A Secluded Kentucky State Park with Endless Charm and Possibilities
One of the many deer who call the Pennyrile Forest home.
If you’ve never visited Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, you have to promise me you’ll go this year – this month, if possible.
Would “this week” be pushing it?
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park doesn’t get the attention – or even the crowds the other Kentucky State Parks get. Comparatively speaking, it’s smaller and quieter. It’s more humble than some of our flashier parks. As we all know, Lake Cumberland and Kentucky Dam Village have never tasted humble pie. They’re pretty cocky. If they were to take human form, they’d strut. And we all love that about them.
But, every now and then, isn’t it wonderful to lose yourself in a world of peaceful beauty and serenity and turn the soundtrack or your world down…. way, way down?
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park has everything you’re looking for:
- Family Fun! There are plenty of things to do with the family -golfing, hiking, camping, tennis, fishing, swimming… Every member of the family will have a great time. Guaranteed.
- Privacy and relaxation. The secluded forest ensures that the only sounds you’ll hear are the ones made by nature, itself. Birds singing, trees rustling with deer, leaves as they’re gently shaken by the wind, a rolling creek, the sounds of lake water splashing…
- Beauty everywhere you look. The last time we were there, everywhere I pointed my camera begged to be photographed!
- Wildlife and birds are abundant in the Pennyrile Forest. Deer, turkeys, squirrels, racoons, birds, geese, frogs, and on and on. If you love animals even half as much as i do, you’ll be in Heaven.
- Clifty Creek Restaurant, in the lodge, is outstanding. As you can imagine, we spend a lot of time at Kentucky State Parks and have eaten at too many of their restaurants to count. The true test of a State Resort Park’s restaurant is the buffet. If you’re able to make food so well that it stands up to the scrutiny of a buffet, you’re onto something. We’ve ordered off the menu AND the buffet at Pennyrile and have never been anything but thrilled with the food and full as ticks as a result. I love what they do with catfish in the Clifty Creek Restaurant. The coating is so flavorful and the catfish is succulent and each bite is a mouth-watering experience. If you love fried potatoes, you’ll flip over the ones served at Pennyrile. Like the ones served at Rough River Dam State Resort Park and Barren River Lake State Resort Park – their fried potatoes are the Bomb with a capital B.
Lush Forest, Beautiful Lake, Lodging, and Excellent Catfish
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park calls the thick, beautiful 15, 331-acre Pennyrile Forest home. If someone were to ask Pennyrile Forest, “Are you off the beaten track?,” it would reply, “Track? What track?” Thanks to many well-placed signs, you can’t possibly get lost (thank you, state, thank you), but it doesn’t sit off the main road, so to speak.
Yet, again, it’s part of its charm. It doesn’t take long to get to Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, but it does take a few turns. It would appear that secluded forests take the whole “get away from it all” seriously. That’s pretty cool of them, I think.
On our most recent trip to Pennyrile Forest, a storm hit just as I was trying to take pictures of the lodge and it’s surroundings. As luck would have it, a family reunion was taking place in the dining room that evening, so I couldn’t even get pictures of the magnificent view out of the dining room’s windows. Instead of pouting, Michael (husband) and I just sat down and enjoyed a wonderful meal off of the buffet. Catfish, shrimp, pork chops, fried okra, fried potatoes, salad, green beans, coconut cake… and it was all exceptionally delicious. It was some of the best catfish I’ve had at any state resort park – and, you know me, I’m as familiar with catfish as Cookie Monster is with cookies. It has a similar effect on me now that I think about it.
After eating, I (of course) hit the gift shop. I always buy things from our State Park gift shops. Not only do they have the coolest things, it’s my way of doing a little extra something to support our state parks. The woman working in Pennyrile Forest State Park’s gift shop was the friendliest gift shop worker I’ve ever met. She was a real asset to the park and personified it the way it should have been personified – friendly, warm, welcoming, and very likable.
You may have noticed that when I come across anyone who I think is off the chart friendly and helpful, I call them out on it! I may not always know their name, but I don’t hesitate to shine a spotlight on them and say, “Well done!” It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant, a museum, or a state park, I simply like to acknowledge people who give Kentucky a good name. We’re known for being uncommonly warm and friendly, so I LOVE people who support this reputation!
Sure, it’d be easy to “call out” surly, unfriendly workers or give a big “Hmmph!” to servers who seem hellbent on ignoring your empty glass – but my husband and I prefer to just look at each other and say, “That didn’t just happen.” On Genuine Kentucky, you will almost always see us “Ac-cen-tuate the positive…“ It helps us sleep better at night.
The friendly gift shop employee saw me looking at bags of organic candy and told me which ones were the best. I took her expert advice, and she was absolutely right. We talked about the rain (we’re both in favor of it) and I told her that Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park was one of our favorite state parks. She smiled a huge smile and said, “Thank You!” It was obvious with her every word and action that the park and the forest meant a lot to her and that struck me as a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Everyplace in the world should have people just like her. No one would ever go out of business. People are drawn to people they like, people who smile and go out of their way to make you feel welcome. (Come on managers, it’s not rocket science. Hire happy people. If they smile, hire them. If they’re snarly, send them down the road.)
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve talked a lot about how relaxing Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park is, but don’t think for one minute that it’s not also a lot of fun. In fact, people of all ages will fall in love with this beautiful park.
