Daniel Boone National Forest covers over 700,000 acres of land and spreads across 21 counties in Eastern Kentucky. This National Forest has over 600 miles of hiking trails that will take you to towering sandstone cliffs, massive natural stone arches, and countless stunning waterfalls cascading into beautiful emerald pools. This beautiful forest is the perfect place to explore. While you could easily spend weeks exploring the enormous area, the below 3-day itinerary will give you a small glimpse into some of the forest’s best features! Please reach out if you have any questions and happy exploring!
Entrance Fee: FREE
Lodging: Daniel Boone National Forest spans out over a 2-million-acre boundary. This itinerary is in a small section of the forest in the southern end of the London District and northern end of the Stearns District. I recommend choosing a campground near Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in the southern portion of the London district to be most centrally located for this itinerary. A full list of the campgrounds and locations can be found here- Lodging Options. Reservations can be made either online or by phone. For hotel lodging options, I recommend staying in Corbin, KY.
Must Know Before You Go:
- I would recommend taking a picture of the area maps at every trailhead and having the trails downloaded from AllTrails. Trail markers on most trails are small, white diamonds on the trees that can easily be missed!
- There is a growing black bear population through Daniel Boone National Forest. Please review bear safety here before heading out- Wildlife Safety. Remember to travel in groups, make noise, and carry bear spray with you on all hikes.
- Cumberland Falls and Yahoo Falls are the only two trailheads with restrooms available.
Cell Service: Sporadic service on most trails.
3 Day Itinerary
Cumberland Falls- Before starting your first hike of the weekend, I recommend making a quick stop at the Cumberland Falls overlook. Near the overlook, there is also a Visitor Center, Gift Shop, restrooms, and seasonal food options. Take the short path to several overlooks of the impressive falls just past the Visitor Center.
Eagle and Cumberland Falls– Next, head over the bridge to the Eagle Falls Trailhead. If you just go to Eagle Falls and back, this hike is 1.8 miles round trip. If you have the time, add on the entire loop trail for 2.5 miles roundtrip. It is well marked (follow the #9), and easy to follow. This trail is strenuous, with around 700 ft of elevation gain, MANY sets of stairs, and some scrambling needed just before you reach the falls. Also, the first portion of the trail, where you can get more lovely views of Cumberland Falls, is near a cliff ledge. There is a railing, but during the wet season, the area can get quite slippery. The 40 ft, Eagle Falls is one of my favorite Kentucky waterfalls and one you will not want to miss😊
Vanhook Falls- To reach these 40 ft falls, park in the small lot at the junction of KY-192 and KY-1193. Cross the street to take the Sheltowee Trace Trail to Vanhook Falls. This trail is 5.8 miles roundtrip, moderate in difficulty, and has over 600 ft of elevation gain. Keep an ear out for waterfalls along the way. There are several stunning falls (6+) along the way, all of which are just a few steps off the main trail.
Dog Slaughter Falls- After making your way back from Vanhook Falls, head to the Dog Slaughter Falls Trailhead off Forest Road (~20-mile drive). GPS will most likely take you to a trailhead with no parking and the sign will read 4 miles to Dog Slaughter Falls. Don’t stop there. Instead, head up Forest Road another couple of miles, until you see an area with a few small pull-offs.
Once parked, take the small trail across the wooden bridge. There should be a sign on the other side of the bridge that says, “1 mile to Dog Slaughter Falls”. At the sign, turn right and follow the white diamonds on the trees. If you walk all the way down into the falls area, this trail is 2.4 miles roundtrip, moderate in difficulty, and has around 200 ft of elevation gain. This beautiful, 15 ft waterfall is a wonderful way to end day 2!
Julia Lynn, Princess, and Lick Creek Falls- There are several ways to reach these falls but the easiest and shortest route is from the Yamacraw Bridge Trailhead. The parking area is very small, but even on the weekend, we were the only ones in the lot all day. This route is easy to moderate in difficulty, 6 miles roundtrip, and has about 400 ft of elevation gain.
From the Yamacraw Bridge Trailhead, stay on the Sheltowee Trace Trail for 0.7 miles to Julia Lynn Falls. Julia Lynn Falls will be tucked into a rocky alcove on the right side of the trail. From Julia Lynn Falls, travel approximately another 0.7 miles to a three-way split in the trail, just before the bridge that crosses over Lick Creek. Head down the short, middle trail to Princess Falls. Make sure to check out the views both above and below the falls!
After exploring the Princess Falls area, head back to the trail junction and take the Lick Creek Falls Trail another 1.5 miles to Lick Creek Falls. The Lick Creek Falls Trail (#631) is the highest of the three trails at the trail junction. After exploring Lick Creek Falls, head back the way you came for approximately 3 miles.
Yahoo Falls- The last hike of the weekend is quite the showstopper. Yahoo Falls cascades over a massive rock overhang for 113 ft! From the trailhead, there are a number of ways to reach the falls in a series of shorter and longer loops. The short loop is approximately 1-mile round trip. It includes exploring the lower falls area and both overlooks. And if you are up for adding another 1.6 miles onto your hike, consider taking the short side trip to Yahoo Arch just off the upper loop! This was an impressively beautiful area and a wonderful way to end the trip😊
Hope you have a wonderful adventure in Daniel Boone National Forest!
Looking for another awesome Kentucky park? Check out our Mammoth Cave National Park itinerary!