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There is day hiking available in every state. But Kentucky offers more trails and better trails than any other state East of the Rockies and South of New England. A day hike here brings you to waterfalls, natural bridges, towering overlooks, caves and the remains of cabins built by Daniel Boone and other legendary frontiersmen.

Hiking in Kentucky is a challenge. Routes are not casual walks in the park or level strolls along well manicured paved pathways. Our trails struggle up long rocky climbs, skirt the edges of cliffs, rock hop across knee high streams, and navigate mossy ledges below waterfalls. Hiking here is a cardiovascular activity.

But Kentucky in the Summer is very hot and humid. Most locals do their day hiking in the Spring and Fall when temperatures are in the 70s and low 80s and the air is dry and clear. Springs here also feature beautiful wildflower displays, and Fall of course displays leaves in full color. This photo is in the Red River Gorge.

Kentucky Day Hiking : Dan Omlor
For additional trip reports, photos and discussion, we recommend http://www.kywilderness.com
Kentucky hiking : bridge over cascading stream

We urge you to purchase a good pack. Kentucky's day hiking trails are long, with plenty of ups and downs. School bookbags doubling as weekend hiking packs don't work well. They don't have the volume or support. For Spring and Fall hiking you need a rucksack with a legitimate hip belt, lumbar pad, back stays, full padded straps, plenty of pockets and two good external bottle baskets or holders.

If you insist on hiking here in the Summer, you should invest in one of the larger waist packs ("fanny packs" or "butt packs"), the ones with bottle holders on both sides, multiple pockets, and legitimate hip belts. These keep your back free. Wearing a rucksack in July results in a back, pack and shirt soaked with sweat, which becomes uncomfortable over several hours.

You need two stainless steel double walled insulated water bottles, the ones that keep beverages cold for 12 hours. We now know the plastic bottles leach polyvinyl chlorides into the water or other liquid, meaning you'll be drinking carcinogens.

For additional trip reports, photos and discussion, we recommend http://flyingfishmanky.com

Good cameras are a must. Natural arches, waterfalls, and views seen from overlooks make postcard photos. You need a zoom lens for wildlife and a panoramic feature for overlook shots. You need a macro lens or setting. A typical Kentucky trail will feature 27-30 different kinds of mosses and fungi, many of them spectacular.

April, May, August and September wildflowers invite closeup photography. On these flowers are hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, which also require a macro lens or setting. It used to be we had to buy a complete SLR camera with interchangeable lenses, but the IPhone 5 and some if its rivals now contain all these features.

Kentucky gets a lot of rain. Hikers here need a good, lightweight, compact but effective rain garment. We highly recommend a Caguole. These are available through Campmor and other suppliers. A Caguole is a pullover that hangs loosely, so breathes as you walk, but extends below your knees so keeps you quite dry. They have hoods and loose draping sleeves. Most important, they are built to fit over your pack, so you don't need a separate rain cover. Caguoles run from $20 to $50. They're quite durable; we've had our current models for 30 years and they don't have any tears or abrasions. You can buy more tailored rainsuits, parkas and pants, some costing as much as $150-200. But they're harder to put on and off and often they're more delicate and don't breathe as well as a Caguole. The traditional Poncho is another option. They do breathe, but they're not as waterproof in a hard rain. The photo at right is taken in The Calaboose of the Red River Gorge.

Kentucky Day Hiking : Lunch at Waterfalls
For additional trip reports, photos and discussions, we recommend http://www.redriversaga.com
Kentucky Day Hiking : Dan Omlor

The final item you need to consider is Boots. There's a lot of water flowing in Kentucky. You'll be hiking along rivers, streams, waterfalls, lakes, ponds, bogs, springs, seeps and wetlands. Fabric boots don't keep your feet dry and don't last very long when they're always getting wet. We prefer good leather boots. We clean and polish them between trips and find a pair lasts several years. They keep our feet dry and give us more support on the rocky climbs. The photo at left is taken in the Big South Fork.

We cover Kentucky hiking trails in this section. The trails in our Backpacking section could also be broken down into day hikes, and that section covers adjacent states. Our National Park section includes some of the greatest day hiking trails in the world, particularly in the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and Big Bend.

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