Family

Take a hike and enjoy fall's foliage and weather

Matt Parker, and his wife Shae, walk their dog Duke in the UK arboretum before an impending storm  on Thursday October 31, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Matt Parker, and his wife Shae, walk their dog Duke in the UK arboretum before an impending storm on Thursday October 31, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

You don't need to join a major expedition to discover the pleasure of biking along country lanes lined with flaming autumn foliage, watching a flock of waterfowl flying in at sunrise or introducing your children to the wonders of woodland hiking.

All of these experiences can be found nearby in Fayette County, in local parks and along nature trails.

Getting out in November's fresh air heightens the sense of adventure, be it to witness the first snow of the season or the last rose of summer opening in a warm spell. Whether you're looking for a brief, comfortable stroll or a more strenuous workout, simple, close-to-home jaunts can provide short and sweet stress relief for cabin fever, mounting holiday pressures and perhaps a way to walk off Thanksgiving dinner and keep out-o-town guests entertained. Here are a few ideas to get you on your way:

■ The sunsets at the Arboretum on the University of Kentucky campus can be magical on cool, clear evenings. Families stroll the paths of this 100-acre botanical garden, couples settle on benches in the hush that falls at twilight, and the big, deep blue sky in the moonlight is a celestial reminder of UK's blue and white colors.

Founded in 1991, the Arboretum features an easy walking loop along about two miles of paved paths. Called the Walk Across Kentucky, native plant species are grouped along the way to portray the commonwealth's seven distinct physiographic regions: Bluegrass, Knobs, Pennyrile, Appalachian Plateau, Cumberland Mountain, Shawnee Hills and the Mississippi Embayment.

A rose garden planted with more than 1,000 varieties, a Children's Garden and display garden beds can be seen from the paths or accessed directly. The grounds, which are open daily from dawn to dusk, are populated by joggers and walkers with dogs on leashes and babies in strollers.

■ On a bright, sunny day, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is a great place to introduce children to hiking. A paved path leads through a wooded area to the visitor center, which has picnic tables and kid-friendly nature displays including an enticing frog pool. Paths from the visitor center into the main body of this 734-acre preserve in southeastern Fayette County get more rugged and challenging for ambitious or experienced hikers.

Along the 10 miles of dirt trails are streams and historical ruins to explore, as well as a vista (hold on to the kids here) from atop the Kentucky River Palisades.

Dogs and bikes are not allowed.

Open daily from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after. Check out the Saturday yoga program at this great place to salute the sun.

■ The ponds at Jacobson Park support not only fishing but migratory birds as well.

Get up before dawn, dress for the weather, grab a cup of coffee and a pair of binoculars and head to a parking lot by the water for the sunrise. The fresh air, just yards from busy Richmond Road, along with the sight and sound of an awakening bird chorus and quack cacophony, are a refreshing way to start the day.

Eagles, ducks, geese, herons and other birds have been spotted at the park. Bring your pups along, and let them run in the eight-acre fenced dog park.

This part of the city's reservoir system was donated to the LFUCG by Kentucky American Water in 2011; however, the park had been leased to the city since 1968. Its 216 acres support hiking, biking and boating in season.

Fishing is allowed in certain ponds. A standard license is required. Through a cooperative program with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, the lake is stocked regularly with trout, catfish and sunfish. The program, called Fishing in Neighborhoods, or FINs, is aimed at providing good, close-to-home fishing experiences. Read more at http://1.usa.gov/1twqg3w.

■ There is a parking lot with easy trail access at the northern terminus of the Legacy Trail, a 12-mile ribbon of pavement which allows non-motorized bikes, skaters, hikers and walkers to travel unimpeded from the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden in downtown Lexington's East End to the Kentucky Horse Park on Ironworks Pike.

The trail is relatively flat, and winds across open rural pastureland and along streams at its northern end. Stone walls and flower beds packed with native plants fit right in with the Bluegrass cultural landscape. Gardeners can volunteer to care for plantings along the trail. Large trees along the trail were left in place so there is an abundance of fall leaf color as well as winter evergreens. Walk or ride as far along the trail as you have time and energy.

The idea of traveling along alternative greenways has so much appeal that another segment extending the Legacy Trail farther north to Georgetown in Scott county has been proposed; see Facebook.com/GeorgetownScottCountyLegacyTrailExtension.

■ West of downtown, the Town Branch Trail is being developed along Elkhorn Creek.

So far, 1.9 miles have been completed, from Masterson Station to Alexandria Drive which operates as a city park. With funds already on hand and the federal transportation dollars pledged earlier this fall, another nearly two miles will be finished as well as design for the final 1.2 miles, the leg that goes through the Distillery District to Oliver Lewis Way. The path passes equine landscape via area neighborhoods, parks, and historic sites as it follows the westward course of Lexington's historic waterway, the Town Branch, of Elkhorn Creek along whose banks Lexington was founded in 1779. Learn more about the paved path at Townbranch.org.

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