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Beautiful skyline in Kentucky with a view of a farm house and wooded fence in the background.

Top 10 Bike Trails in Kentucky

Graphical map of the top 10 bike trails in Kentucky.

Kentucky is one of the most cycling-friendly states in the nation. With a large and active community of cyclists, miles of stunning cycling routes, and a rich history you can explore on two wheels, bikers from all over the world head to Kentucky to take on new challenges and adventures. If you’re in the area, here are some of the best routes in the state to explore.

1. Muhlenberg County Rail Trail — Central City to Greenville, KY

Muhlenberg County Rail Trail during the fall with lots of different colors of leaves on an empty trail.

The Muhlenberg County Rail Trail is a 6-mile paved route. It runs along a corridor that used to host the Illinois Central Railroad. Today, it provides plenty of open space to enjoy as you cruise through the forested wetland marsh, home to many different kinds of birds and animals, including beavers, fish, and wild turkey. Most of the trail is flat, making it a very family-friendly and short ride, although you will encounter some hills near Powderly. The Muhlenberg County Rail Trail also features several old signal towers, trestles, whistle signs, and mile markers, all serving as reminders of its history as a bustling railroad.

Tips: One of the main attractions along this route is the antique caboose and railroad museum, just south of the Central City trailhead. Check it out to learn more about the railroad’s history.

2. TransAmerica 76 Trail — Statewide

76 trail of sign on highway

The TransAmerica is a national trail that extends all the way across the United States. The Kentucky portion of the trail is more than 500 miles long, giving cyclists an exciting way to explore the state. Beginning from the west side of the state, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of rolling farmland and woodlands until you reach Berea, the gateway to the Appalachian Mountains. 

The exciting mountainous region of the Appalachian area offers a challenge and plenty of scenic vistas that you can’t beat. Along the way, there’s also a stopover for cyclists who are biking the TransAmerica Trail route. The stopover in Perry County Park offers complimentary amenities like a pool, showers, campsites, and places to charge your phone. There are also several places to eat and a shopping area within ¼ mile of Perry County Park.

Tips: With a short detour south of the TransAmerica Trail route, you can explore Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world.

3. Great River Road Bike Trail — Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, and Fulton Counties

Paved bike trail

The Great River Road follows the Mississippi River through ten states, including Western Kentucky. It’s a scenic bike trail that connects to the neighboring states, creating one continuous route through the majority of the mid-U.S. 

The Kentucky portion of the trail traverses through four counties: Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, and Fulton. Although the Kentucky stretch of the route is the shortest section, it still has a lot to offer! All along this bike trail, you’ll enjoy Mississippi River access, plenty of opportunities for fishing and other water sports, and many attractions, such as museums, wildlife areas, and local shopping nearby.

While cycling through the area, make sure to stop and check out the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, which features 12th and 14th-century earth mounds created by ancient people who inhabited the region. The Columbus-Belmont State Park in Columbus is also an excellent place to learn about the region’s Civil War history.

Tips: For the full Great River Road Bike Trail experience, cycle this route all the way to its end in Venice, Louisiana. You’ll travel through iconic cities like Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Natchez, Memphis, and more.

4. Big Hollow Trail — Mammoth Cave, KY

Family going mountain biking

The Big Hollow Trail in Mammoth Cave National Park is an excellent family-friendly mountain biking route that provides plenty of challenging options for more advanced riders. The route winds through 8 miles of gorgeous rock outcroppings, across streams, and up a few easy to intermediate climbs. The route does have one technical feature: a flat log bridge. But, it has a bypass trail around it for less-experienced riders. An overall smooth and fun ride, the Big Hollow Trail comes highly recommended.

Tips: The Maple Springs Campground is adjacent to this trail if you plan to stay overnight and make a trip out of it. 

5. Legacy Trail — Lexington, KY

Empty bike trail at Legacy Trail.

The Legacy Trail is a popular bike trail that runs north and south through Lexington. It starts in downtown Lexington north and spans all the way to the Kentucky Horse Park, a 1,200-acre horse farm, international equestrian venue, and museum. This 12-mile route takes you through green spaces, neighborhoods, and parks, offering a taste of the rustic countryside. Along the way, you’ll enjoy art installations and signs that document the area’s local history. The route also features several bike repair stations if needed, and you can refill your water bottle near the Kentucky Horse Park.

Tips: To add more mileage to your bike ride, head to the Legacy Trail’s south end, where it connects with the Hope Center Trail and Coolavin Rail Trail.

6. U.S. Bicycle Route 21 — Middlesboro to Maysville, KY

Group of cyclists on a road taking a steep turn looking around.

