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 on Daniel Boone National Forest:

  • 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!

Here’s one of many Daniel Boone National Forest photos I took:

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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.

Where Daniel Boone National Forest is located:

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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.

The 10 best things to do in Daniel Boone National Forest Kentucky:

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  1. Explore Flat Lick Falls.
  2. Go to Natural Bridge State Park.
  3. Explore hiking trails at Red River Gorge.
  4. Do some cliff diving and swimming at Red River Gorge.
  5. Check out the amazing scenic overlooks at Red River Gorge.
  6. See Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch.
  7. Explore Natural Arch scenic area.
  8. Visit Cumberland Falls.
  9. Check out Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park.
  10. Hike to Split Bow Arch.

This used to be 5 things (from my first visit), but after revisiting it, I’ve doubled that and plan to add more when I return again. 

The 2 main Daniel Boone National Forest attractions to prioritize seeing:

Obviously covering all 10 of the places above might be difficult unless you are planning to travel through this area for a few days, but let’s suppose you only have a day to explore Daniel Boone National Forest. In my experience, the following places are worth visiting most out of this list:

  1. Red River Gorge.
  2. Natural Bridge State Park (here’s a photo of it):

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Not only are these places right by each other (and in the northern part of Daniel Boone National Forest), but this is where the most activities you can find in the whole area are available and there is also a lot of lodging areas there too. But other than this, let’s get started with the full list:

1) Flat Lick Falls (one of the best Daniel Boone National Forest waterfalls):

daniel boone national forest waterfalls new 01

Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

Here is a map listing for Flat Lick Falls. It’s located in the northern section of Daniel Boone National Forest.


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 an incredibly scenic waterfall with tons to do around it. Here is how Flat Lick Falls looks during autumn:

flat lick falls kentucky 01

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

2) Natural Bridge State Park KY:

Where to find this place within Daniel Boone State Park:

To get to this specific natural bridge, you need to enter Natural Bridge parking lot into your GPS, otherwise it’ll take you into a completely different part of Daniel Boone National Forest (like it did for us the first time we tried finding this place).


In my experience, this is one of the most ironic places to explore in Daniel Boone National Forest and here’s why:

  • On one hand, it’s extremely popular (tons of images on it if you Google Daniel Boone National Forest).
  • On the other hand, if you try to find the official location of it, you will have a difficult time doing so (as I learned, twice) and in my opinion it’s because there’s several other natural bridges across the US and names for this place that confuse people.
  • The good news is that if you use that Google map, you’ll get to the right spot and it’ll take you to this incredible natural bridge.

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Want to see more natural bridges like this? Here’s 8 other regions in the US which have them:

1) Jacob Hamlin Arch. It’s even bigger than the Natural Bridge in Daniel Boone National Forest and it can be found in Coyote Gulch.

2) Many natural Bridges on the California. The place where you’ll find most of them is in Big Sur which I saw on a Pacific coast highway road trip. Some of them are reachable by hiking, others are only able to be seen as you’re driving on the road.

3) The Oregon coast also has a bunch of natural bridges. For Oregon, there’s at least one place called Natural Bridges Oregon that has a bunch of them, and there’s honestly many more but you’re better off seeing my post on the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast which encompasses the majority of the options there.

4) Capitol Reef National Park: It at least 3 natural bridges you can check out. They are Hickman Bridge, Cassidy Arch and Druid Arch. 

5) Arches National Park (most options in the US): Arches National Park probably has the most amount of arches and natural bridges you’ll find in the entire world. Also one thing to note is that both Arches and Capitol Reef are part of several other national parks in Utah called the Mighty 5 and I have a whole post on how to plan a Mighty 5 road trip itinerary so you can see these and the others too.

6) Rainbow Bridge Arch. This is the largest natural bridge in the US and getting happens to also be one of the best hikes in Utah. There’s specific instructions on how to get to Rainbow Bridge National Monument I’ve included in case you wish to go. 

7) Devils Bridge Sedona. This is a very popular hike in Arizona that’s about 4-6 miles and there’s also another one called Vultee Arch near the same area.

