Discovering The Trails of Jessamine County

Kentucky River winding through the Bluegrass. Author’s Collection.

Of the Bluegrass region, J. Soule Smith wrote in his “Bluegrass Region of Kentucky in 1898”:

The best part of it winds the Kentucky River, which has cut its deep bed into the soft rocks there hundred feet below the surface, and presents its picturesque cliffs in many featured crags as sentinels over the wimpling waves below … It is near to Heaven and most blest of all the earth.

If you’ve spent time in the Palisades, either kayaking the waters of the Kentucky River or hiking above or below the cliffs, you have personally witnessed the blessed place we live in. Or perhaps you’ve seen the sun rise or set over the rolling Bluegrass hills on a Jessamine County farm with centuries-old trees dotting the landscapes.

Yes, we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. But, too often, many of us are confined to our daily urban and suburban patterns. Getting out into nature is a treat, one made easier with publicly accessible trails.

Trails come in a wide variety. Some require great energy and involve steep grades, while others are paved and easily accessible by those of all abilities.

Some of the region’s best-known public trails include those at Lexington’s 734-acre Raven Run. Across the Kentucky River from Jessamine County are a series of nature preserves along the Palisades and separating the counties is the Kentucky River Blueway Trail along Jessamine County’s 42-mile waterfront.

Trails for all abilities at Garrard County’s Dupree Nature Preserve. Author’s Collection.

There are also a number of trails within Jessamine County. The US-68 mixed-use trail provides jogging and bicycling opportunity, as does the much shorter Riney B. Park trail. The longest mountain bike trail in the county is currently accessible only via Lexington’s Veterans Park. Other trail opportunities exist at Wilmore’s Centennial Park and at Camp Nelson, and there are more trails in Jessamine County. But many of these are unknown to the general public.

Despite the health and economic benefits of trails, local officials have kept secret many of these treasures. Hikes were possible, by appointment only. But restrictions have softened on access to public lands in our county. Now a consortium of parks and recreation, the YMCA, the health department, St. Joseph Jessamine, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Jessamine County Trails Association is in the process of identifying all of the trails in Jessamine County.

The consortium’s goal is to produce a brochure and map highlighting these Jessamine County resources. If you’re interested in helping to evaluate, photograph and help discover Jessamine County’s trails, contact Lindsay Ames at the health department, 885-2310, or John Howard at parks and recreation, 885-9787. You can also learn more on the Facebook page for the Jessamine County Trails Association.

Lindsay Ames, the Jessamine County Health Department’s Health Environmentalist, regularly hikes the trails of the Bluegrass. “When you simply need a quick escape into nature, the [Jim Beam Trail off Payne Lane] is conveniently located just minutes from Nicholasville,” says Ames.

According to Ames, the shorter Jim Beam Trail has a variety of sights close to home: “you are in the woods above the river, the elevation changes for some hill climbs, and you get some pretty cool views of the Palisades. While popular destinations like Red River Gorge are known for hiking trails, the local hiker may be pleasantly surprised to discover that there are actually a few adventurous trails within just a short drive.”

With random warm weekends popping up during Kentucky winters, it is ideal to plan for a spontaneous hiking excursion. With the leaves off the trees, views and landscapes are particularly spectacular. Year round, you can get out and discover that you live in a place that is “most blest of all the earth.”

The post above was originally published in the Jessamine Journal on January 8, 2015.  

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