The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is tucked between Kentucky and Tennessee’s Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Steeped in history, the recreation area played a prominent role during the American Civil War after the Confederates constructed Fort Henry on the bank of the lake. In 1963, the national recreation area was officially designated as a landmark by President John F. Kennedy. Since the area is home to expansive forests, picturesque views of the lakes, and wildlife such as elk and bison, it naturally serves as a popular destination for hikers, nature lovers, and history buffs alike. The hiking paths range from flat and easy to relatively rocky and moderately challenging. That said, these family-friendly trails are a few of the most noteworthy at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. There are also many vacation rentals around Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area to choose from.
1. Peytona Trail
As part of the Fort Henry Trails System, the Peytona Trail boasts a scenic forest environment. The tree types include maple, sweetgum, oak-hickory, shortleaf pine, and ash. Stretching almost a mile and a half long, this short yet sweet path guides hikers past beaver dams and historic home sites. Furthermore, along the trail are the remnants of the iron industry, which dates back to the 1800s.
2. Tennessee Ridge Trail
Also a member of the Fort Henry Trails System, the Tennessee Ridge Trail is nearly two miles in length. The path runs along the physical divide of the Tennessee River and Cumberland watersheds. Since this trail is tucked away at the interior of the Land Between the Lakes, there are plenty of opportunities for hikers to enjoy quiet reflection and solitude.
3. Pickett Loop
The Pickett Loop stretches a little beyond two miles and takes hikers past old, rustic home sites, as well as a section of the beautiful Kentucky Lake. The loop can be accessed through either the Boswell Landing Backcountry Area or the Fort Henry Trailhead. This trail is in the Fort Henry Trails System.
4. Hematite Trail
Animal lovers will especially appreciate the 2.2-mile Hematite Trail. The loop encircles Hematite Lake and is renowned for featuring numerous species of amphibians, birds, and reptiles. There is also a quarter-mile wetland boardwalk that allows hikers to glimpse at a beaver marsh. Moreover, wildflowers and relics from the old iron industry can be spotted along the trail.
5. Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail
While the Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail spans a total of 11 miles, the path is split into two different paths and divided by the rivers. The eastern side of the route starts at Lake Barkley and features two and a half miles of paved asphalt. Accordingly, the remainder of the trail is eight a half miles long, made of compacted stone, and situated westbound at Kentucky Lake. Hikers can expect breathtaking views of the Lake Barkley shoreline when embarking on the former. The latter boasts gorgeous rolling hills and a vast stretch of hardwood forests with vibrant leaves that change with the season.
6. Long Creek Paved Trail
The Long Creek Paved Trail is ideal for families that prefer a considerably short and easy path. Only a quarter of a mile long, the path leads through the Land Between the Lakes’ bottomland forest of oak, sweetgum, and sycamore trees. Additionally, these deep woods are home to green herons, beavers, and kingfishers.
7. Bohanon Loop
Stretching two miles long, the Bohanon Loop is the most expensive path in the bike-friendly Hillman Heritage National Recreation Trail, which is fondly known for its historic roads and cultural features. Taking hikers over ridgelines and providing intimate views of wildlife, this trail is both scenic and unforgettable.
8. Vogle Loop
The Vogle Loop is almost a mile in length and has heritage markers along the way. It can be accessed by taking the Bohanon Loop. Offering a change of scenery, this incredible trail leads to an undeveloped rock beach on Kentucky Lake, historic home sites, and a limestone quarry that is in association with the Star Lime Works District. This loop is also part of the Hillman Heritage National Recreation Trail.
9. Center Furnace Trail
Combining outdoor recreation and an educational opportunity, the Center Furnace Trail is a mostly flat .3-mile path with some stairs. On this route, hikers can see and learn how this once thriving community operated more than a century ago, as well as how the past iron industry impacted the land and people living there. History buffs will feel right at home at this point of interest.
10. Honker Lake and Trail
Encircling the man-made Honker Lake, the loop trail is four and a half miles long. Guiding hikers through uplands, bottomland forest areas, and lakeshore, this path may be considered relatively lengthy, but the journey is worth it. At the lake, families can kayak or canoe to observe nature and wildlife from the vantage point of the calm waters of Honker Lake. The Nature Station seasonally rents out these water vessels. Beavers, osprey diving for fish, and blooming lotus flowers are native to this awe-inspiring area.