Southeast Kentucky

When I talk to someone who hails from Southeast Kentucky, especially Letcher County, I nearly always find that they love home.  Kenny and I are fairly well-traveled and have visited most of the lower 48.  We still love home the best!  Home is where the mountains snuggle us tight in a storm.  They provide all the fresh air that we could ever need by hiking, biking, taking a walk, or just driving with the windows down.  There is absolutely some of the prettiest scenery and best wildlife viewing here.  These mountains are also home to some of the friendliest and fun people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  If you have ever had the opportunity to attend a square dance or a bluegrass concert, you have probably experienced some of this fun hospitality

Sunset on Pine Mountain in Southeast Kentucky

Although the area has been hit hard by the drug epidemic and a plummeting job market, it is still a wonderful place to visit. It is also a perfect place for a quiet, peaceful retirement surrounded by nature and good neighbors.

Scenic Drives

Let’s start by talking about the best ways to experience the outdoors in the mountains of Southeast Kentucky.  I enjoy simply taking a scenic drive.  It’s one of my favorite activities! Fishpond Lake is one beautiful area for a wildlife viewing drive or walk, camping and fishing.

Another is driving to the top of Pine Mountain and having a sunset picnic at the overlooks. It can’t be beat! We pick up picnic items at The General Store At Pine Mountain Crossing just over the other side of the mountain if we don’t want to pack our own. 

Additionally, just past the overlooks, there is a wide parking area on the right with a road leading to a section of the Little Shepherd Trail.  Make sure you have plenty of gas, pack some snacks, and drive slowly on this winding mountain road. We almost always catch a glimpse of a migrating warbler, a white tailed deer, a bobcat, a fox, a grouse, wild turkeys, or a black bear.  Equally important is the herd of elk traveling through at times. 

deer eating grapes in Southeast Kentucky

This trail continues on to Kingdom Come State Park which is full of short hikes, scenic views and wildlife.  It is a favorite of my family! Furthermore, it also connects to the Pine Mountain Trail and the Appalachian Trail for the adventure seekers among us.  The park itself has some beautiful shaded picnic tables, mini golf, and paddle boats.   

Hiking Southeast Kentucky

If you are ready to stretch your legs, there are many hiking trails in the area.  Kingdom Come Park has the amphitheater hike which is really just a beautiful walk with a slight incline and a set of steep stone steps.  The kiddos in our family enjoy this one because it is easy and fun. There are some other short hikes including Log Rock. Longer hikes are available if you want to join the Pine Mountain Trail for a way. 

Not too far from the park is the Bad Branch Falls hike which is a moderate hike with some beautiful stream crossings and culminates at the falls.  I think this hike is really special when there is snow on the ground.  You can take another trail off of the falls trail to High Rock although it is strenuous and easy to get lost if you don’t know the area. 

The guided hike at Lily Cornett’s Woods is a good one as well if you would like to experience an old growth Appalachian forest.  Kenny worked there during the summers years ago and we learned so much about wildflowers and trees in the area.

If you visit this area of Southeast Kentucky, you are also within a 2 hour drive of the hiking trails at Red River Gorge, Cumberland Gap National Park, Southwest Virginia, and East Tennessee. Always exercise caution when hiking. Kenny and I have gotten turned around a time or two and it is scary. Thankfully, we’ve always managed to find our way.


If hiking and the outdoors isn’t your thing or you are just ready for some mountain music and dancing, Campbell’s Branch Line Fork Community Center is a treat.  On most Friday nights beginning at 7, there is a bluegrass band playing in the old elementary school turned community center.  Each time I have been I was offered delicious home cooking and to try the two-step.  My in-laws go every Friday! It is a fun way to immerse yourself in some mountain culture.  You can also get a good dose of that culture by attending a square dance at Carcassonne Community Center, Inc. on monthly Saturday nights. 

dancing at Campbell's Branch Line Fork Community Center

Festivals throughout the year are also a great way to experience life in the mountains.  The Seedtime Festival in the spring and the Mountain Heritage Festival in the fall are probably the biggest, but the smaller festivals in the surrounding towns are definitely worth the trip as well.  Some of them include Fleming Neon Days, Blackey Days, and Jenkins Days. 

come visit Southeast Kentucky

We enjoy gorgeous mountain scenery, wildlife viewing, birding, mountain music and culture. If you do, too, you will enjoy this trip.  The local businesses along the way are definitely worth a stop as well.  We enjoy antiquing on highway 7 at Delana’s Little Shoppe, Gwen’s Country Attic, and Bow Barn Gifts and Antiques. We also like to get lunch or dinner at Joe’s Drive Inn & Chicken when traveling HWY 7. Pine Mountain Grill and Gifts  in Whitesburg is a good place for a meal, too, and I always find something at their gift shop.   ..bring Mae’s flowers will also be open for business occasionally or by appointment as well. The chicken nachos at Streetside Bar and Grill are great and I’ve heard Willy’s Taphouse has a very good steak! Come visit us in Southeast Kentucky and stay awhile!

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