Discover the 8 Most Remote Spots in Kentucky and How to Safely Get There

Pine Mountain Scenic Trail, KEntucky
Anthony heflin/

Written by Joyce Nash

Published: December 2, 2023

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Although Kentucky has vibrant cities like Lexington and Louisville, the state boasts plenty of far-flung and undeveloped places to explore. The bluegrass state contains several national parks, wildlife refuges, and vast stretches of wilderness situated among its many mountains and rivers. Keep reading to learn about the eight most remote spots in Kentucky and how to safely get to them.

8. Skeet Rock Knob

Pine Mountain Scenic Trail, KEntucky

Skeet Rock Knob is located near the Kentucky-Virginia border.

The hike to Skeet Rock Knob is part of the larger Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail which is part of the even larger Great Eastern Trail (GET). The GET stretches for 1,800 miles from Alabama to New York. In Kentucky, the trail to Skeet Rock Knob goes through one of the largest undisturbed areas of forest in the state.

To reach Skeet Rock Knob, head north from Payne Gap on US-119. Merge onto US-23 S, and in a mile and a half, turn left onto Raven Rock. The trailhead will be on the left, and keep an eye out for signs as you hike, directing you to a scenic loop side trail to access Skeet Rock Knob.

7. Natural Arch Scenic Area

Daniel Boone National Forest

There are over a dozen stone arches within the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Situated in southeastern Kentucky, the Daniel Boone National Forest is the state’s largest forest. The forest encompasses over 700,000 acres, featuring heritage sites and vast areas of wilderness that range from wetlands to waterfalls. 

Among the forest’s most striking natural formations are its stone arches, including the nearly 100-foot-long Natural Arch. To get to the Natural Arch, take Highway 27 south from Burnside for 14 miles. Then, turn right onto State Highway 927. After about two miles, turn right again to reach the parking area for the arch.

6. Red River Gorge

Creation Falls is a popular spot for swimming in the Red River Gorge Geological Area.

Part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Red River Gorge Geological Area is characterized by the Red River, natural arches, and rock formations. This area also contains several waterfalls, including Creation Falls. You can find this waterfall at the end of a two-mile hike, and it is a popular swimming area. 

Red River Gorge Geological Area contains dozens of trails for day hiking, areas for nature viewing, and access to the Red River for fishing. To reach there, head north from Pine Ridge on KY-715 and drive for five miles. Then, turn right to stay on KY-715 and continue for another five miles. Turn left to enter the Gladie Visitor Center at Red River Gorge Geological Area. 

5. Cumberland Gap

The Sand Cave, CGNHP

Sand Cave is one of the many caves and natural formations at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

Straddling the boundary between Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is known as the country’s first “gateway to the West.” The area is a naturally occurring break in the Appalachian Mountains and was an important travel corridor for Native Americans and, later, pioneers and settlers. 

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park stretches for 26 miles and is one to four miles wide. The area is dominated by second and third growth forests that are home to animals like black bear, deer, raccoons, and wild turkeys. In addition, the forest contains many caves and historical sites, including ruins from the Civil War. 

To get to Cumberland Gap, head east on W Cumberland Ave in Middlesboro. After half a mile, turn right onto US-25 E S. Take the first exit for US-25 E S, then turn right onto Pinnacle View Road to reach the visitor center. 

4. Land Between the Lakes

Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Kentucky Lake

The Land Between the Lakes has several scenic drives for visitors to explore.

The narrow peninsula that stretches between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley is a protected wilderness area known as the Land Between the Lakes. This area boasts over 500 miles of hiking trails, 300 miles of pristine shoreline, and 170,000 acres of undeveloped land that stretches from Tennessee into Kentucky.

Visitors can experience the vast forests, wetlands, and open coastal areas on a variety of scenic drives. To get to the Land Between the Lakes Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium, drive west from Cadiz on US-68. Continue driving for 13 miles, then take the exit for Woodlands Trace. Turn left onto KY-453 S, then take the first left turn into the visitor center. 

3. Kentucky Bend

An aerial view panorama of lush forestry and bending Kentucky river with a boat on the water and cloud reflections in the sky.

Kentucky Bend is also known as Madrid Bend or New Madrid Bend.

The area known as Kentucky Bend is a remote spot in Kentucky that is cut off from the remainder of the state by the Mississippi River. This 27-square-mile section is surrounded by the river to the east, west, and north while bordering Tennessee to the south. This highly unusual state border is likely the result of a surveyor’s error in the nineteenth century.

While it’s possible to reach Kentucky Bend by boat, the easiest route is to drive north from Tiptonville in Tennessee on TN-22. After about 10 miles, you’ll cross the state border and be in Kentucky Bend.

2. Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge

The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 22 islands, including two in Kentucky.

While most of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge is located in West Virginia, two of the islands are part of Kentucky. The refuge was established in 1990 to protect habitats along 360 miles of the Ohio River that provide a home for a wide variety of fish, animals, and birds. 

To reach the protected islands, visitors can use boat ramps in Maysville and Vanceburg. Or, you can leave Manchester, Ohio, by heading east on US-52. Drive for just over one mile, then turn right to reach a public boat ramp.

1. Big South Fork

East Rim Overlook - Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, TN.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area preserves an area known as the Cumberland Plateau.

With 125,000 acres of wilderness in Kentucky and Tennessee that includes sandstone bluffs, gorges, and a major tributary to the Cumberland River, the Big South Fork National River, and Recreation Area is easily one of Kentucky’s most remote spots. Visitors can explore the area through hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and whitewater paddling. 

To reach Bear Creek Overlook — a remote spot with incredible views of the Big South Fork River — head south from Barthell on State Highway 742. After three and a half miles, turn right onto Bear Creek Road. Continue for two miles, then keep right to stay on Bear Creek Road. After a mile and a half, keep an eye out for a parking lot. The overlook is a quarter-mile hike from the parking area.

Summary of Kentucky’s Most Remote Spots

#1Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area – Bear Creek Overlook36.626823955516485, -84.52907653953092
#2Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge38.722526618642135, -83.58457573115197
#3Kentucky Bend36.531053000956184, -89.49123306701014
#4Land Between the Lakes Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium36.78333884400483, -88.06262760318987
#5Cumberland Gap National Historical Park36.60621163090594, -83.69672402039242
#6Red River Gorge Gladie Visitor Center37.83422577201049, -83.608562703816
#7Natural Arch Scenic Area36.84114656681823, -84.51211447502648
#8Skeet Rock Knob – Pine Mountain Trail Trailhead37.155536971092516, -82.63345036084183

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About the Author

Joyce Nash is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel and geography. She has almost a decade of writing experience. Her background ranges from journalism to farm animal rescues and spans the East Coast to the West. She is based in North Carolina, and in her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

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