The picture above shows only part of the beautiful stone lodge. There was a family reunion at Pennyrile on this particular day and I think half of them were convened in front of the lodge at the time! They were having such a great time, their happiness was infectious. I couldn’t get the shot I was after.. but their happiness did make me smile.
Lodging at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park
The 24-room stone lodge looks like something out of an English fairy tale book. Each time I see the lodge, I think of one word: Charming. That may sound kind of cheesy… in fact, I think I smell cheddar right now… but it’s the most appropriate word for this beautiful lodge – inside and out. There’s a homey feeling that I just love. It honestly strikes me more as a Bed and Breakfast than a lodge and you don’t get the feel of a “hotel” even once. Even the lodge’s bathrooms look like the ones you’d find in a southern Bed and Breakfast. Spotless, beautiful, and charming with southern fingerprints all over the decorating.
The lodge looks out over the lake and is surrounded on all sides by wooded hills, a little something they call the forest. – The view of the lake and forest from the lodge’s restaurant will take your breath away.
In addition to the lovely stone lodge, the park has 12 cottages with either 1 or 2 bedrooms. 8 of the cottages look out over the lake, while the other 4 are tucked into the woods east of the lodge. The 8 cottages along the lake even have their own docks. One of these (number 508) is called the “Honeymoon Cottage.” It has a sleeping loft with a double bed. You get to the loft by climbing a spiral staircase. There’s a window at the head of the bed that looks out onto the hillside which gives it a “sleeping in a tree house” effect.
Camping at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park
The campground at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park is, as you’d imagine, located in woodlands. It sits well away from the park’s entrance on Kentucky 109. All of the campground sites have utilities hookups.
The park’s miniature golf course is at the edge of the area, as is a playground. The beach, boat dock, and lodge are within walking distance of the campground – which is something that’s always a huge plus.
Trails and Hiking
If you love hiking and trails, say, “Hello” to paradise because you’ve found your park. The nine trails at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park vary in length from 0.2 mile to 4.5 miles. What’s more, they all intersect! This means you can. literally, cover most of the park on foot.
Some trails feature stone steps and wooden shelters constructed in the 1930′s. How cool’s that?
Pennyrile Lake is home to bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass. If you don’t have your fishing gear, don’t fret – just borrow some from the dock or front desk!
Canoeing and Boating
Canoes can be rented at the park boat dock Memorial Day through Labor Day. Pedal boats, row boats, canoes, and trolling motors are also available for renting.
Here’s something to keep in mind: Larger motorboats are restricted from Pennyrile Lake. The upside of this is the enhanced peace and quiet! However, Lake Beshear is located just four miles from the lodge. I will provide your with additional fishing opportunities and larger motorboats are allowed on Lake Beshear.
Pedal Boats! – Rental pedal boats available at the boat dock. Since larger motorboats are restricted from Pennyrile Lake, you don’t have to worry about being interrupted on your leisurely rounds.
In the Clifty Creek restaurant, you can request a table by the birdfeeders and enjoy the many birds who call Pennyrile Forest home. The lake trail is provides outstanding birding opportunities year round. As I often stress when writing about Kentucky State Parks, remember to take your camera!
If you go to the area by the golf course, you’ll see a large, lily pad-coverd pond. Geese love this area. As you can see in the picture above, they are uncommonly beautiful and so much fun to watch… and photograph.
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park Golf Course
The park has an 18 hole golf course that’s a real thing of beauty. The front 9 includes a couple of encounters with water and all 18 holes are surrounded by rolling terrain and the beautiful woods. The course is as fun as it is challenging. In my husband’s words, Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park’s golf course will give you “all that you can handle!” Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park has a pro-shop, riding carts, pull carts, and rental clubs. Course open year-round, weather permitting. Eighteen-hole golf packages available.
Here’s something that’s pretty unique: Pennyrile Forest offers 8 pull-through campsites specifically designed for horse owners. These sites feature electric, water and sewer hook-ups. Each site has its own corresponding hitching posts for up to four horses, picnic table, lantern hanger & fire ring/grill combo. Horse campers have access to all campground amenities, which include bathhouses, laundry area and playgrounds. A new 1.25 mile horse trail near the campground connects horseback riders to the 40+ miles of horse trails on the adjacent Pennyrile State Forest.
Bring your horse and enjoy the new 1.25 mile horse trail near the campground which connects riders to the 40+ miles of horse trails on the adjacent Pennyrile State Forest!
Wait! There Are Even More Things to Do:
- Tennis. Overnight guests can check out equipment.
- Horseshoes. There is a horseshoe pit between the mini golf course and the amphitheater. Equipment is available to borrow from the campstore.
- Miniature Golf. Enjoy the 18-hole miniature golf course at the park.
- Picnicking. Grills are available at all cottages and campsites. Picnic shelters, tables, and playgrounds are located throughout the park.
- Playgrounds. One playground (the newest) is located by the lodge and is accessible year-round. The campground playground is only available for play when the campground is open. The playground in the beach/boat dock area is accessible by the lake trail Nov 1-March 15.
Contact Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park
20781 Pennyrile Lodge Rd.
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
Phone: (270) 797-3421
Toll Free: (800) 325-1711