Stearns District


 The Stearns Ranger District encompasses more than 171,000 acres of national forest land in four counties of southeastern Kentucky. Much of the district lies within the Big South Fork region of the Cumberland River, located in the remote foothills of the Jellico Mountains. Steeply-sloped ridges and narrow ravines characterize the land. The terrain is rugged but scenic.

Visitors will enjoy camping, hiking, fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities. Dense hardwood forest, cascading waterfalls and towering sandstone cliffs are some of the area’s best natural attractions.   

Two Kentucky Wild Rivers (Rock Creek and Cumberland River) and two candidates for National Wild and Scenic River designation (Marsh Creek and Rock Creek) occur in the area. The district surrounds the northern portion of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

Three campgrounds, three picnic areas and more than 120 miles of trails provide for multiple outdoor activities. 

Special features on the district are:

At a Glance

Fees Fees are required at some recreation sites. 
You will need to purchase a fee pass for camping overnight at Barren Fork Horse CampApple Tree and Keno Shooting Ranges

Recreation Schedule and Fees

Where do I purchase Passes
How can I order a pass
Restrictions: Food Storage Restrictions

Supervisor's Order 16-03-10 

The following is prohibited: Camping within 300 feet of Forest Service Road 137, unless within a site designated for camping 261.58(e)
Closest Towns: Whitley City
Information Center: Stearns Ranger District
3320 Hwy 27 North
Whitley City, KY 42653  (606)376-5323

General Information


Barren Fork Heritage Accessible Trail 


Directions to the Stearns Ranger District Office:
From I-75 South
Take exit 11 and turn left off the ramp onto KY 92 (19.9 miles). The office is 7.8 miles after turning right onto US 27. 
Take exit 141 and turn left on TN 63 (20.3 miles). Turn right on US 27 (6.7 miles). Turn left at US 27/Alberta Street (21.2 miles).

From I-75 North
Take exit 62 and merge right onto KY 461 (17.9 miles). Turn right on KY 80 (6.0 miles). Turn left on KY 914 (7.2 miles). Turn right on US 27/Burnside Road (18.2 miles)
Turn right onto KY 80 (8.8 miles). Turn left onto US 27 (27 miles).


The Barren Fork Heritage Interpretive Trail is accessible.
The Natural Arch Scenic Area picnic shelter, amphitheater, toilets and pathway to the overlook are accessible. 

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



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Camping & Cabins

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Campground Camping

Our developed campgrounds are designed to give you a pleasant camping experience. Some campgrounds have tent pads, picnic tables, fire rings, toilets and running water. The more remote sites have minimal facilities.

Campers may enjoy the additional recreation opportunities that many campgrounds provide, such as hiking and horseback riding.

Great Meadows, Barren Fork and Bell Farm are considered developed drive-in campgrounds. No reservations are required.

Areas for Campground Camping at Stearns District

RV Camping

Areas for RV Camping at Stearns District

Dispersed Camping

Primitive camping, or camping in remote areas of the forest, is considered dispersed camping. Campers will enjoy rippling streams, glimpses of wildlife and scenic forest beauty.

Dispersed campsites should be set up at least 300 feet from roads, streams and trails. 

General Info:

Permits & Regulations


Safety Information

Cumberland Lake draw-down for repairs on Wolfe Creek Dam 
More: h
View a Corps of Engineers map showing Lake Cumberland boat ramps (pdf).

Seasonal Information

More information: Daniel Boone National Forest Recreation Schedule and Fees


Barren Fork Heritage Accessible Trail 



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Horse Riding & Camping

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Nature Viewing

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OHV Riding & Camping

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Other Activities

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Outdoor Learning

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Water Activities

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