Editor’s note: The 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention will hold its annual meeting this November in the heart of Appalachia. This article is part of a series looking at some of the things Kentucky Baptists might want to see and experience in the days before and after the annual meeting.
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (KT) – When the bright colors of the autumn season begin exploding, there’s no better place to be than eastern Kentucky.
From mountain overlooks, to trails, to state parks and lakes nestled along the Kentucky-West Virginia border, visitors can take in the breathtaking explosion of brilliant oranges, reds and yellows that the changes of leaves bring to the fall season.
Many of the best sights can be found traveling the scenic roads through the mountains. The first bursts of red, yellow and gold fall foliage can begin to appear in some parts of eastern Kentucky as early as mid-September and hang around into November.
Josh Johnson, tourism director for Paintsville and Johnson County, said there is always an influx of visitors coming up US 23 during the leaf-changing season.
“A lot of people go toward the lakes where you can see a wide variety,” Johnson said. “Then a lot of people just go up and down U.S. 23 with the mountains on both sides. People take advantage of the natural beauty that we have to offer.”
Johnson said Yatesville Lake, located in Lawrence County, is a popular destination for travelers along with Paintsville Lake and the lake at Jenny Wiley. Boat rentals are available at each of the lakes, he said.
“We have driving tours you can do that takes you through the towns,” he said. “We do see a lot more day-trippers and weekend trips. This past year we had a lot of people drive here from central and western Kentucky.”
The first weekend of October brings in thousands of visitors for the Apple Festival, and Johnson said it’s another special opportunity to witness the amazing colors from the changing leaves.
For the more adventuresome, eastern Kentucky offers plenty of opportunity for viewing the spectacular colors. Several of the trails are within the Breaks Interstate Park including the Birch Knob Section, a trail that totals 28 miles and offers opportunities for photography from rock outlooks to the viewing platform between Elkhorn and US 23.
The Highlands section is the highest part of the Pine Mountain trail and goes for 16 miles. Hiking along the High Rock Loop Trail, visitors are treated to waterfalls at Bad Branch State Nature Preserve.
Little Shepherd Trail continues for another 38 miles from US 119 to US 421 along a seldom-traveled 1½-lane blacktop road. From US 119 to Kingdom Come State Park is 14 miles where primitive camping and water is available.
“There are so many different ways to view the fall colors here from hiking a trail to taking a boat to driving up the highway,” Johnson said.