The 10 Best Places to Hike Near Lexington, Kentucky

Although some of the most impressive hiking in Kentucky can be found in Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest, Lexington and the surrounding area are also home to a few nice trails. If time is short, no need to go far—many of the best hikes near Lexington can be reached in 30 minutes of driving or less. From hikes along the stunning Kentucky River Palisades to urban trails that can be enjoyed on a lunch break, there’s a hike to fit your needs.

01 of 10

Raven Run Nature Sanctuary

Raven Run nature sanctuary outside Lexington, Kentucky

Decaseconds / Flickr

3885 Raven Run Wy, Lexington, KY 40515, USA
Phone +1 859-272-6105

With 10 miles of color-coded trails spread over 734 acres, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is the go-to place for many Lexingtonians in need of some quick time in the woods. If you want to see most of the preserve in one hike, follow the moderately difficult, 5.4-mile Red Trail to an impressive, 70-foot overlook of the Kentucky River Palisades. For an accessible, paved path, there's also the 1-mile Freedom Trail, which originates at the parking area.

The beautiful nature center at Raven Run is home to exhibits and information about the 600 species of plants and more than 200 species of birds in the area. A historic homestead and the remnants of a mill built in 1833 are additional points of interest.

02 of 10

McConnell Springs

McConnell Springs

FloNight (Sydney Poore) and Russell Poore / Wikimedia Commons

416 Rebmann Ln, Lexington, KY 40504-1163, USA
Phone +1 859-225-4073

Although the 26-acre McConnell Springs Park only has around 2 miles of trails, the history of the area makes it one of the best places to hike in Lexington. In June 1775, a pioneer named William McConnell and his fellow settlers established a camp in what is now known as McConnell Springs. When word arrived from nearby Fort Boonesborough that Lexington & Concord, Massachusetts, was the site of the first Revolutionary War battle, they named their future settlement "Lexington" in tribute—the name stuck!

Today, the park also serves as an important natural habitat right within city limits. Along with a small-but-enjoyable nature center, McConnell Springs is home to a series of natural springs, including the aptly named Blue Hole. Other points of interest include remnants of old structures and the impressive Bur Oak, thought to be at least 250 years old and still standing!

03 of 10

The Legacy Trail

The Legacy Trail from Lexington to the Kentucky Horse Park

Amy Wallot / LFUCG

Legacy Trail, Lexington, KY, USA

Finished in October 2020, the Legacy Trail came about after Lexington hosted the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The Legacy Trail is a 12-mile-long path that connects downtown Lexington with the Kentucky Horse Park just north of the city. The entire length of the shared-use trail is paved, making it accessible and ideal for cycling and jogging. Interpretive signage and art along the way add enjoyment.

There are currently plans to connect the Legacy Trail with the Town Branch Commons Trail in downtown Lexington. Upon completion in 2022, the Legacy Trail will become part of 22 miles of uninterrupted trails (including a 5.5-mile loop through downtown).

The official start of the Legacy Trail is in the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden located at 577 East Third Street. Trailheads with parking can also be found at the Northtown YMCA and in the Coldstream area.

04 of 10

The Overlook Trail at Camp Nelson

Camp Nelson near Lexington, Kentucky

National Park Service

6614 Danville Rd, Nicholasville, KY 40356-9593, USA
Phone +1 859-881-5716

Located 30 minutes south of Lexington on US-27, Camp Nelson served as one of the largest training grounds for Black soldiers during the Civil War. Today, it’s a national monument and military cemetery maintained by the National Park Service. More than 5 miles of trails meander around earthworks, training grounds, and a small wooded area. The 1.2-mile Overlook Trail passes by the remains of Civil War forts and finishes at a scenic point overlooking Hickman Creek. Wear a hat—most of the hiking at Camp Nelson is across open areas. Leashed pets are welcome on the trails.

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05 of 10

The Pinnacles

View from Indian Fort Overlook at the Berea Pinnacles

Greg Rodgers

2047 Big Hill Rd, Berea, KY 40403, USA
Phone +1 859-756-3315

Although the Pinnacles are located 40 minutes south of Lexington near the town of Berea, the hiking there is well worth the drive. The well-maintained trail system is part of 9,000 acres of wilderness managed by the Forestry Department at Berea College. Stop in at the large Forestry Outreach Center to learn about the local flora and fauna you’ll encounter while hiking.

