I was born and raised in Louisville the majority of my life, and I had no clue that we have a waterfall known as “The Niagara of the South.” Nor did I know how easily accessible it is. It is an easy drive from Louisville, around two and a half hours depending on the driver. It may or may not have been a little quicker in my case. 😉 I used the GPS app Waze on my phone to guide me, but once you have been there, it is very easy to find.
I will say that I was a little nervous traveling to a part of Kentucky that I have never been to. I know this may sound ridiculous to some people, especially those from around here, but going to the country is intimidating to me. I’m always worried about having car problems, running out of gas, or not having a cell phone signal and being stuck in the middle of nowhere. It’s not fear, but those thoughts do pop up when I’m planning on going somewhere that I haven’t been. Luckily, after arriving in Corbin, Kentucky, the location of the falls, I realized that there were gas stations, restaurants, and I wasn’t in the “middle of nowhere Kentucky.”
Before leaving my friend and I decided that we would stay the night in Corbin and that way we could have two full days to explore. We chose to stay in the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, which I found on booking.com. The Cumberland Falls State Resort is quaint and has country charm, but if I were to go back, I would probably stay somewhere else. The convenience factor of the State Resort Park is that it is a 2-minute drive from the actual falls. If you want to catch a glimpse of this natural beauty in the morning, afternoon, and evening, it is incredibly convenient. The reason why I probably opt out of staying there in the future is that the rooms are very outdated. It was like traveling back in time with a very sixties feel. Considering the facilities, I feel as though it is overpriced, but it is a State Resort Park, so you help maintain the Park while taking advantage of the location.
Once we arrived, we decided to check off our main object, the falls. Cumberland Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls I have ever been to, besides Niagara Falls. Anyone can access the different viewpoints except for one which is not wheelchair accessible, but the rest are wheelchair and stroller accessible. I saw every age group while I was there, young children, their parents and grandparents, and then people like us, young travelers. The actual falls are immense and impressive. Kentucky is currently experiencing an awful drought, so I can only imagine what they look like when it rains. Although they weren’t as grand as what they are typically supposed to be, I was still surprised by the size of the falls. Drought or not, they are a sight to be admired.
After taking our pictures of the falls and seeing a rainbow over it for a few minutes, 😉 we headed to the gift shop to see if they had any maps or suggestions for what to do in the area. The workers at the gift shop provided us a map of the falls, and surrounding hiking trails and they suggested that we explore the Eagle Falls trail. we decided to head to the recommended trail, Eagle Falls. We drove from the visitor’s center to the beginning of the trail. If you leave the parking lot and take a right, cross the bridge, you will see a small parking area on both sides of the road. The one to your right is the trailhead for Eagle Falls.
The trail is marked throughout the entire path. The trail is an easy walk but can be challenging at times, considering there is a lot of going up and downstairs. I’m not a professional hiker, I enjoy hiking for fun, and I found the trail to be easy. The trail leads down to the banks of the river and wind around to a waterfall that has plenty of boulders around to it lay down and relax. The entire time huge trees and boulders surround you. I went on September 16th, 2019, and was surprised to see that the majority of the leaves haven’t changed colors yet, but there were a lot of leaves falling while we were there. The entire loop is 1.8 miles, according to the app AllTrails. My phone said that it was 2 miles back and forth.
We came across other people while on the trail, and there were several locals who gave us tips on other places to check out in the area. One of the places that were mentioned several times is a trail called Dog Slaughter Falls. The name is totally awful, and the reason for the name is even worse (you can just imagine based on the title alone), so I’m not going to get into that, but it was a name that we heard repeated several times. We decided that we would check out Dog Slaughter Falls the following day and that since we completed the Eagle Falls Trail pretty quickly, we would head back to the tourist information center and choose another trail.
We chose to check out the #2 Trail. It is approximately 5 miles, and it follows the shoreline throughout parts of the trail. It was more difficult than Eagle Falls, and at times it was confusing. Several paths intertwine with each other, so we found ourselves on other trails at some points. Apart from the track not being as clearly marked, some parts were more complicated due to the terrain and them being downhill. We were able to manage, but I wouldn’t recommend this trail to someone inexperienced.
My worst nightmare also almost became a reality while on this trail. I almost stepped on a snake. As we were walking and taking in the views, I looked down and thought what I saw was a stick but quickly realized that it had a head. Luckily, I stepped back and allowed the snake to continue on its merry way while I stood a few feet away, trembling in fear. I love mother nature and respect all of its creatures, but I have a horrible fear of snakes. I know it is irrational, but I’ve been afraid of them since I was a child. It doesn’t help that my stepdad used one to scare me while I was young. (Inserts childhood emotional trauma here, lol.) Thankfully both the snake and I were able to continue on our peaceful ways without any issues.
Since it was getting later in the day and I had a mini heart attack from my snake encounter, I figured it was the time that we called it a day and looked for something to eat. As I said, I was shocked that there were various restaurant options in Corbin because quite honestly, I had never really heard of Corbin before. It was Mexico’s independence day on that day, so my friend and I decided to check out a local Mexican restaurant called Santa Fe. To our surprise, the food was delicious, and the portions were huge. Neither of us was able to finish our entire meal.
