Old Frankfort Pike Historic and Scenic Byway

Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
  • LocationKY
  • Length15.5 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor, Inc.
Statewide Byway Partners
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Kentucky Department of Tourism
Open air walking area in park with interpretive panels at the visitor viewing area along the Old Frankfort Pike Historic Scenic Byway.
Christine Amos Photo

Overview

What images come to mind when you hear the term "Kentucky Bluegrass"? The Old Frankfort Pike National Scenic Byway extends 15 miles through a rural landscape that embodies the Bluegrass unlike any other. Here, internationally recognized Thoroughbred horse farms, diversified farms in families for centuries, country stores, railroad towns and crossroad communities join in a cohesive cultural, historical and scenic landscape that has evolved over the past 250 plus years.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

The Old Frankfort Pike Historic and Scenic Byway extends over 15 miles through a memorable historic landscape of Kentucky's Bluegrass Region. Many Bluegrass roads provide enjoyable scenic moments, but Old Frankfort Pike welcomes travelers on an extraordinary drive through miles of countryside that was once typical of Kentucky's Inner Bluegrass, but survives today in very few places with such cohesion and integrity. Here, traditional diversified agriculture and the international Thoroughbred industry thrive and coexist in a unique landscape that has evolved over the past 250 plus years.

Since early exploration and settlement, agriculture has dominated and transformed the Bluegrass region. This notably distinct topographic and geological area known as Karst rests here in the Commonwealth center. The region is a gently rolling plain of deep loam soils atop phosphate-rich limestone, wild with springs that flow for miles only to sink underground or disappear into caves. It is one of the richest agricultural areas in the world, renown as the birthplace and home of the Thoroughbred horse.

Lexington, Kentucky's second largest city, forms the hub of the Bluegrass region, with roads radiating outward to the surrounding county seats like spokes of a wheel. Old Frankfort Pike, connecting Lexington with the state capital at Frankfort to the east, is one such spoke, with the distinction that along either side of the road, as far as the eye can see, lay some of the most productive lands in the region – even by Bluegrass standards.

Old Frankfort Pike passes through six National Register Historic Districts along its relatively short length and by numerous individually significant historic properties. In all, thousands of historic buildings, structures, sites, and landscapes encompassing over 20,000 acres are contained within these distinctive historic areas and this National Scenic Byway links them all. This unusual and fortunate concentration of historic resources along Old Frankfort Pike elevates the scenic drive into a singular and unique experience. While the ages of the significant resources span centuries and illustrate multiple historical subjects, each District and property expresses one or more distinct facet of Bluegrass history including: the influence of geology, water, and soil on the landscape, agriculture and people; agricultural prosperity, diversity, and transformation over 225 years; the Thoroughbred Horse, the legacy of the blooded horse in Kentucky, America, and the world, from local origins to international prominence; the challenges of farmland conservation and historic preservation in an increasingly urban environment.

Travelers can take a leisurely, non-stop drive along Old Frankfort Pike from US 60 near Frankfort eastward to the Visitor Viewing Area near Lexington (or vice-versa) in about ½ hour. The entire route is two lanes with signed speeds of 35-55 mph. There is one four-way stop at the intersection of Midway Road (US 62, a Kentucky Scenic Byway). The Byway passes through a series of distinct rural landscapes, including railroad stations, small communities, an unforgettable two-mile road section canopied by trees and shouldered by historic dry-laid limestone fences, a historic tavern from the late 18th century, rural churches, and cemeteries. Roadside vistas open to historic homes, barns, stables, and double-fenced fields where Thoroughbred horses thrive on bluegrass and limestone-rich water. Along the Byway are opportunities for dining, museum visiting, joining a horse farm tour, or taking a short side trip to neighboring attractions like Keeneland Race Track National Historic Landmark, Weisenberger Mill, and the historic railroad town of Midway. Near the east end of the Byway at the Alexandria Drive roundabout, view the inspiring statue of Triple Crown winner, Secretariat, and stop to learn about the history of the Pike and the surrounding neighborhood at the self-guided walking loop at the Old Frankfort Pike Visitor Viewing Area. Finally, before entering Lexington, the McConnell Springs Visitor Center and Nature Sanctuary marks the original 1775 encampment where the town was named. This city park located off Old Frankfort Pike contains hiking trails through the nature preserve, archaeological remains, sinks, and springs, an amphitheater, and an education center.

Driving Directions

Old Frankfort Pike (KY 1861) has a total length of 17.7 miles, from its west terminus at the intersection of US 60 south of I-25, to its east terminus at the intersection of Forbes Road, west of downtown Lexington, where the road name changes to Manchester Street. There are no gaps or departures along the route. The National Scenic Byway section contains 15.5 miles between the Duckers Road intersection on the west (38.164474, -84.784127) and the crossing of Wolf Run Creek on the east (38.067087, -84.554262).

Points of Interest

  • Old Frankfort Pike Visitor Viewing Area

    Interpretive panels present the 250+ year area history

  • Roundabout at Old Frankfort Pike & Alexandria Dr

    Statue of Triple Crown Winner, Secretariat

  • West Fayette Rural Historic District

    Both sides of Byway from Big Sink Pike to Roundabout

  • Redd Road Rural Historic District

    Both sides of Byway and along Redd Road to the south

  • Pisgah Rural Historic District

    Joins Redd Rd RHD, extends west and south along Pisgah Pike

  • Nugent’s Crossroad/Wallace Station Historic Districts

    North on US 62 to Midway Historic District

  • Woodburn Farm (and Airdrie Stud)

    2 mile stretch through the tree canopy and rock fences of "Shady Lane"ing

  • Big Sink Rural Historic District

    Nugent's Crossroad to Lane's End Farm (north and south of Byway)

  • Old Frankfort Pike Visitor Viewing Area

    Self-guided walking loop interpreting the 250+ year history of the Old Frankfort Pike and neighborhood beyond.

Itinerary

  • Horses and More

    Start at the Old Frankfort Pike Scenic Overlook outside of Lexington at the intersection of Alexandria Drive and Old Frankfort Pike. Visit the McConnell Springs Visitor Center and Nature Sanctuary, which marks the original 177 encampment where Lexington was named. Make your way through the traffic circle and marvel at the beautiful Secretariat Statue in the middle. You will be following the Old Frankfort Pike Road for most of this journey.

    As you drive, you will quickly come across a number of horse farms. If you have time, stop to take a tour of one. Make a detour down Elkchester Road to Van Meter Road to visit the Keeneland Race Track National Historic Landmark, the horse capital of the world. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a race!

    Return to the byway and cross over to Paynes Depot Road to check out Weisenberger Mills, Inc, home to a flour company. Return to the byway and continue along the Old Frankfort Pike. Make a right on Midway road to visit the historic railroad town of Midway. This is a beautiful historic town with a number of options for a quick lunch stop. As you continue along the byway, you will reach the Airdrie Stud, a world renown Thoroughbred farm.

    Follow the byway to its terminus in Frankfort at the intersection of the Old Frankfort Pike, Shady Lane, and Duckers Road.

 Update this byway information today!