Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway – KY

Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2009)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation
  • LocationKY, TN
  • Length34 of 43 total miles
Byway Visitor Information
Tennessee River Valley
Statewide Byway Partners
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Kentucky Department of Tourism
Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway – KY
Public domain Photo

Overview

Running along a ridge of land between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, Woodlands Trace is a beautiful, easy drive in rolling terrain with opportunities to pull off and explore on your own or at developed interpretive facilities. This outdoor setting includes the seasonal splendors of nature, with blossoming trees and flowers in the spring, a green canopy in the summer, brilliant fall foliage, and the open view in the forest in the winter.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

Running along a ridge of land between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, Woodlands Trace is a beautiful, easy drive in rolling terrain with opportunities to pull off and explore on your own or at developed interpretive facilities. This outdoor setting includes the seasonal splendors of nature, with blossoming trees and flowers in the spring, a green canopy in the summer, brilliant fall foliage, and the open view in the forest in the winter.

Travel this 43-mile passageway through Land Between the Lakes to your choice of outdoor recreation activities such as camping under the stars, hiking forest trails, exploring the universe from your planetarium seat, canoeing or kayaking picturesque bays, motor-boating along splendid waterways, riding ATVs, mountain biking along lakeside clefts, horseback riding to scenic views, picnicking at a quiet pond, time-traveling to the 1850s, discovering Civil War sites, or photographing beautiful spring flowers or colorful autumn leaves. You will begin your journey in Grand Rivers, Kentucky and travel south. The route here features stunning views of Kentucky Lake. At the North Welcome Station Area, you can find souvenirs, maps of the area, and a great place to picnic before venturing into the heart of the Land between the Lakes. Stop by for a swim at the Moss Creek Day Use Area, complete with picnic tables, grills, and plenty of lakeshore space, or stay overnight at the Hillman Ferry Campground March through November. You will be able to find supplies for sale or for rent at the outpost.

Along the route, discover one of many nature watch areas. The Woodlands Nature Watch Areas offer optimum opportunity to see native wildlife thrive at Land Between the Lakes. The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area manages the area to keep the forest healthy and to keep invasive species from taking control of the native landscape and plants crops to help native wildlife build habitats for healthy living and hide from predators. At the nature watch areas and outlooks, visitors will have the opportunity to see impressive mammals such as elk and bison.

Almost halfway along the byway, be sure to stop at the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory. When you visit the Golden Pond Planetarium, you will enjoy a variety of entertaining and educational programs presented with the Konica Minolta Mediaglobe II digital projection system which displays exciting images on the 40-foot dome of the theater. Friends of Land Between the Lakes provides qualified interpreters at the Planetarium who supplement the automated presentations with live, personal interactions with the audience. “Tonight’s Sky Live” is a live presentation which allows you to learn about planets, stars, and constellations in the night sky of the coming evening. At the Observatory you will look through their computerized, Meade 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope to view the wonders of the universe. They also have a special telescope made for safe viewing of the sun.

As the byway continues into Tennessee, keep an eye out for even more bison and wildlife viewing. Be sure to make a stop at the Homeplace 1850s working farm. Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum represents a two-generation farm. When you visit the Homeplace, you will see interpreters in period clothing going about their daily chores. You’ll find the perfect blend of artifacts, restored historic structures, and traditional seasonal activities to step you back in time to relive history before the Civil War. Even the livestock includes rare and endangered breeds. The Land Between the Lakes cultivates many varieties of garden plants and field crops; most from heirloom seeds dating back before the Civil War. These heirloom seeds can be purchased in the gift shop.

As you drive along the byway, try to spot the Great Western Furnace ruins. Beginning with the industrial revolution in the 1820s, the demand for iron products for factories and consumers increased through the mid-1800s. The iron industry in Land Between the Lakes contributed to a regional industry that stretched from Western Kentucky to the southern counties of Middle Tennessee. The rivers provided cheap transportation to markets. Today, only two of the eight furnace stacks remain: Great Western Furnace and Center Furnace. Other markers of this thriving industry include shallow ponds that were once iron ore surface mines, cliffs of limestone from mines long abandoned, barren circles in the forest that were once charcoal hearths, and even, in some locations, railroad beds.

The byway reaches its termination point at the South Welcome Station, just north of Dover. In this mountain town, be sure to have a nature-filled getaway to relax after finishing the drive.

