Hiking Kentucky by Brook Elliott; Barbara Elliott

By Brook Elliott; Barbara Elliott

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We expect mountains to be conical, but the Cumberlands are long, ridgelike structures, each of which is cut into ridges and valleys of its own.  From the stone gazebo near the park entrance, you can see Big Black Mountain—at 4,400 feet, Kentucky's highest—and the Cumberland Valley laid out at your feet.  Part of it passes through the park.  For this reason, park officials recommend that you make some noise while on the trails, so the bears know you are there and can avoid confrontations.  But numerous unique formations, such as the Log Rock, are found here as well.

Some spots lack trail markers.  Go left, onto the dirt path.  The most scenic cave in the park, it has many formations plus an underground river and waterfall. The tour takes about an hour. 23 [2].  These are formed when embedded shales get twisted by the earth's movement.  All that's missing is the bride and groom standing atop the cake.  With its smooth, sheer walls, the whole thing really does look like a box.  This won't make your passage any easier, but it will keep you away from the drop­off.

It is one of the best wildlife­viewing trails in the region, and you are likely to see a diversity of critters, from songbirds of the forest canopy to Canada geese, deer, wild turkeys, and raccoons.  A couple of hundred feet further on, the trail Ts into a gravel road.  Pick it up 600 feet south of the parking lot entrance road.  But most times, expect to get your feet wet. ) Stay particularly alert for deer, which graze the road and the water in the creek.  The youngsters, until their feathers come in, are covered by hair and look like balls of stiff yam rolling across the surface.

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