5 Things You Need to do in Daniel Boone National Forest

Daniel Boone National Forest is an incredibly large area to explore and I had the opportunity to do that last year. Let me share 5 things you need to do while there (if it’s your first visit).

Now before I share this, let me say that I am fully aware that Daniel Boone National Forest is a gigantic piece of land and that there’s a ton to do and explore, but these 5 locations are very well known and absolutely stunning, so for first time visitors, it’s a great way to explore the region and I’ll be adding updates to what else there is to do here every chance I get.

Let me just share a quick story about how this trip even happened. A buddy of mine and I were crossing through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and as spectacular as that wacals, we got bored of seeing the same kinds of sights while on it.

Had we continued, we probably would have seen the same thing for days and because our Appalachian Mountains road trip was entirely improvised and we could go anywhere, the closest thing to do the Blue Ridge Mountains was Daniel Boone National Forest, only being a few hours drive west of us.

Thanks to using some strategies to find hikes near me, we discovered this place, and what followed was one of the best memories I have to date on my adventures!

Here is a map of Daniel Boone National Forest:

daniel boone national forest map screenshot

As you can see, it’s quite close (well 2-3 hours close) and so we took the chance (it worked out!).

The only problem was that the map listings for many of the supposed “good spots” were really messed up and actually led us in a different direction. Let me give you one example…

One of the best spots on the list I’ll be giving you involved a popular natural bridge (called Sky Bridge) location within this region, but the map listing for it show that it’s a completely different area than it really is.

In fact, had we not accidentally encountered it later in our trip, we would never know this, and so this article is going to correct those mistakes and help you save time.

The following areas I will be covering are considered to be some of the best places to explore within this region. 

So with this in mind, let me list the 5 places I highly recommend you see while in this region.

Let’s go!

5 places and things to do in Daniel Boone National Forest:

things to do in daniel boone national forest new 01

1) Explore and enjoy Eagle Falls.

2) Go to Natural Bridge State Park (To see the famous Skybridge).

3) Hike through Red River Gorge.

4) Try cliff diving and swimming at Red River Gorge.

5) Check out the amazing scenic overlooks at Red River Gorge.

The following list will begins from the southern most part of Daniel Boone National Forest and heads north (which is how I explored this area).

Based on what I’ve seen, the more fun spots in this area are in the north so this approach to exploring Daniel Boone National Forest will have you seeing the best spots for last.

1) Check out Eagle Falls (aka Flat Lick Falls):

eagle falls at daniel boone national forest

So this may be a little confusing, but this is a single waterfall in Daniel Boone National Forest that has 2 identities:

  • Eagle Falls which is what I saw the signs for when I went here. But this has multiple waterfall pictures so it can get confusing.
  • Flat Lick Falls which has a more official Google map listing.

Eagle Falls was the first place I discovered with my buddy in Daniel Boone National Forest and by total accident to boot (very happy that happened).

Basically we decided to explore Daniel Boone National Forest without any prior prep. We just saw some amazing pictures and let the GPS take us to what we thought was going to be the famous sandstone bridge region I was talking about earlier.

Sadly, because the map listing was incorrect, we basically ended up lost somewhere and had to stop in a town to ask where the sandstone bridge area was.

Unfortunately no one knew, but they did recommend we visit a popular waterfall location, Eagle Falls, and so we did.

And that ended up being a great decision as can tell from the photos.

Now when we first saw signs for it, it said Eagle Falls, but years later, when I look for this on Google Maps, I’ll still find it, but the location under that name but it is pretty remote and sometimes this happens with Google listings.

flat lick falls kentucky 01

So if you do decide to visit this waterfall, make sure to input Flat Lick Falls into your GPS to play it safe.

Here is the location of Flat Lick Falls. It isn’t a big waterfall, but the surrounding region and the waterfall itself is gorgeous!

There are nice hikes in this area, caves, trails that are in the water and you can actually swim in a small “lake” right near the falls and that’s exactly what I did (and really enjoyed!).

There is a parking lot very close to the falls where the walk to the top of the waterfall is about 5 minutes.

But if you want to reach the base of the falls and even swim in the water, you’ve got to walk a little bit further and hike down to it and that can take 20-30 minutes.

Here’s a picture of me swimming in the area right under Flat Lick Falls:

swimming hole at eagle falls daniel boone national forest

Eagle Falls (Flat Lick Falls) was honestly one of my favorite spots to find in all of Daniel Boone National Forest:

daniel boone national forest caves

Considering how hot the weather was, swimming in this place was extremely refreshing and the whole area is in a forest anyway, so we had nice shade the entire time.