Driving Directions

The byway begins just south of Grand Rivers. Visitors will travel south along state highway 453 as they journey into the Land between the Lakes. There will be many opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery and to enjoy outdoor recreation activities such as watersports, hiking, and bird watching.

Points of Interest

  • Woodlands Nature Station

    Get up close and personal with the natural world at our environmental education attraction, Woodlands Nature Station. Nestled in the woods between Honker and Hematite Lakes, the Nature Station serves as a gateway to the 8,500-acre Nature Watch Area. The friendly staff also serves as our “go to” specialists for wildlife viewing throughout Land Between The Lakes.

  • Energy Lake Campground

    Energy Lake Campground sits next to an inland lake separated from Lake Barkley by an earthen dam. It offers 13 cabins and 35 well-defined sites in a wooded area with 33 electrical hookups capable of handling tents to motorhomes.

  • Golden Pond Planetarium

    When you visit the Golden Pond Planetarium, you will enjoy a variety of entertaining and educational programs presented with our Konica Minolta Mediaglobe II digital projection system which displays exciting images on the 40-foot dome of the theater.

    Friends of Land Between the Lakes provides qualified interpreters at the Planetarium who supplement the automated presentations with live, personal interactions with the audience. “Tonight’s Sky Live” is a live presentation which allows visitors to learn about planets, stars, and constellations in the night sky of the coming evening. Also take in the views from the overlook.

  • Turkey Bay OHV Area

    Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area provides designated OHV and primitive trails for OHV camping opportunities. The area consists of approximately 100 miles of primary, secondary, and tertiary trails for many different OHV riding experiences.

  • Hillman Ferry Campground

    Hillman Ferry Campground offers 374 well-defined lakefront and wooded sites capable of handling a variety of camping units from tents to large motor homes. Basic, electric, water, and sewer sites are available, as are 8 person cabin rentals. Campers have access to modern facilities, including a large swimming area, archery range, ball field, bike trails, campfire amphitheater, hiking trails, two boat ramps, fishing dock, picnic tables, disc golf, and fire rings.

  • Wranglers Campground

    Wranglers Campground specializes in providing year-round opportunities for horseback riding and wagon driving enthusiasts. It offers 220 well-defined sites — some with electrical hookups, sites with electric, water, and sewer, primitive sites, and 12 primitive cabins available for nightly rental. Most sites are capable of handling large motor homes and horse trailers. Campers have access to modern facilities, 100 miles of horse trails, activity court, and stalls, plus farrier and blacksmith services on weekends from April through November. Guided trail rides and riding stables are available from April through October. Horses have the right-of-way at this campground.

  • Elk & Bison Prairie

    The Elk & Bison Prairie offers a native grassland habitat common in Kentucky more than a century ago. Elk and bison roam free within this 700-acre enclosure. Visitors travel in their enclosed vehicle via a 3.5-mile paved loop road. Numerous other wildlife species also thrive in the prairie. Wild turkeys, a variety of birds, small game, butterflies, and prairie mammals find sanctuary in the Elk & Bison Prairie.

Itinerary

  • Woods and Lakes

    Begin at Grand Rivers and head south on Kentucky Route 453. Be sure to stop at the North Welcome Station Area for more information about the byway. In the morning, take a dip at the Moss Creek Day Use Area at the Hillman Ferry Campgrounds. This is a beautiful secluded day use area with a rocky beach overlooking Kentucky Lake. While you’re here, enjoy breakfast at one of the picnic tables, go fishing, or take a hike on one of the many trails that run into this area.

    After an invigorating morning of swimming and exploration, continue south for about 10 miles. Along the many forest roads that you’ll pass, there are many opportunities to explore the wildlife at the Nature Watch Areas. One of the hidden gems of this byway is the Nature Station Backyard. This tucked away nature center offers opportunities to view many different songbirds like prothonotary warblers, orchard orioles, and parulas. The nature center hosts one of the best views inside a bat roosting box, a working bee hive, and a busy purple martin colony. Woodlands Nature Station is best known for its hundreds of ruby-throated hummingbirds that hover up close and personal to all visitors during their migratory season.

    Once you’ve seen the beauty of Kentucky’s natural life, head south for another 12 miles to the Golden Pond Planetarium & Observatory. The planetarium offers live presentations to teach you about the planets, stars, and constellations before 4 every day. If you’re a little later and visiting in the summer, catch a laser light show before you end your day!

 Update this byway information today!