If you’re looking for an overlanding adventure in the forests of the South Eastern United States, Kentucky won’t disappoint.
Much of the state is within the Appalachian Mountains and covered in national and state forests, and Kentuck offers plenty of wilderness, forest roads and off-road trails to explore. Home to a variety of beautiful and challenging overlanding routes, the Bluegrass State is a must-visit destination for any thrill seeker.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the best overlanding routes in Kentucky. From the challenging and rocky Daniel Boone National Forest to the scenic and rolling Pennyrile Forest, there’s something for everyone in Kentucky.
Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway
The Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB) is a moderately difficult, high-clearance route for street legal automobiles. It travels along ancient county roads around the Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest (see below), utilizing historic highways. Terrain surfaces range from one-third gravel to one-third trail to one-third asphalt. Dispersed camping is allowed along the route, with proper permits.
The byway is designed for entry-level off-roading, which makes it a terrific overlanding route — modestly capable SUVs and 4x4s will be able to navigate the route safely. The route is just under 100 miles long and travels through some of Kentucky’s most scenic wilderness, including the Red River Gorge.
Kentucky is home to several national forests or areas managed by the National Forest Service that offer opportunities for overlanding. The forest service makes motorized vehicle maps to national forests roads and trails in Kentucky, which can be downloaded here.
Spread across 21 counties of eastern Kentucky, the Daniel Boone National Forest manages more than 708,000 acres of national forest system lands within a 2.1 million-acre proclamation boundary. From over 600 miles of trails to two federally recognized wildernesses and more than 250 recreation sites, the forest is arguably the best place in Kentuck for overland adventures.
Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area
Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area includes Turkey Bay OHV Area, which provides designated OHV and primitive trails for OHV camping opportunities. The area consists of approximately 100 miles of primary, secondary, and tertiary trails for many different OHV riding experiences, including four-wheel-drive trucks and SUVs.
Six Kentucky national parks, two of which are particularly good for outdoor enthusiasts. These are Mammoth Cave National Park, the largest known cave system in the world, and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which offers whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking and horseback riding.