Also here is a great photo of one of the cave areas near this falls:

While we were there, we met a local who visits that spot, asked him about the Skybridge we originally wanted to see, and he told us he didn’t know of any area where we were that had it.

However, he did recommend we go further north through Daniel Boone National Forest as the sights there were much better.

Being that our trip was going to take us north anyway, we decided to try our luck and for the next few hours, continued toward what we thought was the natural bridge.

That turned out to be a very smart decision as you’ll soon find out!

Spoiler: Did we find it? Oh yeah.

2) Natural Bridge State Park (Where you’ll find the famous Sky Bridge):

This is the location that we originally wanted to see and what most people would likely see if they Googled Daniel Boone National Forest.

Except the problem is, most of the spots you’ll be told to find this place are in the wrong location. That will show you the trail to the famous natural bridge in this whole area.

Note: To get here, you NEED to enter Natural Bridge State Park into your GPS, otherwise it’ll take you into a completely different part of Daniel Boone National Forest (trust me I know). 

That famous natural bridge being this one (we hiked further to the right of the natural bridge to another mountain peak to get a picture of it):

skybridge daniel boone national forest

skybridge trail at daniel boone national forest sandstone bridgeNote: While you’re in that region, you will see signs which say “Natural Bridges” or “Skybridge”.

When you get there, you’ll find a large parking area which will lead you to a 1.5 mile hike through beautiful areas before reaching the natural bridge itself.

And let me tell you, while we were doing this hike, we had no idea that it would lead us to the original destination.

It wasn’t until we got to the top and saw the natural bridge that we realized that we accidentally made it:

Now you can actually hike up to the top and over this bridge. Some call it a natural sandstone bridge, some call it a natural bridge, but whatever the case, it’s beautiful and the hike to the top of it is easy. You just need to walk up some steps and through a very narrow corridor in between rocks to get there.

We were in this area in July and let me tell you, not only was it very hot, but the bugs here are merciless. We would later have to deal with even more of them as we continued our trip.

But you will find this particular spot on the list to be very popular. We did run into a lot of people while hiking up the trail to the natural bridge.skybridge picture daniel boone national forest

By the way, natural bridges in my opinion are amazing things, especially in this area, but I had the chance to travel to the west coast and found the natural bridges there to be amazing (and there’s many more there).

This Pacific Northwest road trip article has 10 stunning spots to see where you can see where in the west coast they are located.

So before I move the next destinations, let me just clear this location up since most of you who go to Daniel Boone Forest will likely try to come here:

This natural bridge is in Daniel Boone Forest, but on the northern side and in a park called Natural Bridge State Park.

Note: Also, I strongly recommend looking at what people post here on Tripadvisor for what to see in Daniel Boone if you’re there (more travel ideas for you).

Want to see more sights like Skybridge? 7 other places in the US where you’ll find similar and gigantic natural bridges:

daniel boone national forest forum on what to do1) There happens to be one that’s about twice as long and high. It’s called Jacob Hamlin Arch and it can be found in Coyote Gulch.

2) Then there’s also other natural bridges across the Pacific coast highway, on the California Coast, and especially places like the Oregon Coast.

3) There are also closer areas to Daniel Boone National Forest with natural bridges such as in Virginia State with a place called Natural Bridge State Park.

4) Capital Reef National Park has at least 2 natural bridges you can check out. I saw one of them called Hickman Natural Bridge and it’s almost as big as Skybridge in Daniel Boone National Forest. See more details on Capital Reef National Park in this post on Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks.

5) Arches National Park probably has the most amount of arches and natural bridges you’ll find in the entire world. Arches and natural bridges are very similar in looks.

6) Rainbow Bridge Arch. You’ll find it in one of these amazing hikes in Utah State and it’s literally the largest natural bridge in the United States.

7) Devils Bridge. You’ll find this one in Sedona, Arizona.

8) Rainbow Bridge in eastern Utah (biggest one on the list).

3) Hike and drive through Red River Gorge:

scenic drives at red river gorge daniel boone national forest

This area is literally 10-20 minutes away from natural bridge state park and has a number of fun things you can do there. Firstly, the whole area is shaped in a circle and has a road you can drive around (in a circle). Within that circle are several paths you can take with your car to view amazing outlooks.

