 miles you can add at Salyersville to the Hwy 7 route above. It is mostly rural highway, but Jackson has a Wal-Mart and Medical Center. Nearby Natural Bridge State Park is 35 miles northwest, in the Red River Gorge geographical area.  See larger map with directions.


The Red River Gorge area could serve as a home base for exploring Eastern Kentucky. It's home to Natural Bridge State Park, just 35 miles from Jackson on the Kentucky Hwy 30 loop above. "This intricate canyon system features an abundance of high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural bridges. There are more than 100 natural sandstone arches in the Red River Gorge Geological Area. The multitude of sandstone and cliff-lines have helped this area become one of the world's top rock climbing destinations and is home to the Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_River_Gorge

"Natural Bridge KY-27527-2" by Ken Thomas - KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natural_Bridge_KY-27527-2.jpg
"Natural Bridge KY-27527-2" by Ken Thomas - KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natural_Bridge_KY-27527-2.jpg

"Natural Bridge State Resort Park is home to the great natural sandstone arch that stands like a sentinel over this mountain hideaway. Located in the midst of the Daniel Boone National Forest, near the Red River Gorge Geological Area, the arch spans 78 feet in length and 65 feet in height. Visitors will find this park a kaleidoscope of spectacular natural beauty with each passing season." http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/natural-bridge/default.aspx



Flowstone at frozen Niagra - Mammoth Cave NP - NPS photo
Flowstone at frozen Niagra - Mammoth Cave NP - NPS photo

Mammoth Cave National Park is in west central Kentucky off I-65, between Louisville and Nashville, Tennessee.  "This is the world's longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a "grand, gloomy and peculiar place," but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name - Mammoth."  http://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm

 

The National Park Service has more nice photos.

Photo by Mattguyver (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Mattguyver (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Misconceptions related to the Mammonth Cave System's name

"No fossils of the woolly mammoth have ever been found in Mammoth Cave, and the name of the cave has nothing to do with this extinct mammal. Rather, the name "Mammoth" refers to the large width and length of the passages connecting to the Rotunda just inside the entrance. This name was given long before the cave system's true extent was fully known. Modern discoveries have proven the aptness of the name. Even so, many examples of the woolly mammoth have been discovered at the Big Bone Lick State Park in (northern) Kentucky." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammoth_Cave_National_Park


Big Bone Lick State Park is 8 miles west of I-71/ I-75 on Hwy 338, about 30 miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio.