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Five Marvelous Hikes for Nature Viewing/Photography in Kentucky

1. Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail. Located in southeastern Kentucky, this future 120-mile trail that follows the Pine Mountain range is the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the state, and will eventually connect the Breaks Interstate Park (a 4,600 acre park with a 5-mile gorge located partly in southeastern Kentucky, with the rest in southwestern Virginia's Jefferson National Forest.) with the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (n southern Kentucky, at the borders with Tennessee and Virginia), passing through Bad Branch State Nature Preserve, Kingdom Come State Park, and Blanton Forest. Right now about 42 miles of hiking trails are open, starting at Breaks Interstate Park. The trail passes through an important ecological and migratory corridor, and is home to bears, flying squirrels, raptors, songbirds, and numerous other plants and animals. The trail will eventually link with the Great Eastern Trail, a long-distance (1,800-mile) hiking trail that goes from Alabama to New York

2. Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. A rugged 323-mile trail (226 miles within Kentucky) that begins in northern Kentucky in the town of Morehead, traveling through the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National Recreation Area along narrow ridges with dips into gorges, and ending in Pickett State Park in Tennessee. Along the way, hikers will see old homesteads, oil and gas wells, logging tracts, and remnants of past land uses. Key natural features along the trail include Laurel River Lake and Cave Run L ake, as well as the Red River Gorge. Some of the towns the trail goes through include Morehead, McKee, Slade, Livingston, and Stearns. Lots of connecting trails allow hikers to choices in hiking lengths, from day hikes to much longer. The trail is named in honor of Daniel Boone, who was dubbed Sheltowee ("Big Turtle") by Chief Blackfish of the Shawnee tribe.

3. Eagle Falls Trail. Located in Cumberland Falls State Park in southern Kentucky, this moderate 1.9-mile loop trail features the 44-foot Eagle Falls waterfall, while also providing some of the best views of Cumberland Falls. While at the park, of course, be sure to also see the namesake Cumberland Falls, known at the Niagara of the South. This majestic 7-story, 125-foot waterfall, named after the Duke of Cumberland, a son of King George II of England, also displays a moonbow during full moons -- the only known waterfall in the Northern Hemisphere to do so.

4. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary Red Trail. The longest (at about 4-miles) of several trails within the Raven Run, a 734-acre nature sanctuary near Lexington, Kentucky, dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of the Kentucky River Palisades, as well as early Kentucky history. Going counter-clockwise from the visitor center, the trail begins a long, steady descent on a wide single-track through interesting hollows with historic features, before reaching an overlook above the Kentucky River, where you can admire some of the steep gorges and limestone outcroppings of the palisades, before heading back uphill for the return to the center. Experience more than 600 species of plants and more than 200 species of birds. Trails only available during Sanctuary hours.

5. Indian Fort Mountain Trail. Located in the 8,000-acre Berea College Forest in central Kentucky, one of the oldest (started in 1897) managed private forests in the U.S., in the southwestern hills of Appalachia, you'll find a 6.8-mile loop trail that offers five scenic lookouts -- Eagle's Nest, Buzzard's Roost, Indian Fort Lookout, east Pinnacle, and West Pinnacle -- while hiking through dense forest. Some old growth tree stands may also be seen. Because it is a managed forest, timber harvesting is done, but away from the trails; still, active silviculture takes place along a portion of the trails for educational purposes. The entire system of trails is managed by the Berea College Department of Forestry. The trailhead can be found about 3 miles past the town of Berea at the Indian Fort Amphitheater.

Bonus: Rail-Trails Highlights: Kentucky has 17 Rail-Trails totaling about 62 miles, with 14 projects with a potential of 169 miles of trail. One of the favorites -- and the longest rail-trail in the state -- is the Dawkins Line Rail Trail at 24 miles, with 12 more miles in development. Located between Hagerhill and Evanston, with Royalton as the main trailhead, along the old Dawkins Lumber Company railway that originally served the timber industry -- and later coal, this crushed-limestone trail offers 24 trestle crossings and the 662-foot-long Gun Creek Tunnel, as well as beautiful scenery and wildlife, including elk.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.



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