The Daniel Boone National Forest offers the perfect place for a driving excursion, where the ever-changing palette of the seasons offers a unique experience. More than 600 miles of road (see our Motor Vehicle Use Maps) allow drivers to explore the heart of southern and eastern Kentucky.
Some roads through the forest are designated as scenic byways. The winding Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway and Zilpo National Forest Scenic Byway offer spectacular views of the forest.
Sections of the Wilderness Road Heritage Highway and the Cumberland Heritage Byway also pass through the forest.
Please visit the National Scenic Byways or Tour Southern and Eastern Kentucky websites for more information about scenic drives in Kentucky.
Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway
Take a journey through magnificent natural wonders on the Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway. From the historic Nada Tunnel to the end of the byway in Zachariah, discover more than 100 stone arches, waterfalls and plenty of natural beauty. Carved over millions of years by wind and water, the Red River Gorge is a favorite place for forest visitors who seek outdoor adventure and enjoy canoeing, rock climbing and kayaking.
The main attractions along the Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway are the natural stone arches and other rock features. The developed trails in the gorge lead hikers to various arches and waterfalls.
The lands in and around the Red River Gorge were once home to ancient civilizations. The rock shelters were later used by early pioneers and settlers. Despite the challenges that this rugged land presented, mining and lumbering was once a way of life in this area. See what life in a historic logging camp was like at the Gladie Historic Site.
Visit the Nada Tunnel, built from 1910-1911. The tunnel was developed with steam-driven jackhammers so trains could pass through with loads of lumber or minerals.
Learn more about recreation opportunities along the Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway.
View pdf of map below
Zilpo National Forest Byway
The Zilpo National Forest Scenic Byway is a gently curving eleven mile road with a travel time of approximately 20 minutes each way. The route winds through an eastern hardwood forest which provides opportunities to glimpse wildlife and view Cave Run Lake.
View map of Byway
The byway begins on Forest Road 129 at Clear Creek Lake and ends at Zilpo Campground. To access the byway exit US 60 in Salt Lick, take KY 211 south approximately four miles to Forest Service Road 129 on your left. Clear Creek Lake in approximately one mile is stop #1.
Points of interest along the route include Clear Creek Lake, Clear Creek Picnic Area, Clear Creek Iron Furnace, Tater Knob Fire Tower, Pioneer Weapons Wildlife Management Area and Cave Run Lake.
Clear Creek Lake, the first point of interest along the byway, was developed to control flooding in the low lying homesteads downstream. Ducks and geese are frequently observed here during the fall migration.
The remnants of Clear Creek Iron Furnace may catch your eye just as after you pass Clear Creek Lake. The furnace helped meet America’s need for iron in the late 1800s. The blast furnace produced an average three tons of iron per day, devouring half an acre of trees in the process. The surrounding hillsides provided the iron ore, limestone and trees used in the iron-making process. Workers lived in a small village with a store, school, laundry service and church that once sat on this site.
As you travel the byway you will be surrounded by forest that appears to be natural and undisturbed. However, this land has been used in many ways throughout history. Much of the surrounding forest was once cleared for farming or to fuel the iron furnace.
Once you turn onto Road 918 you will be in the Pioneer Weapons Wildlife Management Area. Primitive weapons such as black powder guns and crossbows are the only types of hunting weapons allowed in this portion of the forest.
Tater Knob Fire Tower was once used by firefighters to detect forest fires across the horizon. This 35-foot tower was first erected in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, using only hand tools and mules.
The use of aircraft to detect forest fireseventully replaced most fire towers by the 1970s. Many were dismantled or abandoned. In 1993, Tater Knob Fire Tower was restored through the efforts of volunteers. It is the last remaining fire tower on the Daniel Boone National Forest. This tower is currently closed to public visitation due to vandalism.
Before descending into Zilpo Campground, there is an expansive overview of Cave Run Lake. From this point, you can see across the lake to Twin Knobs Campground. In 1898, from this point, you would have been looking at numerous settlements along the shores of the Licking River.
A narrow gauge railroad, known as the Licking River Valley Railroad, connected the towns and moved lumber and supplies through the valley. Trees as large as seven feet in diameter were harvested to provide lumber for a growing nation. By 1906, the timber supply was depleted. The towns were abandoned and only a few hardy survivors remained by 1913.
In 1969, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished the dam that created the 8,270-acre Cave Run Lake. Built for flood control, the lake is surrounded by outdoor recreation opportunities, such as campgrounds, boat ramps, picnic areas and marinas.
As you near the end of the byway, you may turn around at the trailhead or enter the Zilpo Recreation Area. This area offers a swimming beach and a small country store.
View pdf of map below