Melissa Redden Lawson is exploring the hiking options in Pendleton County and her first installment was a hike at Kincaid Lake State Park
Kincaid Lake State Park became a part of Kentucky’s state park system in 1958. That summer, the state began the process of clearing the land where the lake would soon be. The dam on Kincaid Creek was constructed in 1961, and two years later Kincaid Lake was open to the public. The park is now 850 acres of natural beauty, with 183 acre Kincaid Lake, 84 campsites, a marina and boat ramp, 9-hole golf course, event hall, pool, multiple playgrounds and picnic shelters, and 2.25 miles of hiking trails.
The trails at Kincaid Lake are quite possibly the best way to enjoy what the park has to offer. Hiking these trails requires no special equipment, and they are short enough to be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. There are two trails at Kincaid Lake, each named for native flora: the Spicebush Trail and the Ironwood Trail. The Spicebush Trail is labeled as one mile, but from the path at the back side of the recreation area, it ends up being closer to 1.5 miles round trip. The well-beaten trail leads gently downhill to a small shelter house. Its walls are covered with drawings of native plant and animal life, and a large map of the two trails that both start here. The trail then travels steeply downhill to the creek below. It follows along the creek through a beautiful forest, then crosses a wooden bridge and meanders alongside the creek for a while. The trail stays relatively flat for about a third of a mile, but then it is mostly uphill he the next half mile. Then it’s back down the hill to the creek, across the bridge and back up the way you came down.
The trail signs will indicate that this is a counter clockwise loop, but Emily Florer and her children prefer to make the loop clockwise. This sends you up what the three children has dubbed “Rocky Hill” and down “Cedar Hill.” The path on “Rocky Hill” goes straight up the hill, and as its nickname indicates, the trail on the hill is covered in rocks. On “Cedar Hill,” the trail winds through a grove of cedar and pine trees. There is an inviting scent of evergreen in the air, and the dirt trail is cushioned by evergreen needles in places. Mrs. Florer has been taking her children, now 10, 8 and 7, for walks on the trail here since they were 4, 3 and 1. “It’s been a great thing to do with the kids,” she says. “It gets them out in the beautiful forest and burns off some of their excess energy. And my dad comes with us a lot, so they get to spend time out there with him, too.”
The longer trail, Ironwood Trail, is listed on the trail marker as being 1.5 miles, but like Spicebush Trail it ends up being a little longer than that, about 2 miles. It follows the same path as the Spicebush trail until you reach the bridge. At the bridge, Ironwood trail branches off to the left just before the crossing. You follow along the creek for a bit, and then cross at a shallow, rocky place. This is generally quite easy and does not result in wet feet. The trail winds its way uphill through the forest. It joins up with Spicebush trail, and you can go right to take “Rocky Hill” down or left for “Cedar Hill.”
These two trails traverse through a beautiful second growth forest. There are many varieties of wildflowers along the trail during the spring and summer months, and it’s a great place to check out the fall colors when the weather turns cooler. There is an abundance of wildlife in the park—bald eagles, deer, pileated woodpeckers, turtles, songbirds, salamanders and more—and the trail is a great place to get an up-close look at these creatures. “I have never been on these trails without seeing some wildlife,” says Mrs. Florer, “And we are there at least once a week, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week if the weather is nice.”
Kincaid Lake State Park’s hiking trails are one of the parks greatest assets. Whether you want to check out the wildlife, view the wild flowers or fall colors, or just get some exercise, these trails have what you are looking for.
This is the first of a series of articles by Melissa Redden Lawson looking at the hiking options in Pendleton County.