Cave Run Lake on The Cumberland Ranger District

Photo of Cave Run Lake

Welcome to Cave Run Lake on the Cumberland Ranger District, located on the northern most portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Whether you are looking for adventure or need a quiet place for reflection, the Cumberland District has something for you. A focal point of the Cumberland Ranger District is Cave Run Lake, an 8,270-acre lake nestled in the beautiful mountains of eastern Kentucky. Built for flood protection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Louisville District) this lake provides flood protection to the lower Licking River valley. In addition to flood control, Cave Run Lake supplies water to area communities, improves water flow conditions on the Licking River, and offers habitat for many species of fish and wildlife.

Lake visitors will find many opportunities for relaxation and fun. Boating, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, wildlife viewing, and visiting historical sites are a few of the many activities our visitors enjoy. Check out the Corps of Engineers website. Cave Run Lake is located within the scenic Eastern Highlands region of Kentucky in Bath, Rowan, Morgan, and Menifee counties (Download a PDF brochure).The 8,270-acre lake is surrounded by the northern-most section of the Daniel Boone National Forest. The lake is 60 miles east of Lexington, Kentucky. Exits 123, 133, and 137 off Interstate 64 provide the primary access routes. Learn more about the Lake Cumberland drawdown and how it might affect visitors to Cave Run Lake.


Start your visit with a stop at our office located on KY 801 South. With a large deck overlooking Cave Run Lake, the office features interactive displays that tell the history of the area. A short video highlighting major attractions of the area may be viewed in our comfortable auditorium. Our well-informed staff will answer any questions you have and can provide you with information to help you enjoy your visit. We have trail guides, brochures and maps. The office is open weekdays 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed weekends and federal holidays.Recreation AreasTwo of the largest and most modern campgrounds in the Southern Region of the Forest Service can be found on the lake. Managed by private concessionaires under special use permits from the Forest Service, these campgrounds have nearly 400 campsites, some with hook-ups for RVs, in addition to swimming beaches and group-use areas. For your convenience and enjoyment, there are 12 boat ramps, and several day-use and wildlife viewing areas on the lake.


(U.S. Fee Area). Located on a 355-acre wooded peninsula extending into Cave Run Lake, Zilpo Recreation Area offers family fun for everyone. This campground features 172 tent and RV campsites within walking distance of the lake. Facilities include bathhouses with showers, some electrical RV hookups, hiking and jogging trails, scenic overlooks, a boat ramp, and a country store. The large sandy beach offers visitors a spectacular view of the lake. Waterfowl and wildlife are commonly seen at Zilpo. For reservations call the NATIONAL RECREATION RESERVATION SERVICE: 1-877-444-6777 or 1-877-833-6777 (for hearing impaired).

Photo of Zilpo


(U.S. Fee Area). Beautiful hills and a sparkling lake surround the Twin Knobs Recreation Area. This campground features 216 tent and RV campsites. Facilities include bath houses with showers, three group-use areas, foot trails, a scenic overlook, a boat ramp, and a beach. Weekly amphitheater programs, volleyball courts, basketball goals, and horseshoe pits provide family fun and entertainment. For reservations call NATIONAL RECREATION RESERVATION SERVICE: 1-877-444-6777 or 1-877-833-6777 (for hearing impaired).


Conveniently located close to horseback riding trails, this campground features 30 back-in parking slots for rigs up to 50 feet long and 7 parking slots for vehicles without trailers. The campground also has vault toilets, picket lines, wooded primitive camping areas, and a pond with water trough for the horses.


(U.S. Fee Area). Located near a quiet stream, this recreation area features 21 campsites, 14 picnic tables, and boat ramp providing access to Clear Creek Lake. Visitors may hike Clear Creek Trail or enjoy a visit to the historic iron furnace.


