• DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2002)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesCultural
  • LocationKY
  • Length144.1 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Country Music Highway
Statewide Byway Partners
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Kentucky Department of Tourism
This painted gray rock points the way to Butcher "Holler" of Loretta Lynn fame.
Dennis Adams Photo


The Country Music Highway engages with Eastern Kentucky’s heritage to capture the sights and sounds of this rich cultural region. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage with the region’s history, including Native American culture, pioneer settlement, coal mining, crafts, architecture, the Civil War, and natural resources against the backdrop of this region’s famous country music.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

The 144 mile Country Music Highway, which follows US Route 23, recognizes all the well-known country music stars that came from this area such as Loretta Lynn, Wynonna & Naomi Judd, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tom T. Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, Gary Stewart, Patty Loveless, Crystal Gayle and more. While visitors may come to see the history of those stars, they will soon come to realize that the entire region is steeped in cultural and musical history.

There are many opportunities to hear the sounds of all types of music at venues along the Country Music Highway. The byway begins north in Greenup County. Here, visitors can discover the brand new amphitheater at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park. As the byway continues south, the route enters into Boyd County, home of the historic Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky. This venue launched the careers of Billy Ray Cyrus and The Judds. Billy Ray's famous "Achy Breaky Heart" video was also filmed there. Today, visitors can still stop by for a performance, many of them well under $50. The byway continues to Johnson County, home to two famous venues, the Mountain Homeplace Amphitheater and the Country Music Highway Museum. On Thursdays, visitors can enjoy a bluegrass performance at the Country Music Highway Museum and visit the 14 exhibits honoring the country music stars who inspired the byway. Moving further south to Floyd County, in the city of Prestonsburg, visitors will find the Mountain Arts Center, home to the professional entertainment ensemble, Billie Jean Osborne's Kentucky Opry. As the byway continues to Letcher County, visitors should be sure to stop by the multi-purpose facility, Appalshop, a quaint theater that features many Appalachian and bluegrass concerts.

Towards the end of the byway, visitors can find the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center, located in Pike County, which was designed as a multi-purpose facility that is available for concerts, conventions and special events. In addition to the above venues there are countless shows and festivals that feature the sounds and talents of the region. Visitors can’t miss a taste of the music!

The Country Music Highway is not only about country music. When visitors travel the Country Music Highway, they can also learn about Native Americans, pioneers, the Civil War, and the coal mining industry. The history of Eastern Kentucky has been shaped by those who, early on in the nation's history, began searching for land west of the Appalachian Mountains. Not long thereafter, as a result of being a border state between the North and South, sections of the area became battlegrounds for the Civil War such as the Middlefield National Battlefield.

As the area began to develop and grow, coal mining became an essential chapter in Kentucky, and still is. This area is well known for a very notable feud - The Hatfield-McCoy Feud, which became a nationally known event. While on the trail of feuders, pioneers, or miners, the area along Country Music Highway is full of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. The region is blessed with six beautiful State Parks from Greenbo Lake State Resort Park in Greenup County to Kingdom Come State Park in Letcher County. Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Floyd County also features Broadway type musicals at Jenny Wiley Theatre.

Welcome to one of the most beautiful and historic places in the nation. As visitors travel along the Country Music Highway, and meet the friendly folks of this Appalachian region, they will quickly realize that they have found a hidden treasure. The key to a successful visit in this region is to make sure visitors have enough time to see and hear it all!

Driving Directions

The byway begins in Greenup, Kentucky and follows U.S. Highway 23 south. Visitors will pass through the towns of Greenup, Ashland, Catlettsburg, Louisa, Ulysses, Paintasville, Prestonsburg, Marton, Harold, and Pikeville before turning onto State Highway 119. Visitors will then travel through Dorton, Jenkins, Fleming-Neon, and Whitesburg with many opportunities to stop to listen to country music along the byway.

Points of Interest

  • Appalshop

    Appalshop is a quaint theatre featuring many Appalachian and bluegrass concerts near Whitesburg, Kentucky.

  • Paramount Arts Center

    This venue launched the careers of Billy Ray Cyrus and The Judds. Billy Ray's famous "Achy Breaky Heart" video was also filmed there. Today, visitors can still stop by for a performance, many of them well under $50.

  • MIddle Creek National Battlefield

    This is the site of the Middle Creek Civil War Battle, when an unknown colonel, James Garfield (later President of the United States), beat the experienced Confederate Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall in a shocking victory.


  • Sounds of Kentucky

    Begin your journey in Prestonsburg to discover the history behind Kentucky’s famous country music. History lovers will enjoy a stop at the Samuel May House or the Battle of Middle Creek Historic Site, while science lovers will enjoy a visit to the East Kentucky Science Center. While you’ll be visiting too early to see a performance, check out the Mountain Arts Center, known for its Kentucky bluegrass performances.

    As you travel north on U.S. Route 23, check out the Mayo Mansion and Church in Paintsville. This cozy downtown area is a great place to stop for lunch on the way. From Paintsville, continue north for about 30 miles to Louisa. Here, visitors can find iconic stops along the byway such as the Louisa Country Music Gas Station and the Kentucky Pavilion. The Pavilion marketplace offers memorabilia of famous singers, and its Showcase of Stars displays personal items of stars from Elivs Presley to Loretta Lynn.

    Continuing north on the byway for 30 miles on U.S. Route 23, you will soon reach Ashland. While in Ashland, visitors will want to check out the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center. Stop for dinner at one of the many local restaurants for an authentic taste of Kentucky. Many of these locations offer live music. To end your day, be sure to grab tickets to a performance at the Paramount Theater to hear the sounds of Kentucky’s country music--the only way to end your day on the Country Music Byway.

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