Discover the Coldest Place in Kentucky

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: December 29, 2022
© Patrick Jennings/
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Kentucky’s unique geography and location within the interior of the United States give it some of the most unique weather events in the region. With hot summers and cold winters, Kentucky, as many of its residents know, can be a place of extremes! Today, we are going to explore the weather in the state, particularly the stuff regarding the cold. Let’s discover the coldest place in Kentucky, plus learn a bit about the weather in this beautiful state!

The Coldest Place in Kentucky

mount sterling
Mount Sterling is a city located in Montgomery County, Kentucky.


Located just east of Lexington, Mount Sterling is considered the coldest places in Kentucky due to its average low temperature of 42 degrees Fahrenheit, which is tied with the town of Stearns to the south. Mount Sterling is a city located in Montgomery County, Kentucky, and had a population of 6,895 at the time of the 2010 U.S. census.

The city is named after an ancient burial mound called Little Mountain, as well as the town of Stirling in Scotland. It was originally named by one of the first major developers, Hugh Forbes, and the name was misspelled as Mt. Sterling when it was officially established by the Kentucky Assembly in 1792. The name has been retained despite the misspelling, giving it quite a bit of character and history.

The area that is now Mount Sterling was originally a dense wilderness region in central Kentucky. Explorers and trappers traveling along a trail named Old Harper’s Trace saw a 125-foot-high mound, which they referred to as The Little Mountain. This mound was the burial ground that the town is named after today.

The Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded in Kentucky

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Kentucky happened during a three-day freeze in January 18-20, 1994. On the second day of this extreme cold snap, the all-time record low temperature of -37 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded in Shelbyville. The average temperature for the day in Shelbyville was a bone-chilling -19 degrees. Other cities in the area, such as Frankfort, Louisville, and Lexington, also reported low temperatures ranging from the -20s to the -30s.

The cold temperatures were preceded by large snowfall in the northeast portion of the region, with up to 20 inches of snow falling a couple of days before the freeze. This three-day outbreak of cold weather is one of the most extreme weather events ever recorded in Kentucky, with some of the lowest temperatures ever recorded in the state. It serves as a reminder of the harsh winter conditions that can be experienced in Kentucky and the importance of being prepared for the extreme cold!

Does Kentucky Get Snow?

Kentucky, like many states in the US, has a varied climate that depends mostly on the geography of the region. When it comes to snow, the different regions of the state all receive different amounts of snow each year.

Due to its location in the central United States, Kentucky generally experiences a humid subtropical climate. However, the highlands in the southeast are an exception and have an oceanic climate. Kentucky has four distinct seasons, with winter occurring from December to March. Snow is a common occurrence in Kentucky during January, which marks the peak of winter in the state. The average temperature during this time ranges from 23 degrees Fahrenheit to 47 degrees Fahrenheit. January is also the snowiest month of the year, with an average accumulation of 6 inches. Overall, winter in Kentucky can be quite chilly, with snow being a common feature during this time of year. On average, the state receives around 11 inches of snow annually.

The Unique Climate and Geography of Kentucky

Kentucky is divided into six geographical regions: the Mountain Region, the Knobs, the Bluegrass region, the Pennyroyal region, the Western Coalfield Region, and the Jackson Purchase.

  • The Mountain Region, located in the east, is within the Appalachian Mountain chain and contains forests, high ridges, and narrow valleys, as well as the state’s highest elevation, Big Black Mountain. It is also home to the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field, which covers 10,500 square miles.
  • The Knobs region, located west of the Mountain Region, is horseshoe-shaped and has erosion-formed knob-shaped hills called monadnocks.
  • The Bluegrass region, located in the center of the Knobs, is named for its bluish-green grass and has hills, caves, and springs created by the erosion of local limestone.
  • The Pennyroyal region, located west of the Bluegrass region, is named after a type of mint (the plant) that grows there. It’s rocky with trees, lakes, and caves, including Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave, recorded at 350 miles.
  • The Western Coalfield Region, located within the Pennyroyal region, is hilly and overlies 4,680 square miles of coal.
  • The Jackson Purchase, located in the west, was added to Kentucky in 1818. It’s a lowland area with ponds and swamps.

On average, the coldest parts of Kentucky during the winter are those in the mountainous regions to the east and the cities to the north.

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Hiking in Winter
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© Patrick Jennings/

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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