Just over an hour’s drive to the west of Louisville lies Lexington. The Horse Capital of the World is a must-see on any Kentucky itinerary, and you don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate its countryside. The city has a more Southern feel, while the surrounding region is a patchwork of bluegrass fields, the signature grass that gifted the state its nickname and its horses their oomph.
For adventure, there are 45 state parks and six national parks here (including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln). Waterfalls, giant sandstone arches and huge subterranean networks lure explorers, and in the west of the state, Mammoth Cave NP is home to the longest cave system on the planet, with over 650km of passageways.
The state parks, in particular, feel less saturated than many others in the US. There is just room to breathe here, whether hiking trails, kayaking or keeping an eye out for the state’s black bears, which have returned in their hundreds since they were all but eradicated in the early 20th century.
For sheer spectacle, finish in the canyons of Red River Gorge National Geological Area, a part of Daniel Boone National Forest. It lies in the east of Kentucky, in the Appalachian foothills made famous for the music they inspired. There really is something for everyone in the Bluegrass State.