10 Spectacular Mountains In Kentucky

Black Mountain, Kentucky
Photo by Matt Wasson, Appalachian Voices. April 18th, 2010, iLoveMountains.org, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Written by Tracy Graham

Updated: April 26, 2023

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When most people think of Kentucky they think of the famous Kentucky blue grass and horse racing. But Kentucky has quite a varied landscape. The state boasts lush rich fields of blue grass and acres of rolling pastures and horse farms. Kentucky also has a stretch of the Appalachian mountains in the eastern part of the state. Don’t miss the series of large hills called knobs that are found throughout the state. There are coal fields and caverns too.

Kentucky’s Knobs region, which borders the blue grass fields of the state, is a favorite destination for hikers. The knobs are smaller than traditional mountains but have a high enough elevation to deliver some spectacular views. Some of the best viewing is of Daniel Boone National Forest and the blue grass region. And because the elevations are smaller and the rise is gentle they are easy to hike even for beginners.

10 Mountains In Kentucky

In the Eastern part of Kentucky sits a stretch of Appalachian mountains. This means there are actual mountains that hikers can climb if they want to challenge themselves. But most people prefer the Knobs region for hiking. Some of the best mountain in Kentucky to hike are:

Black Mountain

Located in: Virginia/Kentucky border

Height: 4,139 feet

Nearby City:  Lynch

Known For: Even though Black Mountain is the tallest mountain in Kentucky you can’t actually reach the summit on foot. Black Mountain sits on the border between Kentucky and Virginia. It was a coal mining site for many years. There are roads that you can use to access the mountain. The summit has a tower that isn’t safe for people to climb and the remnants of a mining operation. There are some trails that go around the mountain but you won’t be able to hike to the summit. The mountain is no longer use for mining. The state has taken over control of it so there are plans to someday make the summit accessible again.

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Black Mountain is the tallest mountain in Kentucky.

Stuffley Knob

Located in: Johnson County

Height: 1,496 feet

Nearby City:  Paintsville

Known For: Stuffley Knob has fantastic views because it’s the highest point in Johnson County. It doesn’t have is a water source. If you’re planning on hiking this knob, make sure that you bring plenty of water with you. During the summer months, it’s essential to have lots of water and some food. You won’t find any place to replenish your water or get a snack close by. But since the views are so great you can hike to the top of the knob and enjoy some snacks and a break before heading back down. Many of the knobs in the region have sandstone cliffs and rock edges which can give you some stunning views of the surrounding country.

Hydration is key when hiking in the summer months.

If you’re hiking in the Knobs during the summer months it’s essential to have lots of water.

Fox Knob

Located in: Harlan County

Height: 3,271 feet

Nearby City:  Middlesboro

Known For: Fox Knob is another of the mountains in Kentucky that isn’t technically a mountain but does give hikers some pretty amazing views. Beginner hikers may find some of the trails on Fox Knob a little challenging because it’s got a fairly high elevation and the incline can be a bit steep in places. But there’s no rock scrambling necessary to reach the summit and beginners should be fine if they take their time. Along the trail to the summit, you will probably see some deer and maybe a few rabbits. Just make sure that you’re respectful of the wildlife that you encounter when you’re hiking on any of the mountains in Kentucky.

Wild rabbit in meadow

You can see

rabbits

and other wildlife when you’re hiking Fox Knob

Skeet Rock Knob

Located in: Pike County

Height: 2,969 feet

Nearby City:  Elkhorn City

Known For: Skeet Rock Knob is part of the Cumberland Mountains in Kentucky. It’s not that far from the border of Kentucky and Virginia. Skeet Rock Knob is part of the 120 mile Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail. If you are doing a long hike along the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail then hiking to the summit of Skeet Rock Knob is just part of one of section of the trail. But you can also access the trail to the summit from the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail for a day hike also. There is a loop side trail off the main trail that you can use if you want to take a spin around the summit to see all of the views available from the summit. Just remember that it will get dark fast once the sun goes down and plan your trek accordingly. There is no camping on the knob but there are some suitable campsites further down the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail.

Pine Mountain Scenic Trail, KEntucky

Skeet Rock Knob is part of the 120 mile Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Located in: Rowan County

Height: 2,730 feet

Nearby City:  Morehead

Known For: Sugarloaf Mountain is famous in Kentucky lore for something that happened all the way back in 1904, more than 100 years ago! There is a story in the NY Times that says that Sugarloaf Mountain erupted into fire and smoke like a volcano. People thought it was actually a volcano. But Sugarloaf Mountain is not a volcano. There are no volcanic mountains in Kentucky.

What really happened on Sugarloaf Mountain? There was smoke pouring out of the mountain, but that smoke was caused by a freak accident inside the mountain where some people were making moonshine. The still that was being used to make the moonshine caught fire which caused smoke to pour out of the mountain and make people think that it was volcanic eruption.

Distillery

A still that was being used to make the moonshine caught fire which caused smoke to pour out of Sugarloaf Mountain and made people think that it was a volcanic eruption.