If you just want to drive, you will find caves, exits to scenic drives, roads and even trails to outlooks. Here is one of the spots we drove through:

That is a cave with a road inside folks! It is one lane only, so you need to take turns to get through it. But these beautiful areas are all over the Red River Gorge area. 

The remainder of the spots on this list will be in the Red River Gorge area. We just didn’t have enough time to explore the rest of the Daniel Boone area and had to make our way back to the Blue Ridge Mountains the next day. So we figured we could get the most out of our day by just spending the last few hours we had (sunlight) to explore Red River Gorge.

4) Enjoy cliff diving at Red River Gorge:

swimming holes at red river gorge daniel boone national forest

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.

When we saw it was safe, only then did we climb up the boulder and jump from it.

Well in all honesty, my friend jumped, I was too scared.

As much as I love cliff diving and do it often in places near me like in the Catskills, this was just too risky to attempt (My friend didn’t think so though).

But we did swim and if you’re wondering why we would swim in murky water, the answer is that it was very hot that day and we needed to do anything possible to freshen up.

Even swimming in murky water was better than sitting in a car all day or hiking while sweating. And it certainly was a refreshing (but dirty) swim.

5) Enjoy the beautiful overlooks of Red River Gorge:

red river gorge overlook daniel boone national forest

Scenic overlooks are plentiful at Red River Gorge 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.

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.

Red River Gorge waterfalls? Yes they are there:

There are actually numerous (secret) waterfalls in this region but the most popular are:

  • Creation Falls.
  • Copperas Falls.
  • Rock Bridge Falls.

What to bring and wear when hiking in Daniel Boone National Forest:

My friend and I went here during the summer and at times, it was very hot in this region. There were also places where in addition to hiking, we also got wet, so the gear I recommend bringing with you to this region (other than bug spray) reflects all of these experiences:

recommended water shoes for daniel boone national forest Water shoes are a must for many places in Daniel Boone National Forest where water hiking is involved. I recommend these Zhaunglin ones (they are good for this spot). Check Price
water proof socks for daniel boone national forest If you plan to hike after it rains at Daniel Boone National Forest (or when it’s cold), having these kinds of waterproof socks will keep you dry (knee high protection). Check Price
best trekking poles for hiking daniel boone national forest Trekking poles are good if you intend to do serious hikes to places like Skybridge or Red Gorge (fun parts of Daniel Boone National Forest). Check Price
best backpack for daniel boone national forest 01 It gets very hot in Daniel Boone National Forest, so having a good backpack that keeps water will be handy. Check Price
best hiking shoes for daniel boone national forest These sneakers (The Salomons) are my favorite for hikes anywhere, including this particular area. Check Price

5 things to explore in daniel boone national forest infographic

Again, I have to warn you about the bugs at Red River Gorge:

We were swarmed by them in this region and while on the Chimney Rock overlook, we ran into a couple that actually tried camping near the overlook for the night.

They made a huge mistake and I can’t help but recall the boyfriend screaming every few seconds about being bit, yes bit by the bugs.

It’s beautiful at Red River Gorge and its truly worth seeing, but perhaps traveling in a more cold season to this spot is recommended. We’ll keep that in mind for our next visit there and so should you.

Our thoughts on our visit to Daniel Boone National Forest (after the fact):

Overall, visiting Daniel Boone National Forest was a delight as was exploring the spots on this blog post.

And there will be future explorations of this region when I get the my next chance to do it.

Perhaps a drive across the United States to the west coast would be a perfect opportunity to revisit this area again!

While we only had enough time explore Daniel Boone National Forest for one day, we took a risk breaking from our trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it allowed us to see the beautiful spots you saw in this article and it was well worth it.

The change in scenery, the change in landscape and the impromptu change of plans to explore a place without any prior prep was a really fun adventure overall.

And of course, being that this place was so huge, obviously, we could have seen a lot more, but for a day trip through this region, we really did cover a lot of places and all of them are highly recommended for you to see as well.

If you’re someone who knows what to check out at Daniel Boone National Forest and don’t mind recommending some awesome hikes, waterfalls or adventures there, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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 National Forest:

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.

4 awesome things to do near Daniel Boone National Forest:

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 (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). There you will find the Appalachian Mountains, trails, waterfalls, scenic drives and tons of other beautiful spots to explore and the area looks very different than 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 choose between Cuyahoga Valley or Hocking Hills State Park, go with this park instead, because there is a lot to do, in a smaller space and so much to see. The terrain has many gorges, some natural bridges too and areas that are just too difficult to explain unless you see it for yourself!

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8 thoughts on “5 Things You Need 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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