Cumberland Falls State Resort Park: The Complete Guide

Cumberland falls
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Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Address
7351 Hwy 90, Corbin, KY 40701, USA
Phone +1 606-528-4121

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky is sometimes called the “Niagara of the South” thanks to Cumberland Falls. The photogenic falls are 68 feet tall and 125 feet wide, making them the second largest waterfall east of the Rockies. Adding to the allure, Cumberland Falls is one of very few places in the world that consistently creates a moonbow or “lunar rainbow.” Visitors gather on nights when there's a full moon to witness the rare natural phenomenon.

The recreational area and campgrounds at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park are situated in a sharp bend of the Cumberland River. Hiking trails parallel the river and reach deeper into Daniel Boone National Forest. The 44-foot-tall Eagle Falls on the opposite side of the river are another impressive natural feature within the state park.

Things to Do

Most visitors come to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park to hike, camp, admire the falls, and hope for a moonbow. That said, many other activities are available within easy reach of the visitor’s center. Gem mining (the touristy kind), picnic areas, and tennis courts are all available, as is a swimming pool for overnight guests. Live entertainment and square dances sometimes take place at the dance pavilion.

Although bringing your own horses to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park isn’t permitted, the park offers guided trail rides that are suitable for beginners. Groups leave every hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; a 45-minute ride costs $20.

The Rainbow Mist Ride is a raft trip (30–45 minutes) that takes visitors near the bottom of the falls where they can experience the roar (and cool off on a hot day). The good news? Your guide does all the paddling! Reservations are required.

Fishing can be enjoyed along the Cumberland River. Bass, bluegill, and catfish are the top species. A Kentucky fishing license is required; you can purchase one-day permits online.

Moonbow at Cumberland Falls
by Jonathan D. Goforth / Getty Images

The Moonbow at Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls is one of three places in the Western Hemisphere (the other two being Niagara Falls and Yosemite Falls) that consistently creates a moonbow, a type of rainbow that occurs when a full or nearly full moon is at an ideal angle in a clear sky. The phenomena can take place two days before or after the full moon each month, but conditions have to be just right. Visitors are welcome to have a look—no reservations required, and parking is free. You’ll want to arrive early to beat the large crowd. If the sky is cloudy, don’t bother.

Best Hikes and Trails

At least 17 miles of quality trails wind through the state park, some of which provide views of Cumberland Falls and Eagle Falls from opposite sides of the river. A network of easy trails forms a web between the campgrounds and falls. The more serious trails connect up with the 333-mile Sheltowee Trace, meaning you can hike all the way to Natural Bridge State Resort Park or even Tennessee!

  • Lovers Leap: The short, paved path from the visitor’s center to Lover’s Leap is the quickest way to capture photos of Cumberland Falls from various angles. Observation decks with handrails provide safe views from below the falls.
  • Moonbow Trail: The Moonbow Trail (Trail #1) begins at Cumberland Falls then runs north alongside the river for 10.8 miles. It offers views of Eagle Falls across the river and access to a sandy beach area. Hikers can make a 7-mile loop by combining this trail with the Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower (Trail #2). A much shorter loop can be made by taking Trail #7 back to the campground.
  • Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower: Trail #2 follows the southern stretch of the Cumberland River, then turns north into Daniel Boone National Forest for 5 miles. A fire tower, built in 1937 and reopened in 2008, can be climbed for panoramic views of the state park. The north terminus of Trail #2 connects with the Moonbow Trail.
  • Eagle Falls Trail: For a moderate hike with nice views of both waterfalls, consider hiking Eagle Falls Trail (Trail #9) on the other side of the Cumberland River. To reach it, drive across the bridge just south of the campground, then look for the trailhead on the right side of Highway 90. High water may make one of the stream crossings on the trail more challenging. The trail is 1.5 miles each way.

Where to Camp

  • Ridgeline Campground: With a central store and dump station, Ridgeline Campground offers a mix of tent and RV camping. Water and electric hookups are available at many sites but not all.
  • Clifty Campground: Clifty Campground has tent sites only. Although both of the campgrounds share a lot of facilities, Clifty Campground has closer access to the pool and tennis courts. Both campgrounds at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park are pet friendly, but animals must be leashed.

Note that camping has to be reserved at least one day in advance, and both campgrounds are closed from November 1 to March 14. Contact (606) 309-4808 for questions.

Where to Stay Nearby

  • DuPont Lodge: Open throughout the year, lovely DuPont Lodge is less than a mile from the visitor’s center and falls. Renovated in 2006, the 51-room lodge features stone fireplaces and heavy wooden beams, giving the common areas a cozy feel. An observation deck offers views of the Cumberland River. You can make reservations on the Kentucky State Parks website.
  • Cabin Rentals: Cabins of various sizes and layouts are available at the park. Only a few of the 25 available rentals are ADA-accessible. Like DuPont Lodge, reservations can be made on the Kentucky State Parks website.
  • Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort: Located eight minutes away on KY-90, this resort offers cabins, camping, and “wild west” covered wagons for sleeping—yes, they’re circled!
  • The Farm House Inn: This unique bed-and-breakfast option is 20 minutes north on Taylor Branch Road.

How to Get There

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is located within the proclamation boundaries of the Daniel Boone National Forest, around 30 minutes southwest of Corbin, Kentucky. Driving time from Lexington is a little under two hours. From here, drive south on Interstate 75, then take Exit 25 (Highway 25 / Cumberland Falls Road) after Corbin. Continue on KY-90 (Cumberland Falls Road) until reaching the entrance to the park.

If you're coming from Louisville, the fastest route to Cumberland Falls is to take Interstate 64 East to Lexington (1.5 hours). When you reach the city, follow the instructions above.

Accessibility

The hilly layout around Cumberland Falls presents a challenge. Although the visitor’s center, restaurant, and lodge area at Cumberland Falls are ADA-accessible, the trails unfortunately are not. Only the path from the parking area to the first view of the falls is wheelchair friendly. The Moonbow Trail (Trail #1) to viewing platforms along the river is steep in places, and requires negotiating stairs cut into the stone.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The fall colors at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park are spectacular, but the secret is out! Expect larger than usual crowds and heavy traffic, especially on weekends.
  • Swimming in the Cumberland River above and below the falls is no longer permitted due to the strong currents.
  • The summer heat and humidity in Kentucky can be oppressive. A nice breeze often blows near the falls, but carry extra water for longer hikes that meander away from the river.
  • No ATMs are available within Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. You’ll need to get cash in Corbin or at the Valero gas station, located 10 minutes west of the visitor’s center on KY-90.
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The Moonbow at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky Is Rare