U.S. Bicycle Route 21 is an impressive 265-mile route through 10 Kentucky counties. Much of the route follows the original Boone Trace, established by Daniel Boone in 1775. As you make your way through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this trail offers stunning scenery and a glimpse into an important part of U.S. history. The route is well-marked and stretches from the north edge of the state to the southern border, connecting Ohio to Tennessee. It’s a great way to travel safely through scenic byways, visit historical points of interest, and see some of Kentucky’s small towns and wildlife areas along the way.

Tips: If you plan to bike the entire Kentucky portion of the U.S. Bicycle Route 21, plan ahead so you can stop off at many of the fascinating historical sites along the way.

7. Laurel Lake Trail — London, KY

Female mountain biker on Laurel Lake Trail.

Many locals consider the Laurel Lake Trail system the best in the state. Laurel Lake is in southern Kentucky in Daniel Boone National Forest. The trails in the area offer some of the most scenic mountain biking in the state, ideal for any level rider. The Laurel Lake Trail system features singletrack rides through a thickly forested landscape with jutting cliffs, sweeping views over the water, and fun, varying terrain. Although there aren’t any significant climbs or drops in this trail system, all the rippling creeks, waterfalls, natural bridges, and other native features make any ride here incredibly fun and engaging.

Tips: After you ride, there are plenty of places to dip into the water for a nice, cool swim!

8. Louisville Loop — Louisville, KY

Older couple biking on empty trail with wild flowers around the trail.

The Louisville Loop is an estimated 100-mile trail system in Louisville, Kentucky. Eventually, the loop trail will encircle the city, connecting many neighborhoods, parks, local attractions, and recreational opportunities. The planned route will take you through five parts of Jefferson County (the Ohio River Valley, the Knobs, the Shale Lowland, the Floyds Fork watershed, and the Limestone Belt), giving you a taste of each one’s unique character. The diverse landscape and varying terrain make this route enjoyable, no matter which section you choose to traverse.

Tips: Start your ride in the Ohio River Valley segment to explore the downtown Louisville Riverwalk and check out the Big Four Bridge, where you can enjoy fantastic views of the Ohio River.

9. Dawkins Line Rail Trail — Paintsville, KY

Empty gravel bike trail

The Dawkins Line Rail Trail is the longest rail trail in Kentucky. It spans 36 miles from Paintsville to Evanston, with 25 of those miles accessible to cyclists. The crushed gravel route crosses Eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian region, passing over 24 scenic trestles, historical sites from the turn of the century, and fascinating relics from the coal mining industry. The trail also passes through the 662-foot Gun Creek Tunnel, offering cyclists plenty of fascinating history and scenery to enjoy along the way.

Tips: The Dawkins Line Rail Trail is also popular among equestrians, so watch for horses!

10. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area — Stearns, KY

Mountain biker taking a steep turn down the hill at sunset.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is a 125,000-acre nature area in the Cumberland Plateau. Mountain biking is one of the most popular outdoor recreation activities here, and there are several bike-only trails for cyclists of all skill levels. Some of the most popular bike trails at Bike South Fork include:

  • West Bandy Creek-Collier Ridge Mountain Bike Route (9.8 miles)
  • Duncan Hollow-John Muir-Grand Gap Bike Route (16.8 miles)
  • Big South Fork Epic Bike Route (32.7 miles)
  • Kentucky Trail Mountain Bike Loops (18 and 33.4 miles)
  • Chestnut Ridge-John Muir Trail (10.6 miles)
  • Hatfield Ridge-Fork Ridge (21.3 miles)

Tips: The park implemented a new system of trailheads and trail markings. Before you ride at this park, take a moment to visit the National Park Service website, so you have a better understanding of the different trails’ uses, accessibility, and mileage.

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Sources:

  1. https://www.traillink.com/trail/muhlenberg-county-rail-trail/ 
  2. https://perrycounty.ky.gov/Pages/The-TransAmerica-Bike-Trail.aspx
  3. https://www.kygrro.com
  4. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/2279/maps/Kentucky_Section
  5. https://experiencemississippiriver.com/what-to-see-do-along-the-southern-great-river-road/
  6. https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/7003510/big-hollow-at-mammoth-cave
  7. https://www.traillink.com/trail/legacy-trail-(ky)/ 
  8. https://www.southernliving.com/travel/kentucky/kentucky-bike-route-connects-10-counties 
  9. https://ridewithgps.com/routes/22182385 
  10. https://www.kentuckytourism.com/mountain-biking-the-laurel-lake-trail 
  11. https://www.traillink.com/trail/louisville-loop/
  12. https://louisvilleky.gov/government/louisville-loop 
  13. https://www.traillink.com/trail/dawkins-line-rail-trail/
  14. https://www.kentuckytourism.com/swamp-branch/outdoors/biking/dawkins-line-rail-trail 
  15. https://www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/mountainbikeriding.htm
  16. https://www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/popular-mountain-biking-routes.htm
  17. https://www.nps.gov/biso/index.htm 

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