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Man standing along the lakeside holding a fishing rod.

The Land Between the Lakes (LBL) is a 170,000-acre recreation area located in western Kentucky and Tennessee. Its diverse landscape of forests, wetlands, and open fields, hemmed in by Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley makes it an ideal destination for outdoor adventures. Follow along for our list of top 10 outdoor activities to make the most out of your visit to Land Between the Lakes!

Woodlands Nature Station staff member balances Midnight the barred owl on her gloved wrist.
Midnight the barred owl
Avion C11 truck camper crossing the bridge over Pryor Bay in Land Between the Lakes.
Looking out over Pryor Bay.

History of Land Between the Lakes

The Land Between the Lakes was created in the 1940s as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority to protect against flooding and generate electricity. The US Army Corps of Engineers impounded the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and surrounding land to form Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The narrow ridge of land rising between the lakes and cut off from its northern end by the Barkley Canal became known as the Land Between the Lakes.

Today, the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is managed by the US Forest Service and is open to the public year-round. The Land Between the Lakes is a popular recreation destination for boating, fishing, camping, hiking, nature watching, and so much more. It is also home to several hundred species of wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys, beavers, deer, and wild turkey

Bison gives the camera a side eye.

Top 11 Outdoor Activities

Endowed with such a diverse natural landscape, Land Between the Lakes has something for everyone to enjoy. Here are our top outdoor activities to enjoy during your visit:

Camping

Land Between the Lakes is a camper’s paradise with over 1,400 campsites spread across 14 designated camping areas—4 developed campgrounds, 11 self-service, and five designated basic campgrounds and camping areas). Enjoy sites with direct lake access such as Piney Campground, horse stables, or ATV trails. Better yet, blaze your own trail and take advantage of the endless dispersed camping opportunities throughout the park.

Woman standing next to a truck camper, cooking on a skillet, next to a body of water.
Cooking dinner with a view.

Hiking

With 261 miles of trails, there’s a perfect hike for everyone in Land Between the Lakes. Find your sweet spot between short and easy nature walks to longer and more challenging treks.

Hands holding a tortoise.
A surprise encounter while on a walk.

Fishing

Land Between the Lakes is home to an abundance of fish including crappie, bass, sauger, catfish, bluegill, and more. With fishing docks scattered across the recreation area and 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline to fish from, Land Between the Lakes is an angler’s dream come true.

Man fishing on a pier at dusk.
Fishing from the pier.

Wildlife Viewing

With 190 acres of wildlife refuge, Land Between the Lakes is home to an abundance of wildlife including bald eagles, ospreys, beavers, deer, and wild turkey. While wildlife thrives throughout the recreation area, get an up-close view at the Woodlands Nature Station and the Elk and Bison Prairie.

A big eyed molting screech owl
A molting screech owl looking curious.

Boating

Land Between the Lakes is a boater’s paradise with 26 boat ramps accessing 220,000 surface acres of water to explore. With its many lakes, coves, and rivers, Land Between the Lakes is perfect for a day on the water.

Great blue heron landing on a bush in the middle of a lake.
Heron landing along the shoreline of Kentucky Lake.

ATV/UTV Trails

Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle Area offers 100 miles of off-road vehicle trails for ATVs, UTVs, and other off-road rigs. Spend all day tearing up trails and even the night at the Turkey Bay Campground.

Rutted forest road shaded by trees.
The rutted track of FD-359 is reasonably drivable but the low-hanging branches block our entry.

Canoeing/Kayaking

Land Between the Lakes is a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking with 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline to explore and small islands scattered across Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Land Between the Lakes is perfect for a day on the water.

Man paddling in a kayak near a grassy shoreline.
Kayaking along the shoreline.

Horseback Riding

Most horse-related activities center around Wrangler’s Campground, where campers can house their horses in nearby stables, access 106 miles of horse trails, and participate in guided horseback rides.

Horses roaming in Oklahoma
Horses roaming in Oklahoma

Biking

Land Between the Lakes boasts 70 miles of mountain bike trails as well as many bike-friendly roads and trails.

Man riding a bike by a lake.
Biking

Driving

With 444 miles of scenic roads to explore, no trip to the Land Between the Lakes is complete without a leisurely cruise down Woodlands Trace or a rough and rugged forest road. Land Between the Lakes is overflowing with opportunities to roll down the window, crank your music, and feel with wind in your hair (or on your scalp, we don’t judge).

Avion C11 truck camper crossing a cement bridge.
Bridge over Pryor Bay

More Activities

We may be highlighting 10 outdoor activities, but let’s not pretend that there isn’t so much more that Land Between the Lakes has to offer. Many educational centers in the area organize outdoor activities. Golden Pond Visitors Center includes a planetarium and hosts stair-gazing evenings.

When addressing outdoor activities, museums may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum is almost entirely outdoors and very active. Learn how Victorian Era farmers worked the land, maintained their homes, and cared for a wide range of heirloom produce and livestock.

Costumed interpreter spinning wool with curious adolescent sheep at Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum
Costumed interpreter spinning wool with curious adolescent sheep.

What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway, Land Between the Lakes has something for everyone to enjoy. It’s no surprise that 1.5 million visitors come to explore this park annually. So start planning your trip to Land Between the Lakes today!

Is there some outdoor activity that particularly excites you? Have you visited the Land Between the Lakes? Share your favorite activities in the comments!

Lexi lives in a truck camper down by the river.

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