Cold weather need not put a damper on adventures during winter months. Head for the great outdoors and work up some heat and excitement while ATV-ing, caving, hiking, elk viewing, hunting and horseback riding. Kentucky scenery provides a beautiful backdrop for exploring its natural beauty.
The most temperate discoveries are to be made in underground exploration of miles and miles of caves where temperatures remain nearly constant in the mid-50s year-round. Diamond Caverns in Park City has halls lined with cascading calcite and many other visual jewels. Winter tours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. Admission is $16 for adults, $8 for children 4-12, and ages three and under enter free. The caves are closed Christmas and New Year’s Day. Call 270-749-2233 or visit www.diamondcaverns.com.
Several Kentucky venues provide the thrill of spotting American Bald Eagles in their natural winter habitat. There are several trips and packages to choose from across the southern parts of the state. The Ballard County Wildlife Management Area in La Center, about 25 miles west of Paducah, has two tours in January that are organized by Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park (800-325-0146). Or board the yacht CQ Princess to spy majestic birds from the water. Cruises are scheduled at Kentucky Dam Village Jan. 15-17, Lake Barkley State Resort Park Jan. 29-31 (800-325-1708), and Kenlake State Resort Park Feb. 5-7 (800-325-0143). At Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, you can view the birds from custom barges Jan. 15-16, Jan. 22-23 and Feb. 5-6 (800-325-2282). Tickets cost $20 to $55 per person. Van tours are also offered. More info is available at www.parks.ky.gov.
Gear up and zip off on an off-road ATV for some four-wheel action. Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Park in Harlan has a year-round schedule but the views are unique during colder months. Make repeat treks with a 30-day permit for $20 or $35 gets you a pass for a full year of roaring action. The park has 7,000 acres and trails that range from easy for beginners to moderate and extreme for the more adventuresome. Find out more by calling 606-573-9156 or visit www.harlancountytrails.com.
Elk viewing is the fastest growing tourism attraction in the nation and the impressive Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a spectacular way to view elk and bison in the wild. Drive your own vehicle for a self-guided tour of the prairie lands being restored to their natural state on a 3.5 mile paved loop that’s open dawn to dusk. With leaves gone in winter, spotting these wild animals in an area where they once roamed freely gets a bit easier. You’ll pay $5 per car at LBL’s Golden Pond visitor center or call for information about van tours. You can enter via U.S. 68 from Cadiz on the east or Aurora on the west. Call 270-924-2000 or check out www.lbl.org.
Hike long or short trails and you just may catch native wildlife in their habitat as well as incredible vistas at any number of Kentucky’s more than 50 state parks. Some of the most beautiful scenery in the country is along miles of trails that wind through any part of the state. Venture to Pine Mountain State Resort Park (800-325-1712) in southeastern Kentucky near Cumberland Gap and take your pick as to how far you want to venture and how strenuous you want to be along wooded areas where deer, rabbits, squirrels and many types of birds can be spotted. Kentucky’s 17 resort parks located throughout the state have lodges with stunning views of the natural world and cozy accommodations in lodges and cabins. Lodge dining rooms serve three meals so leave the food prep and clean up to others after a day in the great outdoors. Special activities and programs run through the winter and into early spring. Visit www.parks.ky.gov for a rundown on what’s available at each park and which special room rates apply.
Whether you’re a novice or experienced rider, saddle up and take in winter landscapes from horseback. Holly Creek Farms in Campton (www.hollycreekfarms.com) provides the horse and guidance for trail rides along wooded terrain in the foothills of the Appalachians just off the Daniel Boone Parkway. They also offer guided ATV rides and hiking around the farm. Call to reserve a spot (606-668-3180) and to choose how long you want to sit in the saddle. In the Bluegrass, Big Red Stables near Harrodsburg offers riding on spotted saddle horses or Tennessee walking horses all year round. Riding lessons and trail rides are great winter time adventures. Make it a weekend getaway to nearby Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill or Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg and kick back in historic surroundings with modern amenities. Group rates at Big Red are available. Make an appointment and check fees by calling 859-734-3118.
Hunters can find plenty of winter time game in portions of the more than 700,000 acre Daniel Boone National Forest where hunting is permitted. For seasons and restrictions, consult www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/recreation/hunting.shtml or go to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Web site at www.kdfwr.state.ky.us and click on Hunting and Trapping. Licenses may be purchased at the site, too. Regulations in some cases vary by county. Natural Bridge State Resort Park is in the forest and has spectacular overlooks throughout.
Hunting options are available at the John A. Kleber Wildlife Management Area between Owenton and Frankfort, including deer, wild turkey, rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, quail and waterfowl. Hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing are also popular at the 2,600 acre preserve. Call 502-535-6335 or check htttp://fw.ky.gov/kfwis/viewable/kleber_map.pdf for more information.
Brave the elements, get in gear and head outside to generate some heat of your own on winter time adventures. For more ideas about Kentucky’s many outdoor options during the season, visit www.kentuckytourism.com and click on Things to Do, then Great Outdoors.