Fed by the Kentucky River, Buckhorn Lake is an excellent destination for outdoor lovers. Both land and water activities are king here. The picturesque landscapes of the Appalachian Mountain Range and Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky make this COE lake the ideal vacation spot. The reservoir that is Buckhorn Lake was created in 1967 and is technically an impoundment of the Middle Fork Kentucky River totaling 1,230 acres.
It's easy to stay active at Buckhorn Lake in any season. In the summer, swim and paddle in the lovely blue water. The water is warm in-season so it's easy to see why this Amy Corps of Engineers park draws visitors from all around. In the fall, head out for a hike or do some fishing. One of the main attractions of this area is its isolation. It's quiet and peaceful and a great place to relax and read a book.
There are two COE camping options at Buckhorn Lake for your convenience. Both campgrounds can accommodate rigs under 50 feet quite easily, and the largest trailer can be up to 70 feet. The camping here puts you on the doorstep of the Kentucky River and Buckhorn Lake so you can effortlessly indulge in everything the park has to offer.
While there's no need to leave Buckhorn Lake, if you are looking to explore more of this beautiful Kentucky countryside, head to the nearby attractions of Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park and the Daniel Boone National Forest which is about an hour and a half away. Both are fantastic hiking areas.
The roads leading to Buckhorn Lake are winding with some switchbacks. It's a good idea to check your tires and brakes before setting out on the journey. Watch out for low hanging branches and other impediments while navigating this mountainous terrain. The smaller your rig, the easier it will be to get around. The drive is a little over two hours from Lexington.
All roads to Buckhorn Lake and within the campgrounds are paved which will help you get around.
There is plenty of parking at Buckhorn Lake without restrictions and parking a larger RV or trailer won't be an issue.
There is no public transportation to Buckhorn Lake.
Buckhorn Campground can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 50 feet in length. Open from the beginning of May to the end of September, this location is a wonderful spot to enjoy the scenery of the Cumberland Plateau. Take advantage of the easy access to a hiking trail and areas to fish on site. The campsites are waterfront and have both water and electric hookups.
Enjoy boating on the Middle Fork Kentucky River and have the kids visit the playground. There are many amenities here like a dump station, access to cable TV, showers, and restrooms. There are even laundry facilities onsite. Use the picnic table and fire pit at your campsite to cook your dinner or use the campground's picnic shelter for a change of pace.
With 29 campsites, Trace Branch Campground is quite small. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in amenities and location. You can stay here with a rig up to 70 feet but sites that can fit rigs up to 50 feet are more common. Many of the sites are waterfront and have both water and electric hookups.
Campsites have their own picnic tables and fire pits and they are pet-friendly. There is a playground for the younger folks and activities for the whole family using the horseshoe pits or basketball court. The restrooms and showers, as well as the dump station, are convenient.
The water of Buckhorn Lake is quite warm in the summer so it's an ideal location to work on your swimming skills. The lake is a better place to jump in instead of the river. The Kentucky River can be murky away from the dam. The closer you get to the dam, the better the swimming conditions.
Swimming is unsupervised, so plan accordingly. There's really no better way to cool off on a hot Kentucky day than to get in the water.
Buckhorn Lake is calm. It's a great place to hop in your canoe or kayak to explore the many branches and coves that make up the shoreline. If it's warm, find a secluded spot and take a refreshing dip. You can also fish from your boat if you're feeling lucky.
If you didn't bring your own boat, head to Buckhorn Lake State Park for rentals. You can rent a pontoon boat to tour around for a few hours or the whole day. The marina at the state park is full service with a boat launch, boat ramp, and supplies like snacks and fuel.
Fishing is an extremely popular pass time at Buckhorn Lake. Some of the catches of the day here are white crappie, trout, bluegill, muskie, largemouth bass, and channel catfish.
You can expect the lake to be well-stocked with fish to increase your chances of success. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks the area just below the dam, called the stilling basin, with trout. They do this annually from April to November. They also stock muskie in the lake since they used to live in the Middle Fork Kentucky River before the reservoir was created.
Make sure you have a valid Kentucky fishing license and if you happened to forget your rod and reel, stop by the marina at Buckhorn Lake State Park for their fishing gear loaner program.
The lush mountainous terrain surrounding Buckhorn Lake keeps hikers coming back year after year.
For a moderate hike, check out the Pine Shadows Trail. Although short at 0.5 miles long, the first half of the trail's loop is uphill. You can access the trail from the Tailwater Recreation Area, where there is parking if you need it.
When venturing out onto the trails in this part of Perry County, bring your camera for photo opportunities of wildlife and vegetation but also be aware that this area has poison ivy. Step carefully.
Birdwatchers will be glad they made the trip to Buckhorn Lake. Check the great blue heron, belted kingfisher, and red-winged blackbird off your must-see list. If you happen to visit in the spring, be prepared for the warbler migration that occurs at this time each year.
In the fall and winter, elk sightings are common. If you want to increase your chances of seeing them, you can always join an elk-watching tour run from nearby Buckhorn Lake State Park. Pack your camera and start exploring - you're bound to see something exciting.
Both of the COE campgrounds at Buckhorn Lake have picnic shelters for use by campers. Why not enjoy a meal outdoors between activities? Due to the remoteness of this COE park, it's best to bring your food and drinks with you.
There is so much shoreline at Buckhorn Lake that you won't have any trouble finding a picnic spot with a view of the water. Lounge at one of the grassy areas or brave more rocky terrain with your lunch, depending on your adventure level.