Due to their beauty and convenience, the east and west pinnacles can get busy. For some great overlooks where fewer hikers venture, continue up the steep Indian Fort Lookout trail, then on to Eagle’s Nest or Buzzard’s Roost.

06 of 10

Veterans Park Bike Trail

A trail at Veterans Park in Lexington, Kentucky

Amy Wallot / LFUCG

Veterans Pk, Lexington, KY 40515, USA

You may have to dodge the occasional mountain bikers who love the trail, but Veteran’s Park is home to the longest park trail in town. Around 3.5 miles (it can be made longer) of shared-use trails wind through the 235-acre park. The mossy trail sometime passes through tranquil wooded areas, while at other times it runs alongside Hickman Creek.

An abundance of side trails and zigzag shortcuts makes staying on the official trail a bit tricky. No need to bring a compass, but you’ll probably want to use Google Maps with satellite view switched on. Don't miss a chance to pay homage to the mighty Veteran's Oak tree before leaving the park.

07 of 10

Jessamine Creek Gorge Trail

Butterfly on wild flowers on a hike near Lexington

Greg Rodgers

1232-1406 Corman Ln, Nicholasville, KY 40356, USA
Phone +1 859-885-2310 ext. 1014

Only 30 minutes south of Lexington, the 155-acre Jessamine Creek Gorge nature preserve is best known for its wildflowers (including some rare species) and birds. The 2.1-mile Jessamine Creek Gorge Trail is moderately easy, descending to Overstreet Creek before climbing back up for an overlook of Jessamine Creek. Hiking there is enhanced by paying close attention to the special flora along the way.

Visitors, take note: Many hikers get off the trail and walk down the creek to a scenic waterfall. Unfortunately, the waterfall is on private property and access is technically forbidden. Also, tread lightly—the ecosystem in the area is fragile. Dogs are prohibited on the trail.

08 of 10

The UK Arboretum

A path at the UK Arboretum in Lexington

Greg Rodgers

University of Kentucky, 500 Alumni Dr, Lexington, KY 40503, USA
Phone +1 859-257-6955

Lexington is home to UK Arboretum, Kentucky’s State Botanical Garden. A paved loop winds for more than 2 miles through the carefully manicured horticultural gardens. The Arboretum Woods, a 15-acre forest on the west side of the property, features secondary dirt paths where hikers can search for rare plants. More than 90 species of plants and quite a few owls, among other creatures, take refuge there. Hawks make regular appearances, and even wild turkeys show up from time to time!

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

The Asbury Trails

Part of Asbury University’s 341-acre Palisades Farm, the Asbury Trails run along the Kentucky River Palisades and include some waterfalls when there’s enough water. The 0.35-mile Great Wall Trail is short but continues on unofficially until turning into a scramble along the palisades. The steep Spring and Cave Trail veers upward with stairs that lead to a rock shelter. The small arch there can't compare to Natural Bridge, but some nice views of the river can be enjoyed when foliage is thin.

Wear good hiking boots: Some of the Asbury Trails become slippery after rain. A little light scrambling past—and sometimes beneath—waterfalls is required. The Asbury Trails can be found on the other side of Wilmore, Kentucky, a 30-minute drive from Lexington. Leashed pets are permitted on all the trails.

10 of 10

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky

apCincy / Getty Images

3501 Lexington Rd, Harrodsburg, KY 40330, USA
Phone +1 859-734-5411

The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is most famous as a historical destination, but just outside the living history area are some great trails ranging widely in length and difficulty. The strenuous Shawnee Run trail (6-mile loop) leads to a lovely waterfall then continues on to an impressive overlook and old home site. Many hikers shorten the walk by only going as far as the waterfall. Some of the easier trails are shared use (equestrians included), but dogs are only allowed on a select few. The Heritage Trail has a 0.5-mile section that is wheelchair accessible.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The Friends of McConnell Springs. "Lexington & McConnell Springs History." Retrieved on August 24, 2021.

  2. National Park Service. "History & Culture." Retrieved on August 24, 2021.

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The 10 Best Places to Hike Near Lexington, Kentucky