8) Big South Fork (south of Daniel Boone National Forest) has very similar natural bridges and one example of that is the North and South Arches on a specific hike known as the Twin Arches Loop trail.

Here are photos of some of these so you can compare them to the Natural Bridge in Daniel Boone National Forest:

daniel boone national forest look alike arches

3) Hike and drive through Red River Gorge:

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Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

Northern most end of Daniel Boone National Forest.


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). I also have a good guide on how to find easy hikes near me that can help you.

4) Cliff diving and swimming at Red River Gorge:

swimming holes at red river gorge daniel boone national forest

Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

It’s all inside Red River Gorge. As you go through the circular road in this location, you will half the time be parallel to the Red River itself. There will be opportunities there to find giant boulders to park near, climb up and jump from. 


Warning: 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. 

5) Enjoy the beautiful overlooks of Red River Gorge:

red river gorge overlook daniel boone national forest

Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

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).

6) Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch:

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Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

It’s located in the southern section of Daniel Boone National Forest.


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).

7) Explore Natural Arch scenic area:

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Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

Southern section of Daniel Boone National Forest. Here is a map listing to Natural Arch scenic area.


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.

8) Visit Cumberland Falls:

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Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Park:

Also the southern section of Daniel Boone National Forest.


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:

daniel boone state park picture

9) Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park:

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Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

Also the southern section of Daniel Boone National Forest. See the map listing for Levi Jackson Wilderness road park.


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.

10) Hike to Split Bow Arch:

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Where to find this place within Daniel Boone National Forest:

Southern end of Daniel Boone National Forest too (see where Split Bow Arch is). You may need to drive on a more remote road (gravel). You should be able to do in a sedan, but if you have a 4×4 or all wheel drive, that’ll be better.


This is one of the best arches in southern 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.

Here’s some more Daniel Boone National Forest photos:

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

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My thoughts after visiting Daniel Boone National Park:

daniel boone national park picture


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.

Frequently asked questions about Daniel Boone State Park:

These are the most common questions I’ve seen about the area (and the answers):

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 near Daniel Boone National Forest:

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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:

1) The Blue Ridge Mountains and Smoky Mountain National Park (2 hours east):

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a few hours away from Daniel Boone National Forest but present many beautiful areas you can explore (millions of acres that is). Right by them is also the Smoky Mountain National Park also worth checking out. This whole area has many beautiful trails, waterfalls, scenic drives and tons of other beautiful spots that look very different than the terrain in Daniel Boone National Forest.

2) Cuyahoga Valley National Park (5 hours north):

Although Cuyahoga Valley National Park is very far from Daniel Boone, it’s very beautiful as its terrain is very similar looking. If you really enjoy your trip to Daniel Boone National Forest and want to see more places like it that are similar (and just so happen to be headed north anyway), I would strongly recommend you visit this national park (I visited it and loved it). It’s a bit more crowded due to it’s popularity, but you’ll quickly see why.

3) Hocking Hills State Park (2 hours north):

Hocking Hills State Park is insanely beautiful and if you have to decide between Cuyahoga Valley vs Hocking Hills State Park, go with Hocking Hills instead because it’s a lot more beautiful there in my opinion. The terrain of Hocking Hills State Park is incredible and also has many gorges, some natural bridges too and spots that are even more beautiful than what you see throughout Daniel Boone National Forest.

4) Falls Creek Falls (2 hours south):

This is an incredible park in Tennessee that has great waterfall hikes and incredibly scenic views in general.

5) Big South Fork (technically it’s right underneath Daniel Boone National Forest):

The Big South Fork area is just as amazing as Daniel Boone National Forest (but smaller). I did a day trip there recently and discovered amazing areas like Honey Creek Loop trail and other incredible arches similar to the Natural Bridge above.

About the Nature Seeker author:

Hi my name's Vitaliy. I love nature travel and this blog encapsulates all of my adventures and top recommendations of what to see (and what to avoid).

8 thoughts on “10 Best Things to do in Daniel Boone National Forest”

  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!

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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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