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10 Best Things to do in Daniel Boone National Forest

There are probably 100s of things to do in Daniel Boone National Forest as it’s an incredibly large and beautiful area to explore in Kentucky but rather than searching up what those places are, I’m going to share 10 throughout the area you absolutely have to see.

Quick info:

  • Name: Daniel Boone National Forest (aka Daniel Boone National Park or Daniel Boone State Park).
  • Location: Kentucky (it goes through a large part of it).
  • Things to do: Waterfall hikes, swimming, caving, natural bridges and many more activities.
  • Family friendly place? Somewhat, I will show you which places on the list are best for family trips here.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve taken 2 trips to Daniel Boone National Forest so far and I have to say knowing where to go to find the best spots in this area is key to getting the most out of your trip and that’s what this post is going to do. My first trip here wasn’t even planned so I missed out on a lot of awesome spots, but on my second trip here, I corrected that mistake.

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It’s called Flat Lick Falls and it’s one of the many waterfalls throughout the Daniel Boone State Park area. I’ll be showing you where this one below.

Map location:

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It’s basically located in eastern Kentucky as you can see. This is a very large area and if you try to use your GPS to input Daniel Boone National Forest, you may get a lot of mixed and confusing results like I did. This is why it’s better to explore this place based on specific spots inside the area, and that’s exactly what the list below will be doing so you don’t get lost like I did when I first came here.

Just as well, there are other connecting forests and parks south and north of Daniel Boone National Forest worth exploring and I’ll also be providing you with my top recommendations on that later in this article.

10 things to do in Daniel Boone National Forest:

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  1. Flat Lick Falls
  2. Natural Bridge State Park
  3. Red River Gorge
  4. Swimming at Red River Gorge
  5. Scenic overlooks at Red River Gorge
  6. Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch
  7. Natural Arch scenic area
  8. Cumberland Falls
  9. Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park
  10. Split Bow Arch

Flat Lick Falls:

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Flat Lick Falls was the first place I discovered with my buddy in the northern region of Daniel Boone National Forest and it was only thanks to speaking to the locals who mentioned it (after we realized our GPS led us the wrong way). This is considered one of the most beautiful Daniel Boone National Forest waterfalls you’ll find in the entire region with tons to do around it

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There’s an awesome hike to the waterfall itself, swimming right by it, caving and much more to do here! Exploring Flat Lick Falls was honestly one of my favorite things to do Daniel Boone National Forest and you can literally spend one or more days here.

daniel boone national forest caves

Natural Bridge State Park KY:

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Natural Bridge State Parkis one of the the most popular spots to explore in all of Daniel Boone National Forest but difficult to find unless you have the right GPS input (which I included). There’s a few reasons why this is one of the most iconic places to explore in Daniel Boone National Forest:

  • Most Daniel Boone National Forest photos come from this place.
  • It has many hotels, resorts, attractions and things to do (besides exploring the park)
  • It’s right next to Red River Gorge (the next things to explore on this list)


Red River Gorge:

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Red River Gorge is the top attraction in all of Daniel Boone National Forest in my opinion and it’s why I recommend that no matter what you decide to do around the whole area, that this be on your mandatory exploration list! I even made an entire list of the best things to do in Red River Gorge to make that easier for you and as for hikes, that list does include it but my personal favorite is the Grays Arch trail

This area is literally 10-20 minutes away from Natural Bridge State Park and has tons of fun things you can do there. At the very least, start with a scenic drive around it, and see which areas have the most cars/people as they are usually where you’ll find the best hikes (or just read my post above for specific areas there to see). 

Swimming at Red River Gorge:

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There’s one long river throughout the Red River Gorge area of Daniel Boone National Forest where you can go swimming and there’s plenty of beach areas as well as boulders you can cliff dive from. Now I do recommend you be very careful with cliff jumping anywhere and in our case, the water was very dirty and we couldn’t see the bottom so when we found a good spot to cliff jump, we first got into the water and tested to see how deep it was. 

Overlooks of Red River Gorge:

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Scenic overlooks are plentiful at Red River Gorge too and as I said, you will see plenty of signs for trails that you can enter into with your cars. Some trails here are pretty short from the parking lot and will take you to some truly breathtaking views and overlooks. Others will connect to longer trails that take you down to the base of Red River Gorge.

When I went here the first time with my friend, we chose the Chimney Rock trail, which led us to a parking lot, from which we walked about a quarter of a mile to the overlook. This was one of the shortest walks we had left before the sun set, so we had to go with one that would allow us to see one last sight in Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest, before we continued on our trip.

Note: Beware of the horrible sweat bees in Red River Gorge! When I was there during the summer, it was an awful experience (bug spray might help with the sweat bees).

Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch:

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This is a several mile hike that connects together 2 awesome places in the region which is Yahoo Falls, which is kind of a cave waterfall and another awesome gem on the same trail which is Yahoo Arch, which is also kind of like a giant cave. This is one of the best hikes in the southern region of all of Daniel Boone National Forest that you’ll find (it’s easy).

Natural Arch scenic area:

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With all the places called natural bridge and arch, you can now see why a place like Natural Bridge State Park from earlier is hard to find. This specific spot however is in a totally different area of Daniel Boone National Forest and is an equally amazing place to explore because of the overlooks for multiple arches in the area and hikes you can also take to see them.

Cumberland Falls:

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This is a very probably the largest and longest waterfall in Daniel Boone National Forest and on top of that, there are hikes and even more waterfalls to explore in this area, including one called Eagle Falls that I highly recommend you check out too! Here’s another angle of Cumberland Falls:

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Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park:

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This is the only attraction on the list that is more for families and people seeking to camp out in Daniel Boone National Forest. There are actually tons of spots for that, but this specific area has a great combination of activities for kids and families like obstacle courses, group activities and much more to do.

Split Bow Arch:

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This is one of the best arches in southern area of Daniel Boone National Park. The good news is that the drive will get you very close to this arch before you do a short hike to get there.


These happen to both be located within the Red River Gorge area of Daniel Boone Forest:

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Aside from the bugs at Red River Gorge and incorrect GPS listings, my first visit to Daniel Boone National Forest was pretty awesome and the second one was way better because I understood how to properly explore this place! And there will be even more future explorations of this region when I get the my next chance to do it especially to the arches and natural bridges there (including this one):

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Update: I found an awesome individual on Instagram named Max who explores Daniel Boone National Forest regularly. He shares a lot of the locations he’s found there and I wish I had known about his page earlier. Either way, here is a link to his Instagram here so you can find more places to explore in the region.


Is Daniel Boone National Forest worth visiting?

Absolutely! It has amazing hikes, waterfalls and scenery that is breathtaking for tourists and adventure seekers alike.

Can you drive through Daniel Boone National Forest?

Yes! There are numerous roads that run across Daniel Boone National Forest.

Is Red River Gorge part of Daniel Boone National Forest?

Yes, although on a map it doesn’t look connected, Red River Gorge is classified as part of the national forest.

Things to do nearby:

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While Daniel Boone National Forest is stunning in many spots and I totally understand that I probably only explored 1% of it, let me tell you that outside (and not far) from this area are other beautiful spots you can (and should) explore. Let me give you a few examples:

All of these areas are as vast and in some cases even bigger/longer than Daniel Boone National Forest and you can really do a ton of things there too.

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  1. Hi Vitaliy,

    Thanks so much for writing this! I am headed down from Cleveland towards Great Smokey Mountains National Park and onward along Blue Ridge Pkwy. I was curious about Daniel Boone NF and your article here was the first I found.

    I appreciate you highlighting your favorites and demystifying a few things, since it’s really hard to find things in some of these national forests since they don’t get the visits the national parks get. We’ve seen most of the national parks though, so I’m trying to find more of the better kept secrets in the national forests. This will actually be our first road trip in years through the Appalachians and usually we go out West. I’ll have to see your recommendations for PNW since we’re headed there for 3 weeks this summer.

    Again, thanks!

    1. You are most welcome Lee! I’d like to add some suggestions for the direction you’re heading in (from Cleveland to Great Smoky Mountains):

      1) First, I’d absolutely recommend you stop by Hocking Hills National Park (south of Cleveland). It’s an astounding park.

      2) Then as you head further south into Kentucky and Daniel Boone National Forest, you’ll find a lot of the stuff I mention on the way. Just make sure to label the spots you wish to see on your GPS ahead of time in case you lose connection.

      3) Blue Ridge Parkway is very nice, but it does get repetitive. You may want to check out my post here on things to see on the Appalachian Mountains (which shows you where it starts on the northeast down to Atlanta).

      4) Finally, Great Smoky Mountain National Park is gorgeous and when I went there, it was only really a drive through, but if you want to stop anywhere, Gatlinburg is the closest town with tons to do.

      Hope you have a safe and awesome trip. And if you have any questions about where to go, or about the PNW (or south west like Utah, Arizona, ect…) feel free to ask me anytime.

  2. Some places I recommend in the Northern part of the Daniel Boone are Lockegee Rock and The abandoned fire tower! Lockegee is very close to Morehead and while it is not a very long hike it is some mild rock climbing which leads to a beautiful view! The abandoned fire tower while not a long hike it a huge amount of stairs which lead to the fire tower that you can still go up to this day and get a spectacular view!

    1. Nice suggestions Lexi! Really appreciate you sharing that and I will be sure to add this to my list the next time I go to Daniel Boone National Forest!

  3. I’m not the most experienced outdoors men.

    Is this trek good for novices like myself?

    What do you recommend i pack for the trip?

    Visiting Daniel Boone next weekend for memorial day weekend.

    1. Hi Seth, which exact areas in Daniel Boone National Forest are you visiting? Considering it is huge, you’ll find a lot of options for experienced and inexperienced hikers. For the latter, I recommend more of the northern end of Daniel Boone and visiting places like the Sky Bridge (The famous natural bridge) and Red Gorge.

      Both these places are very scenic and some hiking is involved, but nothing too crazy.

      For natural bridges, the hike to the actual spot is about a half a mile, and it can be steep but it’s made for the general public to access it.
      For Red Gorge, there’s plenty of areas in the loop to go hiking and access parking areas which lead to overlooks, and those overlooks are pretty close to the parking area, which is also an easy hike.

      Just bring bug spray because there’s a lot of sweat bees in the area. Enjoy that memorial day weekend!

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