The Daniel Boone National Forrest is named after the folk hero, Daniel Boone himself. This magical forest is a true American treasure and sings to the soul when one enters it. The many unique species of bird, tree, plant and animal all reside harmoniously with the many families, climbers, bird-watchers, hikers and bikers that visit this amazing and pristine forest.
With over 2,000,000 acres spanning 21 counties, this massive biome is as beautiful and diverse as it is complex and craggy.
According to Kentucky Tourism, Daniel Boone National Forest “is home to many spectacular natural features… At its inception the forest was 1,338,214 acres. Through land purchases and donations from coal and timber companies, the forest eventually grew to the size it is today.”
Apparently, there are still boundary issues and some of the land comprising this amazing place remains in private hands. This special place was initially named Cumberland National Forest, but in 1966, thanks to President Lyndon B. Johnson, the land officially became Daniel Boone National Forest.
While access to many areas of this forest are free, permits are required for certain activities. There are also fees for boat ramps and shooting ranges, camping in the Red River Gorge, driving on off highway vehicle (OHV) trails, and to rent equipment from a park office. Importantly, “America the Beautiful” passes and “Golden Passports” are accepted in the forest.
Not only is there backcountry camping, there is also great RV accommodations and many cozy cabin rentals, For RV’s, there are sites in the Cumberland District, the London Ranger District, and the Stearns District that are all RV ready.
Red River Gorgeous and Red River Cabins have many amazing cabins for rent. These affordable and cozy hideaways are perfect for the visiting family and often have hot tubs, Wi-Fi and many other modern ammenities to enjoy for the ultimate relaxing forest vacation!
There are some basic common sense rules of thumb to protect the forest that you must not forget: don’t bring your own firewood, be mindful of the fact that there are bears that make this place home, and follow the National Forest rules and regulations.
With all of the lakes, rivers, and streams, it’s no surprise that water-based recreation is super popular and year round in the DBNF. “Boating, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, swimming (which is allowed in any waterway unless otherwise posted), tubing, and even water skiing are all activities you can expect to see people enjoying in the national forest (Before dropping a fishing line in the water, pick up a license.)” According to Kentucky Tourism.
There are over 600 miles of trail to hike in the DBNF! This magical place is so expansive, there is a lifetime of outdoor recreational opportunities to choose from. Every year, climbers come from all over the world to enjoy what is widely regarded as one of the premiere sport-climbing (climbing with a rope for fun) areas in the world. There are many guiding services and climbers all seem to congregate for amazing pizza and camping at Miguel’s Pizza and at the amazing homemade beer & burger joint – The Red River Rockhouse. These are truly must visit restaurants!
Other must experience hikes and experiences include the Sky Bridge Trail in the Red River Gorge section of the park which is short and sweet and is quite memorable. The family/dog friendly paved trail is only about a mile and comes highly recommended. Another amazing trail is the Rock Bridge Trail. It’s about 1.4-miles is accessible all year. Its beautiful waterfalls are not to be missed.
According to Kentucky Tourism: “Bikers are sure to find a challenge in the park. The majority of the trails were originally designed for hiking only, resulting in several narrow and steep sections. But many of the designated biking trails are shared trails. Among these that are less used by non-bikers, is Section 16 of the larger Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. This section is entirely roadway, which means it provides a more bike-centric trail experience.”
The book “Hiking the Red, A Complete Trail Guide to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge” made it a point to describe the habitat and the diverse species of trees that one is likely to encounter at the Red River Gorge.
According to the authors, the species of trees found in the Daniel Boone National Forest includes beech, sugar maples, white pines, hemlock, several types of oak, and hickory. These trees provide habitat for an estimated 67 different species of reptiles and amphibians, 46 species of mammals, and 100 species of birds!
Furthermore, the habitat of the DBNF includes endangered species: the Indiana Bat, the Virginia big-eared bat, the red-cockaded woodpecker, and White-haired Goldenrod.
Members of the Bluegrass Group Sierra Club (2000). Hiking The Red, A Complete Trail Guide To Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Louisville: Harmony House Publishers.