(U.S. Fee Area). This remote lakeshore campground offers primitive camping at 20 sites, accessible by boat or a short hike from Clay Lick Boat Ramp.AT BOAT RAMPS: You must display a pass in vehicles at Alfrey, Claylick, Poppin Rock, Long Bow, Scott Creek and Warix Boat RampsPoints of Interest


Photo of the Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery

Below Cave Run Lake dam is the Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery, operated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. This state fish hatchery is one of the largest warm-water fish hatcheries in the nation. The hatchery produces nearly four million fingerlings annually, that are released into Kentucky lakes, rivers, and suitable streams. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, striped bass (rockfish), hybrid striped bass, and walleye are some of the sport fish reared at the hatchery. During the summer months, an outdoor viewing tank is open for viewing many of the larger fish species. While visiting the hatchery, you may want to bring your binoculars, since this is also a favorite place for bird life. The hatchery grounds are open year-round during daylight hours. Indoor tours are available from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the summer months. Call 606-784-6872 for more information.


The Zilpo National Scenic Byway starts at Clear Creek Lake, a small lake impoundment, and travels up to a gently, curving ridgetop route where you may see seasonal colors and abundant wildlife. Stops along the way include a historic iron furnace, a restored fire tower, forest and lake views, and opportunities for quiet reflection. This 11-mile route ends at the Zilpo Recreation Area.


Learn about life as a towerman in 1930s at the Tater Knob Fire Tower. Visitors are welcome to climb the tower and enjoy a panoramic view of the area. This 35-foot tower was a key tool in detecting and fighting devastating forest fires.Built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it was restored in 1993 and is now open to the public. The tower is open from sunrise to sunset, but is closed during the winter months. Foot travel is welcome year-round. Be prepared to hike a steep stairway up a rocky knob to reach the base of the tower.


Pioneer Weapons is a 7,610-acre tract set aside for hunting with primitive weapons such as muzzle-loading firearms, bows, or crossbows. This area is managed by the Forest Service and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Like all national forest lands, the area is managed for a variety of uses, but wildlife management is a major emphasis. To enhance the area for wildlife, grassy openings have been created and maintained, water holes have been developed, and timber management has been used to enhance habitat diversity. As a result, wild turkey and white-tailed deer, once eliminated in the area, have been reestablished. For trail users, 30 miles of trails are open to non-motorized use. The boundary of the Pioneer Weapons Area is marked by yellow signs and by yellow bands of paint on the trees.


This cut-stone furnace is a relic of Kentucky's once flourishing iron industry. In the 1830s, Kentucky ranked third nationwide in pig iron production. The surrounding forests were logged to provide charcoal for the furnace, producing iron to be used in railroad car wheels. This area features a picnic area, chemical toilets, and drinking water. It is closed during the winter months. Foot travel is welcome year-round.


Nearly 115 miles of trails are found on the Cumberland District. The trails wind through scenic hardwoods, next to clifflines, and along Cave Run Lake. Small streams, woodland wildflowers, beautiful fall colors, ridgetops with scenic views, and glimpses of wildlife are some of the pleasures you may encounter while enjoying the trails.The Cumberland District allows multi-use travel on many of its trails, so you may encounter people on foot, horseback or mountain bikes. These trails will be signed to indicate the type of use allowed. Please be courteous to other users. Trail maps and additional information are available at the Cumberland office.


Most of our recreation areas open in March or April and close in the fall. Foot travel is welcome year round.The office, boat ramps, and the shooting range are open year round. During the fall hunting seasons, some gates are opened on national forest roads. Contact the Cumberland office for yearly opening and closing dates of roads and recreation areas.

Contact Information

Cumberland Ranger District
Daniel Boone National Forest
2375 KY 801 South
Morehead, KY 40351
Daniel Boone National Forest
Supervisor's Office
1700 Bypass Road
Winchester, KY 40391
Cumberland/Rowan County Chamber of Commerce
150 East First Street
Morehead, KY 40351
Ky. Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
#1 Game Farm Rd.
Frankfort, KY 406011
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
150 Ky. Hwy. 826
Morehead, KY 40351
24-hour lake information: