There is nothing quite like the feeling of driving through the country roads and taking in the scenery around you. Taking a relaxing drive gives you the perfect opportunity to put all of your worries aside and just enjoy the beautiful views.
Kentucky is known for its southern roots, and the state has an abundance of beautiful land to enjoy. Scenic drives are plentiful in the Bluegrass state, coming in at 22 Official Scenic Byways.
It would take quite some time to cover each of these drives, so we have narrowed it down to our top 6 best scenic drives in the state of Kentucky that would make for a sensational family road trip.
Gas up your car, grab some snacks, and let’s hit the road!
1. Best Scenic Drives in Kentucky: US 23 Country Music Highway
- Distance: 127 miles
- Time Needed: 1-2 days
The Country Music Highway takes you through Eastern Kentucky and is every country music lover’s dream. The Bluegrass state has been home to some of the biggest names in country music throughout the years, including Loretta Lynn, Chris Stapleton, and Billy Ray Cyrus, and as you drive along US 23, you will find many stops and landmarks that pay homage to those stars.
Can’t miss stops along the drive:
- Loretta Lynn’s Homeplace in Butcher Holler (Van Lear, KY) – This small town home is the family home of the biggest names in Country Music, Loretta Lynn. The house still stands today as an ode to Loretta and her family and is open for tours. To take a tour, visit Webb’s General Store #5, and set up a time.
- Paramount Art Center (Ashland, KY) – If you’re a big movie buff, this is a can’t-miss stop for you! The Paramount Arts Center first opened in 1931 and is one of the first transitional theaters built for “talking pictures” made by none other than Paramount Studios. Today it still stands as a theater that hosts events such as concerts, stand-up comedy, ballet, and more!
- Hatfield-McCoy Feud Driving Tour (Pikeville, KY) – Everyone knows the famous feud between two southern families, the Hatfields and the McCoys. This is a self-guided driving tour in which you have the chance to see some of the most notable sites from the feud between these two families.
When to go: This drive would be beautiful at any time of the year, but we especially recommend the Fall season when the leaves have changed, and you can see all of the colors in the landscapes and scenic areas around you.
2. Best Scenic Drives in Kentucky: Big Bone Lick Scenic Byway
- Distance: 20 miles
- Time Needed: 1 day
This drive is a pretty short one, but the views are worth taking the time to make the drive. Years ago, mammals roamed the salt licks of what is now considered to be Big Bone Lick State Park. As you drive along the byway, you will see breathtaking views of the Ohio River and the historic site of Dinsmore Homestead.
Make a stop off the byway to visit Big Bone Lick State Park, where there are a number of fun activities and beautiful sights to see. Popular highlights include a visit to the Bison herd, taking a tour of the Big Bone Lick Museum, hiking trails, digging for fossils, and searching for Salt Springs along the Big Bone Creek trail.
When to go: The byway and campsite are open year-round. In order to take advantage of all activities and facilities, it is best to visit between the months of March-November as some facilities are only available on a seasonal basis.
- Pro tip: If you would like to camp at the Big Bone Lick campsite, it is recommended to make a reservation ahead of time as space is limited.
3. Best Scenic Drives in Kentucky: Cumberland Cultural Heritage Highway
- Distance: 184 miles
- Time Needed: 1-2 days
The Cumberland Cultural Heritage Highway is one of the most popular byways in the state of Kentucky because of its beautiful landscapes made up of a number of routes and bodies of water in the area. A drive down CCHH will leave you relaxed and free from worries and stress!
There are a number of bodies of water that you will pass by as you make your way down the CCHH, including Dale Hollow Lake, Green River Lake, Big South Fork National Area, and most notably, Lake Cumberland, one of the best US lake vacation destinations for families.
While you can make the drive in just a single day, we recommend taking a couple of days when you reach the end of your trial at the beautiful Lake Cumberland, where you can enjoy fun outdoor/water activities, including rafting, fishing, swimming, and camping making for the perfect family-friendly getaway.
When to go: The Summer months are the best time to take this road trip to ensure that you are able to take full advantage of Lake Cumberland and all of the fun the area has to offer. During this time, not only will the temperatures be nice, but the water will also be warm enough to enjoy!
4. Best Scenic Drives in Kentucky: Red River Gorge Scenic Byway
- Distance: 46 miles
- Time Needed: 1 day
The Red River Gorge is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Kentucky for those that love the outdoors. The Gorge is an outdoor lover’s dream with everything you can possibly imagine, including rock climbing, hiking trails through the Daniel Boone National Forest, zip lines, kayaking, campgrounds, and more.
While the Gorge itself is the star of this getaway, taking the drive down the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway is a pretty great experience on its own.
While the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway will only take about an hour if you drive it straight through, be sure to account for some time in your agenda to stop and enjoy some of the landmarks along the way.
Some notable attractions along the way include the Nada Tunnel, the Gladie Visitor Center, where you can learn about the history and heritage of the Red River Gorge, and of course, views of the beautiful Red River.
You don’t want to miss The Gorge Underground Adventure where you will get the chance to travel through the cave in either your own kayak or ride as a passenger during a boat tour.
When to go: Red River Gorge is open year-round for visitors, but the best time to visit is typically between the months of April-September. Try to avoid visiting during rainy conditions, as this can make outdoor activities a bit more difficult to navigate through and enjoy.
- Pro tip: Vehicles larger than 12 feet in width or height should enter the Gorge from the KY 715 end of the byway, and large vehicles may have trouble passing through the Nada Tunnel.
5. Best Scenic Drives in Kentucky: US 68 Scenic Byway
- Distance: 104 miles
- Time Needed: 1 day
Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass state so we couldn’t make this list without including the US 68 Scenic Byway, as this route takes you through the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.
Along your drive, you will see scenic farmland and pastures filled with breathtaking horse barns, tobacco fields, and incredibly beautiful limestone rock fences originally built in the 1800s. This drive is the perfect way to break away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and enjoy the calm and quiet of the farmlands.
Some notable stops include the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge, and the Tour D’Ville Bike Tour, and if you get hungry, be sure to stop in at Melton’s Great American Deli for lunch (Their Big Daddy Club sandwiches are to die for)!
When to go: This drive is a great one to take at any point throughout the year, as each season offers its own benefits and beauty as the scenery changes with the weather.
6. Best Scenic Drives in Kentucky: Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway
- Distance: 71 miles
- Time Needed: 1 day
President Lincoln is one of the most notable presidents of the United States, and the Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway has been designated in his name due to the history and culture that occurred in the region that the highway takes you through, as he was instrumental in those historical moments happening.
The highway will take you through six communities in Kentucky that were significant sites during the Civil War. President Lincoln grew up near Hodgenville, one of the communities you will pass through, as well as Bardstown, Springfield, and Danville-Boyle County.
Can’t-miss stops along the drive include The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historic Site, where you can see the First Lincoln Memorial and Lincoln’s boyhood home, America’s oldest Trappist Monastery as well as the Bourbon Trail, which features eight bourbon distilleries that make for a great bourbon tour. (Fun fact: Bourbon is known as America’s official spirit)
- Pro Tip: It is highly recommended that you make reservations when visiting any of the bourbon distilleries as they are very popular, and spots may fill up quickly.
When to go: This particular drive would be great at any time of the year. Keep in mind that if you are traveling during the winter months, it is best to pack layers, blankets, and extra food/water in your vehicle.
More Road Tripping in Southern USA
If you’re looking for more inspiration to hit the road in Southern USA, you may also be interested in:
- 12 Sensational Southern USA Road Trip Ideas
- Best Attractions and Places to Explore in Louisiana With Kids
- Sensational Scenic Drives in Florida For a Family Road Trip
- Incredible Scenic Drives through Alabama
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