We also met one of the owners while we were there who is a Cuban immigrant and has been living there for twenty-three years. Admittedly, it’s an odd place for someone from Havana to end up, but he told us that he loves the area and that the locals treat everyone as if they are family. As I mentioned earlier, I am very wary of traveling in the country, and part of it is because people in small towns are not always accepting, and they become very suspicious of outsiders. His comments took some of my initial worries about locals away. I even met another patron who told me about the app AllTrails that has maps and guides to trails that are nearby. I downloaded it and used it the following day when we went to Dog Slaughter Falls. She also gave us a lot of information about what to do in Corbin and nearby. Moral of this part of the story, never judge a book or a place by it’s cover. 😉
One of the places that they mentioned to us while we were at the restaurant was Sanders Cafe or otherwise known as the original KFC. I know in my previous post I slammed KFC a little bit, but I do have to recognize and be grateful that Kentucky Fried Chicken has put Kentucky on the map internationally. If it wasn’t for Colonel Sanders, I’d probably have to carry a map of the U.S.A. with me everywhere I go so I could point out where I’m from. My friend and I decided that when in Corbin, we might as well see the birthplace of the fried chicken that we dislike so much. The Sanders Cafe is the original KFC, and it has been converted into a museum and restaurant. The left side of the restaurant is a functioning KFC, and the rest is filled with memorabilia from the original design, including the Colonel’s office, the original kitchen, and bathrooms. It was a nice stop and probably something I would have never done if someone didn’t suggest it. My mom dislikes KFC just as much as I do so I decided to buy her a souvenir as a joke. I’ll include it in the photos.
After touring the original KFC, my friend and I decided that we would head back to the falls and try our luck to see if we see a natural phenomenon called a “Moonbow.” Once a month, when there is a full moon, a “moonbow” can be seen across the falls. The moonbow looks like a rainbow, only that it is white, and it only occurs during the full moon. The Cumberland Falls website has a schedule to which dates each month it can be seen. We stood outside for hours in the night sky at an attempt to catch a glimpse of the moonbow but to no avail. Even though we were disappointed that we didn’t get to see the moonbow, it was pretty cool to see the falls at night and hear the crashing of the water. Once we decided that we had waited enough, we headed back to the lodge and got some rest for the following day.
Once we were able to get up and enjoy a quick breakfast, we checked out the app that was recommended to us and saw that Dog Slaughter Falls was one of the top recommended trails in the area. Although I am not a fan of the name, at all, we decided to check it out. If you plan to go, I suggest downloading the app as well. It gave us driving directions to find the trail, which was difficult because it is not marked. Once we arrived, the app also allowed us to download a map of the trail on our phones which was awesome because I had no cell phone signal. (Thanks, T-Mobile.) Once we located the trailhead, we were on our way.
Dog Slaughter Falls is an easy trail considering there isn’t much change in altitude, and there are signs everywhere that indicate which way to go. The sign at the beginning says that it is only 1 mile, but we found out that it is 2 miles to get there and 2 miles back, making it a total of 4 miles. The trail is easy, but it does get a little complicated towards the end when you arrive at the falls. There is a downhill pitch that requires precaution, but besides that, the trail is overall easy. While you walk towards the waterfall, you are accompanied by a stream and shade provided by the many trees in the area. There are lots of stunning views along the trail and plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Kentucky’s woods/nature provides stunning views that most people (including myself) would never imagine. Once we arrived at the waterfall, we spent around an hour or so hanging out, taking photos and enjoying the fresh air. The scenery is breathtaking and relaxing and allows you to feel one with nature. Once we got enough dose of nature, we decided to go ahead and head back home to Louisville.
The trip overall was inexpensive, fun, and exciting. I highly recommend making the trip to Cumberland Falls and checking out the surrounding hiking trails. I know that I will be returning to check out other trails. Some of the tips that I would give anyone planning to go would be to take plenty of water, (make sure you have a reusable bottle), sunscreen depending on what time of year it is, bug spray (Kentucky is mosquito heaven during the summer), and the weirdest but probably most important thing to take would be bear spray. There are black bears in this region of Kentucky and the best way to protect yourself from a black bear attack, (besides walking slowly backward and making lots of noise), is to use bear spray.
Here is a list of the trip expenses for anyone interested in how much a trip to Corbin and Cumberland Falls costs.
Gas- I used a full tank of gas which cost me $40. Gas was $2.55 at the time, and I have a 16 gallon tank.
Food- Santa Fe Mexican Restaurant- $36 for dinner for two. (I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who enjoys TexMex.)
Park Entrance- $0.00. That’s right. Free.99.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park- One night stay cost a total of $105.00. Found on http://www.booking.com.
Souvenirs (optional)- $5.99 for a coffee mug from KFC and $18.99 for a T-Shirt from the Falls Gift Shop.
Spending time in nature = Priceless.
Helpful apps while used on the trip: Waze (GPS) and AllTrails (Hiking App)
I’ve also created a video recap of my hikes on YouTube which can be found by clicking below.