With a quarter-million people calling it home, Lexington is just urban enough to make us occasionally long for nature. The simple solution: Hop in a car. In minutes, you can be walking down a trail and smelling sweet air.
Sometimes, you just have to get out of the office, get out of the house or hotel, get out of your rut, and let your mind and body find a more natural rhythm. Here are some recommendations:
McConnell Springs Nature Center: Up for a lunchtime hike within sight of the downtown skyline? Head to this 26-acre oasis tucked behind an industrial park. The popular though unproven legend is that adventurers were camping here when they heard the Revolutionary War had started in Massachusetts and they named their camp Lexington. The coolest features are geological, including a stream that boils out of the ground, runs across the surface and disappears into a sinkhole. (Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays, except for a few holidays.)
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary: The city bought the first tract of this property along the Kentucky River in the 1960s to use as a landfill. Its now Lexingtons largest park 734 acres of streams, meadows and woods laced with 10 miles of hiking trails. Be sure to take the trail to the river overlook. (Open 9 a.m .-5 p.m. daily, closed some holidays.)
Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary and Audubon Center: The center in Frankfort has 374 acres with three trails and more than 100 bird species. (Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun; a nature center and gift shop is open 1-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun., April-December.)
John B. Stephenson Memorial Forest State Nature Preserve: These 123 acres in Rockcastle County have been an official preserve since 1996. Stephenson, the late Berea College president, used to visit for inspiration when he was writing poetry. The preserve is a ravine that includes Anglin Falls, a wet-weather waterfall nearly 75 feet high. (Open sunrise to sunset year-round.)
Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve: This preserve is more than 800 acres just 20 miles south of Lexington off Ky. 1845, on the Kentucky River near Camp Nelson. Only the Garrard County side is open to the public, but from there hikers can see 220-foot limestone palisades on the Jessamine County side that are 450 million years old. (Open sunrise to sunset.)
Sally Brown Nature Preserve: This Garrard County preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. It comprises 632 acres, with an additional 350 acres as a buffer against development. The preserve offers beautiful river views and deep woods, but hikers can also hear the pop-pop-pop of target practice from a sportsman's club on the other side of the river. (Bowman's Bottom Road, Garrard County. Open sunrise to sunset.)
Red River Gorge Geological Area: About 60 miles east of Lexington, but well worth the drive, the 29,000 acres of forest include more than 100 natural arches, the highest concentration east of the Rocky Mountains. The area also includes dozens of miles of trails that meet the needs of a wide range of hikers, and sandstone cliffs that attract rock climbers from all over the world. The Gladie Cultural-Environmental Center on Sky Bridge Road has exhibits that describe the cultural heritage and resources of the area. Take Exit 33 off the Mountain Parkway.
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With 102 parks and two natural areas sprinkled throughout Fayette County, it's easy to find some green space. Here are some notable parks and natural areas in Lexington. Get more information on these and other parks in Lexington here or by calling (859) 288-2900.
The Arboretum, State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, 500 Alumni Drive (University of Kentucky area). Features paved walking trails, gorgeous gardens of plants native to Kentucky, picnic tables and grills and a nature study.
Jacobson Park, 4001 Athens-Boonesboro Road (south Lexington). Features 216 acres, basketball courts, paddle boats, picnic tables and grills, a playground, 4-acre dog park, volleyball courts and covered shelters.
Masterson Station Park, 3051 Leestown Road (west Lexington). Features expansive 660 acres, volleyball courts, dog park, football and soccer fields, horseshoes, picnic tables and grills, equine area, playground and covered shelters. Site of Lexington Lions Club Bluegrass Fair each July.
Picadome Park, 469 Parkway Drive, off South Broadway and Mason Headley Road. Features golf course and swimming pool.
Shillito Park, 300 West Reynolds Road, off Nicholasville Road. Features baseball and softball diamonds, disc golf course, basketball courts, football and soccer fields, paved trails, picnic tables and grills, a playground, covered shelters, Olympic-size swimming pool and tennis courts.
Thoroughbred Park, 121 Midland Avenue (downtown). Features green space, fountains and iconic bronze statues of racing horses that are popular for photographs.
Triangle Park, Main Street and Broadway (downtown). Features green space and beautiful fountains. Popular on summer weekends.
Woodland Park, 601 East High Street (downtown, UK area). Features swimming pool, skate park, tennis courts, playground, softball diamond, picnic tables and grills.
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