Gross Knob

Located in: Harlan County

Height: 2,7730 feet

Nearby City:  Jackson

Known For: Gross Knob is a relatively challenging mountain to hike with an elevation of almost 3,000 feet. If you’re a beginner hiker some of the other knobs in Kentucky might be a better place for you to get some scenic views of Kentucky. There is a trail that will take you to the summit of Gross Knob but it’s a trail that is considered challenging for anyone that is below an intermediate hiker. If you are going to attempt to hike Gross Knob take water with you and try to avoid hiking it during the summer months when the temperatures in Kentucky can be quite warm, even in the mountains and knobs.

Hiking with a dog.

If you are going to attempt to hike Gross Knob take water with you and try to avoid hiking it during the summer months when the temperatures in Kentucky can be quite warm.

Butterfly Knob

Located in: Harlan County

Height: 2,920 feet

Nearby City:  Pathfork

Known For: Butterfly Knob is one of the mountains in Kentucky that is great for winter hiking. The trails are easy and even if the weather does get cold you should be able to complete the short trails on Butterfly Knob without any issues. Although it’s always a smart idea to wear sturdy waterproof boots when you’re hiking in the winter because you never know when you might run into an icy or snowy patch. You should also always bring several layers of warm clothing that you can put on or take off as you need. When you first start hiking you may be cold and need more layers but as you hike Butterfly Knob you’ll get warm. That’s when you’ll be glad you have layers that you can take off to be more comfortable. It’s also smart to have a waterproof and windproof jacket to wear when hiking any Kentucky mountains in the winter.

Hiking in Winter

It’s always smart to have a waterproof and windproof jacket to wear when hiking any Kentucky mountains in the winter.

Frenchman Knob

Located in: Hart County

Height: 1,158 feet

Nearby City:  Bonnieville

Known For: Frenchman Knob has quite a history in Kentucky folklore. Most of the stories about the history of the knob are tied to Frenchman Knob Cave, which is at the top of the Knob. The story goes that the pit of the cave goes so deep that early settlers in the area thought it was bottomless, or that it would go straight through the Earth. Supposedly this was what the locals thought until someone explored the cave in the 1940s and realized that the cave was just a cave like any other. Frenchman Knob got its’ name from a local legend that a French immigrant had been killed there by a local Native American tribe.

Whether or not any of that folklore is true is not known, but what is known is that like the other mountains in Kentucky, Frenchman Knob does have some pretty amazing views if you hike to the top to see them. Just be careful if you intend to explore the cave that is up there.

Whoopee Hill

Located in: Ohio County

Height: 604 feet

Nearby City:  Hartford

Known For: Whoopee Hill is most known for the unusual name that it has. But this hill is a favorite place for hiking and picnicking with the family, especially in the summer. The low elevation and easy walk up to the top makes it something that families can do together no matter how young the kids are. Climbing to the top of Whoopee Hill with a picnic lunch is a fantastic way to spend a weekend afternoon if you’re near Hartford, Kentucky and you want to get some exercise and enjoy the fresh clean air of Kentucky. Just be aware that if the weather is nice you will likely find lots of other families who have the same idea and are also hiking to the top of Whoopee Hill.

Picnic Lunch

Climbing to the top of Whoopee Hill with a picnic lunch is a fantastic way to spend a weekend afternoon if you’re near Hartford, Kentucky.

Rockhouse Ridge

Located in: Harlan County

Height: 3,855 feet

Nearby City:  Darnell Town

Known For: Rockhouse Ridge is one of the best autumn hikes you can take in Kentucky. If you want to get a bird’s eye view of the deep reds, vivid yellows, and other brilliant colors of the fall foliage in Kentucky take a hike to the top of Rockhouse Ridge. Surrounded by forests with sheet rock on the summit sides this mountain will provide some stunning autumn views. Just make sure that you bring water with you because there is no water source on Rockhouse Ridge. And bring a jacket and a sweatshirt because even though it can still be quite warm in Kentucky in the fall at this elevation it gets cold fast.

Hiking in Fall

Rockhouse Ridge is one of the best autumn hikes you can take in Kentucky.

10 Tallest Mountains In Kentucky

  • Black Mountain
  • Big Ridge
  • Grassy Gap
  • Sugar Gap
  • Rockhouse Ridge
  • Yellow Buck Spur
  • Potato Hill
  • Garrison Gap
  • Little Black Mountain    
  • Low Gap

Highest Point In Kentucky

Black Mountain – 4, 145 feet

Summary Of The 10 Spectacular Mountains In Kentucky

RankMountainLocation
1Black MountainVirginia/Kentucky border
2Stuffley KnobJohnson Country
3Fox KnobHarlan County
4Skeet Rock KnobPike County
5Sugarloaf MountainRowan County
6Gross KnobHarlan County
7Butterfly KnobHarlan County
8Frenchman KnobHart County
9Whoopee HillOhio County
10Rockhouse RidgeHarlan County


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