For Tim Cody of Knott County, the appeal of an off-road adventure aboard an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is the chance to “get outside of the cities and towns, enjoy nature and get away from the normality of life.” He said ATVing allows for greater exploration of southeastern Kentucky’s hollers, affording glimpses of wildlife, such as beaver and elk.
As director of the Knott County ATV & Motorcycle Rider Training Center, Cody ensures off-roaders approach their adventures with safety in mind. “Last year, I trained nearly 400 people in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia,” he said. The training facility offers courses for ATVs, dirt bikes and street motorcycles, a training area and skills practice course, as well as trails suitable for riders from novice to expert. The Center, which opened in 2007 on 10 acres of what is now the Mine Made Paradise Park, is a good first stop for off-roading newbies, as it can furnish ATVs for the training classes. However, according to Cody, most people purchase their own vehicles. “They have the interest, purchase an ATV and then find someone to go riding with,” he said.
Ready to rev your way across the hundreds of miles of Kentucky ATV trails? Here are a few places where you can begin your escapist adventures.
Located on 43,000 acres of reclaimed coal land near the Knott County towns of Leburn and Hindman, Mine Made Paradise Park offers 100 miles of looped ATV and dirt bike trails. The park also features horseback riding trails and stables, elk viewing opportunities and camping. Special ATV events hosted at the park include the Spring Ground Poundin’, May 25-27 and Fall Brawl, Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
With trailheads in Putney and Evarts (the self-proclaimed birthplace of adventure tourism), the Harlan County Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area has more than 150 miles of ATV trails, some with elevations reaching 3,300 feet. In August of last year, a new experience was added for thrill-seekers to the area. The Black Mountain Thunder Zipline provides a two-hour, 1.5-mile canopy tour at speeds up to 60 mph—no engine required!
Opened in 2008, Bell County’s Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park currently offers more than 120 miles of trails, with more planned. Riders can experience a variety of terrains, including open field, old logging roads, dry creek beds and the “Mud Bowl.” The park also features numerous fishing ponds and primitive camping, all free of charge. On Oct. 19-21, the park will host its fourth annual Holler Crawler Haunted Forest Ride.
More than 150 miles of trails are available in the forest, including the Sheltowee Trace Trail system near London, the White Sulphur OHV trails near Morehead, the Rock Ridge and Straight Creek trails near Stearns and the 100-mile Redbird Crest Trail System in Clay and Leslie counties.
Maysville’s Big Rock Off-Road Park boasts nearly 2,000 acres of ATV trails for every skill level. ATV rentals are available through Big Blue Outdoor in Flemingsburg. Paintball, laser tag and zip lining are scheduled to open at the park this year. This fall, Big Rock will host Tough Mudder Kentucky, a 10- to 12-mile footrace, obstacle course and team endurance event.
At Land Between the Lakes’ off-highway vehicle area, Turkey Bay, you can camp beneath the stars at night and then ATV your way across nearly 100 miles of trails once day breaks. Children can learn riding basics in the Turkey Trot area, a half-mile kids’ trail. Off-road adventures are just the beginning of the outdoor pursuits available. Hiking, horseback riding, fishing, an elk and bison prairie, nature center and, of course, water sports abound at LBL.
Covering 400 acres of woodlands to swamplands, Greasy Creek ATV Park in Madisonville also offers a primitive camping area. ATV-riding anglers will want to pack their fishing poles and enjoy the park’s nine lakes.
Also located in Hopkins County, Earlington’s 608-acre ATV park includes a 10-mile trail and Loch Mary Lake. Camping also is available.