If you’re looking for a beautiful, scenic road trip to take through the heart of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, look no further than Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway. This route connects many of the highlights throughout the Land Between the Lakes making for a jam-packed day trip. Or draw out the adventure by booking a cabin or campsite within the area. However you like to travel, this road trip guide will help you plan your journey and make the most of your time driving this scenic route.
About the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area spans the western border of Kentucky and Tennessee, hemmed in by Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The 170,000 acres of rolling wooded hillsides are teeming with wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Between the 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline, 500 miles of trails, 1,400 campsites, and 444 miles of scenic road, Land Between the Lakes is an ideal destination for hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, boating, fishing, bird watching, and so many other outdoor adventures.
Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway
Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway bisects the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, connecting the northern tip at Grand Rivers, Kentucky to the southern terminus in Dover, Tennessee. This 45-mile paved two-lane route connects the campgrounds, boat docks, and other highlights of the Recreation area.
While the Trace is open year-round, the best times to visit are in the spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the foliage is beautiful. There is no entrance fee to drive on the byway, but you will need a recreation pass if you plan to stop and enjoy any of the recreation activities along the way. Day passes are available for purchase at any of the visitor centers. Annual passes can be purchased online or at any of the visitor centers.
Top Stops Along the Byway
There are plenty of things to see and do along Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway. Visitors have their pick of hiking trails, campgrounds, beaches, and picnic spots. But several unique destinations are definitely worth a stop.
Elk and Bison Prairie
This native grassland is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elk, bison, wild turkey, and cattle egrets. For the safety of the visitors and animals, this area is only open to vehicle traffic. But you can still get up close to wildlife in the comfort of your car if you time your visit right.
Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum
This living history museum is a great way to learn about life on a working farm in the mid-19th century. The farm includes 16 original log structures, an extensive collection of artifacts, as well as heirloom produce and livestock. Knowledgeable costumed interpreters happily answer questions and teach skills from that period.
Woodlands Nature Station
Get up close and personal with native wildlife, including the endangered red wolf, at this nature station. This environmental education center shelters and rehabilitates wild animals that were orphaned, injured, or born in captivity. See coyote, bobcat, bald eagle, owls, and other native wildlife along with staff lead educational programs about the creatures that call Land Between the Lakes home.
Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle Area
With around 100 miles of trails, this is the place to go if you’re looking for some off-roading fun.
Golden Pond Visitor Center
This visitor center is the perfect place to learn about the history and ecology of the Land Between the Lakes. It also shares the building with the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory which hosts regular educational presentations and music-themed entertainment.
Kentucky Loop Scenic Drive
Take a quick detour off the Woodlands Trace for this scenic, one-way road that skirts the bluffs overlooking Kentucky Lake. This is an ideal spot to pause for a picnic at the Kentucky Lake Drive Picnic Area or launch down the Canal Loop Trail.
Barklay Canal Bridge
The relatively narrow channel of water that forms the Barkley Canal severs any land bridge connecting Land Between the Lakes to the rest of Kentucky and connects Lake Barkley to Kentucky Lake. The Barklay Canal Bridge marks the northern end of the Woodlands Trace and Land Between the Lakes. Visitors can get a clear view of the bridge, and the Barklay Canal from the Canal Overlook on the northern end of the bridge.
Planning Your Road Trip
Before you hit the road, it’s important to ensure you have everything you need. Here are a few tips for planning your road trip:
- Know your route: Cell service is spotty in the recreation area. Make sure you know the route you’re taking and have a map for backup.
- Check the weather: Even in the heat of summer, Land Between the Lakes can host a surprise shower. It’s important to check the forecast before heading out and pack proper gear.
- Pack snacks and drinks: There’s nothing worse than being hangry on a road trip. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks and drinks to keep your energy up.
- Pack a first-aid kit: You never know when you might need it, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Have a plan: It’s fine not to stick to it, but a plan will help ensure that you prioritize the most exciting destinations. Many of these spots we could spend the better part of a day at. So knowing what’s in store ahead of time helps us weigh our choices and decide how long we want to stay at any particular place.
See You On The Road!
Ready to explore Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway for yourself? We hope this is enough to get you excited to start planning your next trip.
Have you already driven Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway? Let us know about your experience and favorite stops in the comments!
Exploring Land Between the Lakes on Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway