Along the Appalachian foothills and the Cumberland Plateau, the 706,000-acre Daniel Boone National Forest is a vast playground for wildlife as well as humans. Originally named Cumberland National Forest, the forest was renamed in 1966 to Daniel Boone National Forest in honor of the famous frontiersman that spent a lot of time in this area of Kentucky. Spanning over 21 counties of eastern Kentucky from Morehead to the Tennessee border, the forest boasts 3,400 miles of cliffs, ridges, and ravines to explore.
There are also over 600 miles of trails and roads to check out if you enjoy hiking, horseback riding, or ATV riding. There is plenty to do here in the winter months as well since Kentucky rarely gets any snowfall that amounts to much. However, the trails are beautiful after a light snowfall so make sure you pack the camera in the RV. The ride through the forest shows off a plethora of diverse landscape with meadows, fields, hills, and mountains.
The lakes, ponds, and streams do not ice over so you can fish all year but don’t expect to do any ice fishing. Laurel River is a popular fishing spot as well as Cumberland River, Rockcastle River, and Red River. Laurel River Lake, Lake Cumberland, and Cave Run Lake are teeming with numerous types of fish and other water critters. There are also 21 RV campgrounds here at Daniel Boone National Forest and we have highlighted our top three favorites.
One of the best things about Daniel Boone National Forest is the drive to get here. That is because many of the roads into the forest are scenic byways including the Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway and the Zilpo National Forest Scenic Byway. There are sections of the Cumberland Heritage Byway and the Wilderness Road Heritage Highway in the forest as well.
Located in eastern Kentucky, there are several major highways and interstates that can get you there. From the north and east you can take Interstate 64 or 75 and from the west you can take Interstate 81 or 77. If you are coming in from the south, take Interstate 40 or 75 to Highway 11 or 15. Although many of the roads into the forest are paved, they are not as well-maintained as city or county roads so proceed with caution, especially if you are pulling a trailer or driving a large rig.
Since most of the campgrounds are primitive, expect narrow gravel or dirt roads with potholes and low hanging branches. A few of the more modern campgrounds like Twin Knobs, Zilpo, Holly Bay, and Grove are made for RV camping so they keep the roads maintained. However, it is still a forest so you will need to be wary of the flora and fauna in the area.
Twin Knobs Campground is a huge park open from March through October with 700 acres of space to enjoy. They have 213 campsites with a wide variety of amenity options. This includes 33 double sites with electricity, 81 single sites with electricity, 23 double sites without electricity, and 76 single sites without electricity. They each have a table and fire pit and there are flush toilets, showers, and water spigots around the park. In addition, there is a camp store where you can get snacks, food, ice, bait, and other camping supplies.
The campground is located on Cave Run Lake, where you can go boating, fishing, swimming, and all other water activities you can think of. They also have hiking trails, horseshoe pits, volleyball and basketball courts, and a beach with a bath house open daily. Pets are allowed as long as they are supervised and restrained at all times. If you are not able to get a reservation, be sure to come early so you can get the spot you want because they fill up fast.
Great Meadows Campground has 18 spacious campsites in the Stearns District that can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length. Deer Loop is on the right side and Raccoon Loop is on the right side. Each loop has its own vault toilet, two potable waterspouts, and horseshoe pits. Raccoon Loop is located along the Rock Creek, which boasts a plethora of rainbow trout. Each campsite is equipped with a fire ring with grill and a picnic table for your convenience.
Water is not available from November through mid-April. There are several trails nearby including Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trails Section 37 and 38, Mark Branch Trail #635, and Gobblers Arch Trail #636. Dogs and cats are allowed as long as they are supervised and restrained at all times during your stay. These sites are on a first-come, first-served basis so be sure to come early so you can get the spot you want because they fill up fast and there are limited campsites.
Koomer Ridge Campground is located in the Red River Gorge in the Cumberland District and features a shady forested area with 54 campsites but only 19 can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length. They all have a fire ring and picnic table. The campground also boasts a bathhouse and toilets that have running water during the peak months. Vault toilets are available all year long. Drinking water is available from several hydrants year-round as well.
Besides hiking, biking, and picnicking, this campground also offers programs in the campground amphitheater every Saturday from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Pets are welcome as long as they are supervised and restrained at all times during your stay. These spots are first-come, first-served so be sure to come early so you can get the spot you want because they fill up fast, especially on holidays and weekends.
If you are into rock climbing, pack your climbing gear in the rig before you go because there are some fantastic cliffs in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Red River Gorge Geological Area is the most popular with many rappelling spots. There are also unique rock shelters that were used by the indigenous peoples hundreds of years ago. Bee Rock, Beaver Creek Wilderness, and Natural Arch Scenic Area are other popular climbing spots. Most of these are in the eastern section of the forest where the best sandstone cliffs are.
There are more than 150 miles of roads and trails specifically marked for ATV riding so make sure you hook the ATV trailer to the RV before heading to the forest. With 17 trails to choose from in the main sections of the forest and many minor trails, there is a trail that is perfect for everyone. Many of these trails are also used by hikers, bikers, and equestrians so be alert and courteous to others. Also, you need to wear a helmet and make sure you and your ATV are properly licensed.
There are many spots in the Daniel Boone National Forest where you can do some scuba diving, but the most popular place is the Laurel River Lake in the London Ranger District. There is over 5,600 acres of crystal-clear water that runs 200 miles around the lake for you to explore. These peaceful coves and cliff-lined shores are fun places to dive in to see the many varieties of fish as well as the colorful plants and other critters in the lake.
With more than 150 trails from the quarter-mile Wittleton Arch Trail to the 273-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, there is sure to be a hiking path here that is your favorite. In the Red River Gorge area, you can find 39 trails from a half-mile to seven miles long. There are 42 paths in the Cave Run Lake Area from a quarter-mile to 20 miles long. The London Ranger District has 42 trails as well from a half-mile to 13 miles long. Be sure to pack your hiking shoes in the RV because some of these trails are rugged.
There is a plethora of game, both large and small in the Daniel Boone National Forest so if you are a hunter, be sure to pack your hunting gear in the camper. Large game includes elk, deer, and bear, which are plentiful in the forest. There is also a variety of small game including grouse, quail, rabbits, and squirrels. If you would rather do some waterfowl hunting, there are many ducks, geese, and coots that you can find in many of the wetland areas here.
If you need some shooting practice, try out one of the shooting ranges here in the forest. The Clear Creek Shooting Range has four shooting tables and four posts for hanging targets at 25, 50, 100, and 200 yards. Whitman Branch Shooting Range has five shooting benches with two lanes for 100 yards, one for 50 yards, and two at 25 yards. The Appletree Shooting Range has two large sheltered benches with one target holder at 25 and 50 yards and two target holders at 100 yards. And the Keno Shooting Range has a 25-yard pistol range and a 50 to 100-yard rifle range.