Kentucky’s Best-Kept Secret: The Wildlands Waterfall Trail Revealed



Beyond its rolling fields of Bluegrass, bourbon and horse racing, Kentucky is also home to incredible waterfalls. Yes, waterfalls. There are over 800 waterfalls throughout the state, with some of the most scenic on the Kentucky Wildlands Waterfall Trail, which includes 17 falls starting in Albany and ending in Hazard.

From thundering cascades to smaller falls that flow into picturesque swimming holes, here are eight must-see waterfalls in Kentucky.

Flat Lick Falls (Gray Hawk)

Flat Lick Falls in Gray Hawk, Kentucky. Photo Credit: Patrick Jennings.

From wispy and ethereal during the dry season to thunderous and mighty during the heavy rains, you could visit Flat Lick Falls multiple times throughout the year, and it would never be the same experience. To access the falls, it’s a simple one-mile loop hike from the Flat Lick Falls Scenic and Recreation Area along a mostly flat trail that weaves through lush forest and massive moss-covered boulders. Avid hikers can skip the trail and hike across the creek and down the pathway to the base of the falls, which plunge into a spectacular pool – perfect for a swim.

Important Note: Pay attention to the weather conditions. During the rainier months, the trails can be slippery and sometimes flooded.  

Lick Falls (Olive Hill)

Kayaking in Grayson Lake State Park. Photo Credit: Alexey Stiop.

Hidden Caves. Off-the-beaten-path coves. A breathtaking lake. And, of course, Lick Falls. At Grayson Lake State Park, natural wonders are at every turn. Located in Olive Hill, these picturesque falls cascade down a flight of sandstone stairs into Grayson Lake. Accessible via a hike or kayak, you can walk a three-mile path along 100-foot cliffs to this waterfall or paddle six miles around the lake. During the rainy season, keep an eye out for Hidden Falls, a majestic alcove with a secluded bay only reachable by canoe or kayak.

Creation Falls (Wolfe County)

Creation Falls in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Photo Credit: Patrick Jennings.

Considered one of the most popular attractions in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, Creation Falls is a small fall that flows into a shallow sand-covered pool. Simply park near the Rock Bridge Picnic area and hike 1.5 miles along the Rock Bridge Trail that winds parallel to scenic creek. Near the falls, you’ll find an impressive natural stone bridge that spans the entirety of the creek. If you love fall leaves, visit in the autumn when the forests explode in a burst of yellow and orange and fallen leaves add a splash of color as they cascade over the falls’ rocky ledges.  

Dog Slaughter Falls (Corbin)

Autumn at Dog Slaughter Falls in Corbin, Kentucky. Photo Credit: Sean Pavone Photo.

You’ll be happy to know that no dogs were harmed at this waterfall. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful in the region. Located at the bottom of a scenic gorge obscured by towering hemlock trees, this 15-foot fall plunges into a spectacular pool of teal water surrounded by large boulders and a cove. Even during the drier seasons, this fall remains a popular spot with visitors and is easily reached by the Dog Slaughter Trail off the Forest Road trailhead. Once at the falls, continue your hike over rocky terrain dotted with blooming rhododendrons before ending at the Cumberland River.

Jenny Wiley Falls (Staffordsville)

Jenny Wiley Falls near Staffordsville, Kentucky. Photo Credit: Cris Ritchie Photo.

Named after pioneer Jenny Wiley, who escaped Indigenous American captors in 1789, these falls are near the Little Mud Lick Trail. Flowing 30 feet over ledges of limestone covered in lush green moss, Jenny Wiley Falls is a less than a mile hike on a somewhat challenging trail that is both narrow and winds downhill. Your best bet is to park at the nearby church, where a sign marks the trail entrance. It’s best to visit the falls from March through October due to the rains, but be careful on the trail, which can get slippery.  

Cumberland Falls (Corbin)

Cumberland Falls with a double rainbow. Photo Credit: Jim Vallee.

Nicknamed “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls more than lives up to its name, spanning 125 feet and plunging 68 feet into the Cumberland River. Surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest within Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, these falls are one of two places on the planet to view a moonbow. This natural phenomenon occurs when moonlight is refracted in water droplets during a full moon, creating a stunning rainbow effect. Hikes to the falls range from the short .5-mile Cumberland Falls Trail that also provides views of the iconic Gatliff Bridge to the 10.8-mile Moonbow Trail that encompasses much of the park. For a unique vantage point, check out raft tours to the base of the falls.

Pine Island Double Falls (London)

The rare Pine Island Double Falls in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. Photo Credit: Alexey Stiop.

Tucked away in Daniel Boone National Forest, this spectacular (and rare) double waterfall will take your breath away. Here, dual falls spill from two different heights over a rust-colored alcove before connecting at the bottom in a picturesque jade pool overflowing into a rocky stream. The hike to the falls is short, just 1.4 miles out and back, and is parallel to a creek. Even better, the trail is dog-friendly (leashed), so you can explore this secluded spot with your four-legged friend. Visit during the fall when the flows are heavier, though the falls in the summer are still beautiful even if they are nothing more than a trickle.  

Anglin Falls (Mount Vernon)

Anglin Falls near Mount Vernon, Kentucky. Photo Credit: Ulrich Burkhalter.

The hike alone to Anglin Falls is a picture-worthy adventure on its own. Weaving its way uphill through John B. Stephenson Memorial Forest State Park, the short 1.7-mile out-and-back trail passes by streams flowing over cliff ledges, towering trees and, during the spring, a colorful quilt of wildflowers. The falls themselves trickle 75 feet over a steep rocky ledge into a tree-covered ravine. Visit during the winter. As the temperatures turn frigid, the freeze-thaw cycle creates a magical icy pillar adorned with giant icicles.  

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