By Carrie Searcy
Office of the Secretary
The Commonwealth offers an abundance of sites that are either funded, in partnership or managed by the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves (KNP) and are open and free to the public for hiking and enjoying nature.
The sites listed below are funded in part by the purchase of “Nature’s Finest” license plates. The purchase of a bobcat, cardinal or butterfly license plate designates $10 to the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund (KHLCF) which is administrated by the KNP to help buy and manage land for both hiking trails and habitat conservation across Kentucky.
The following are 10 of our favorite nature preserves you might want to visit this summer.
To protect the natural habitat and wildlife, these sites are only open to daytime foot traffic on designated trails.
10.) Quiet Trails State Nature Preserve
Located above the Licking River in Harrison County, Quiet Trails State Nature Preserve is a Watchable Wildlife Site that offers an up close view of the diversity of the flora and fauna of the Bluegrass. With over 130 species of birds, 98 species of trees, 10 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 100 species of wildflowers and 23 species of mussels, Quiet Trails is the perfect place to take in some beautiful outdoor scenery and enjoy 165 acres of ridges and ravines.
Once hidden away from the public as a private nature sanctuary, this preserve is now open to the public and offers environmental education, passive recreation and a 3.1 mile walking trail. For more information on the preserve and its mission, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/quiettrails.aspx.
9.) Pope Lick Park
Protecting over 200 acres of mature Kentucky forest and creek frontage along Floyd’s Fork, Pope Lick Park offers Kentuckians an escape to the great outdoors right in metropolitan Louisville. The KHLCF section of the park offers several wooded walking trails and even access to the Louisville Loop, which connects the park to the other Parklands and will eventually allow hikers to circle the city.
Open during daytime hours only, the 282 acre park just recently opened to the public and is available for foot traffic only. For more information on this park, please visit http://heritageland.ky.gov/Pages/PopeLick.aspx.
In 2016 Pope Lick Park was featured on KET. Watch the video here at https://www.ket.org/living/parklands-floyds-fork/.
8.) E. Lucy Braun State Nature Preserve
Located in Harlan County, this 609 acre preserve features stunning views of Black Mountain, an Appalachian bog and provides a natural sanctuary for rare plants. With hiking available from sunrise to sunset, you can enjoy wooded pineland, colorful mosses and lichens and even the rare showy gentian (Gentiana decora), pale corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens) and a globally rare club-moss. For more information on the preserve and its mission, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/elucybraun.aspx.
7.) Hazeldell Meadow
Sitting on 39 acres in the northeast corner of Pulaski County, Hazeldell Meadow is a haven for rare ecosystems and plants. As one of Kentucky’s few remaining examples of a highland rim wet barren, which is a prairie that possesses characteristics of both a grassland and wetland, Hazeldell Meadow, represents what the Bluegrass once was before developments and farming. Besides protecting vulnerable land, Hazeldell is also host to numerous rare plants including the sundew plant, which is Kentucky’s only carnivorous plant species.
Hazeldell is open to the public during daylight hours with a gravel trail for hiking. For more information about Hazeldell, please visit http://www.knps.org/field_trips.html.
A guided hike of Hazeldell Meadow is planned for Aug. 4, 2018. For more information about the hike, please visit https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/kentucky/placesweprotect/hazeldell-meadow.xml.
6.) Bad Branch State Nature Preserve
Proclaimed as one of the most significant and beautiful natural areas in Kentucky, Bad Branch is 2,785 acres of untouched Kentucky natural beauty and biological biodiversity. Featuring a forested gorge with a 60 foot waterfall over sandstone cliffs, several watersheds and even a trail along a mountain crest, Bad Branch is known for the twists and turns of its terrain.
The preserve is also home to the largest concentrations of rare and uncommon species known to Kentucky and even provides a protected habitat for Kentucky’s only known nesting pair of common ravens (Corvus corax). The preserve offers a five mile foot trail that is rated as strenuous. The preserve is also accessible for photography, bird watching and research from dawn until dusk. For more information on Bad Branch, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/badbranch.aspx.
A guided hike is being offered to the public on July 28th. For more information on the hike, please visit https://parks.ky.gov/calendar/details/hikeathon-2018/76631/.
5.) Crooked Creek State Nature Preserve
Opened just last year to the public, Crooked Creek State Nature Preserve, located in Lewis County, offers a fantastic venue for bird watchers and hikers. With a 1.35 mile trail, the 728 acre preserve offers a woodland, glade and a barrens that house oven birds, warblers and a diversity of grasses.
Crooked Creek appeals to visitors with its lush greenery and urges then to come take a walk and experience a little bit of Kentucky. For more information on this preserve, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/crookedcreek.aspx.
Crooked Creek State Nature Preserve is offering a guided tour open to the public on August 25, 2018. To register for the hike or for more information, please visit, http://www.knps.org/field_trips.html.
4.) Blue Licks State Nature Preserve
Located in Robertson County within the Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, Blue Licks State Nature Preserve is dedicated to the preservation of the Short’s goldenrod (Solidago shortii). Protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, this preserve offers 53 acres of habitat to one of the rarest plants worldwide. Along with the goldenrod, footpaths, a relic bison trail and glade can be found for hikers, bird watchers and nature lovers.
For more information on this preserve and its mission, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/bluelicks.aspx.
3.) Boone Co. Cliffs State Nature Preserve
With glacial washout cliffs, four forest community types and an amazing wildflower display, Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve has something for everyone. Located along a tributary to Middle Creek, the preserve comprised of 75 acres, is named after its cliffs on the valley slopes of the protected area. These cliffs are made up of gravel that was from glacial outwash around 700,000 years ago!
Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve is now reopen to the public during daytime hours and offers a moderate 2.4 mile trail. For more information on this preserve, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/boonecntycliffs.aspx.
2.) Blackacre State Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead
Dedicated to integrating education, agriculture, nature and historic preservation with public and private use, this preserve offers a glimpse into the past for visitors and a look into Kentucky’s natural legacy. Comprised of nearly 300 acres, the Homestead dates back to 1785 and offers the original 18th-century stone cottage, spring house, barn, smokehouse and a pre-Civil War farmhouse, which now serves as the Blackacre visitors’ center. Guests can also enjoy the horses, cows and goats surrounding the homestead.
This preserve is open during the weekdays after 3:00 PM to dusk on weekdays and from dawn to dusk on weekends. Walking trails are open year-round. For more information on Blackacre State Preserve and Historic Homestead, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/blackacre.aspx.
A Saturday farm animal feeding is being offered to the public July 21, July 28, and August 4, 2018. For more information or to register, please visit https://www.facebook.com/events/161798487829554/.
1.) Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve
This 41 acre second growth woodland is located in the midst of downtown Louisville. Popular with bird and wildlife watchers, this urban area offers a bit of forested retreat in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a busy city. With an easy one mile hiking trail that offers ridgetop and bottomland views, this nature center offers a diversity of plants, birds and butterflies for all ages to enjoy. For more information on Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve, please visit http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/beargrasscrk.aspx.