Four places to get away in the great outdoors

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

Tired of the city? Tucked into Fayette County's 285.5 square miles is a host of lush, green spots for outdoor enthusiasts. And not far outside of Lexington is some of the best hiking and climbing in wthe Midwest. Here are some great places to spend some time outdoors.

Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. With more than 10 miles of trails, the 734-acre sanctuary is Lexington's largest nature preserve. Raven Run boasts not only trails for hiking fanatics but also 200 species of birds and 600 different species of plant life. It also has great views of the Kentucky River. Go early, because the trails close at 4:30 p.m. Visit: Lexingtonky.gov

Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Park. Head out of Lexington on Interstate 64 East to the Mountain Parkway and you'll find one of Kentucky's biggest natural draws: the Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Park near Slade. The gorge is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest and has a vast network of trails through a diverse and awe-inspiring landscape. Get a map — people get lost in the gorge every year. Its natural bridges and sandstone cliffs have made Red River Gorge one of the top destinations in the Midwest for climbers.

Natural Bridge State Park, which is part of the gorge, is named for a sandstone arch that is 78 feet long, 65 feet high and 20 feet wide. Some geologists estimate that the arch has been there for 1 million years. The park also has a 35-room lodge with a decent restaurant and miles of trails, ranging from easy to strenuous. Visit: Redrivergorge.com/naturalbridge.html

The Arboretum. Just a football toss away from the University of Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium, the arboretum is a favorite of joggers, who populate its 2 miles of paved pathways at nearly all times of day and in any weather. It's also a favorite of the stroller set, particularly after the addition of a children's garden that opened in May, and is designated as the state botanical garden of Kentucky The arboretum, created by UK and the Urban County Government, also has 100 acres of green space and is a favorite place to lounge and read on Sunday afternoons. Visit: www.ca.uky.edu/arboretum

Town Branch and Legacy trails. Two new pedestrian and bicycle paths have opened in recent years in Lexington.

The Legacy Trail, part of which opened in 2010, connects an area near downtown to the city's horse country. An 8.5-mile section of the trail starts behind the YMCA on Loudon Avenue and goes to the Kentucky Horse Park. Visit: Mylegacytrail.com

Town Branch Trail extends for about 2 miles on the west side of Lexington, starting at McConnell's Trace subdivision west of town and ending near Alexandria Drive. Visit: Townbranch.org

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

Reach Beth Musgrave at (502) 875-3793.

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