Kentucky : Safety by City
- Bowling Green
- Cave City
- Cumberland Falls
- Harlan Tri-Cities
- La Grange
- St. Matthews
Cumberland Falls, Kentucky, redefines “roughing it” with a pole position in Daniel Boone National Park.
This isn’t a city, per se, and it’s formally known as Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.
That’s because of the nearby Cumberland Falls in all their glory, producing a natural wonder that can only be seen in a handful of places on the planet.
When you first see the 708,000 acres of Daniel Boone National Forest, it’s hard to pick the perfect spot to stay in during your trip.
Heck, it’s hard to narrow it down to 2-3 places to visit.
Cumberland Falls brings all options together nicely where serious outdoor adventurers don’t feel like they are “settling,” and new adventurers can experience adventure with modern amenities.
You have several choices about where to stay, from the main lodge with the internet, maid service, and meals ready at all times of the day, to cabins in the woods, to even more remote cabins in the woods, to campsites with varying amenities.
If you can, plan your trip here around a full moon.
This is when the mesmerizing moonbow struts its stuff.
You’ll have to hike at night, but you’ll be rewarded with a moonbow you’ll talk about for the rest of your life.
A moonbow is similar to a rainbow, just produced by the mist of the falls and the light of the full moon.
From Cumberland Falls State Park Resort, you have access to thousands of acres of trails, the falls themselves, the ridges above the falls, stone arches, rock climbing, fishing, and kayaking.
If you’re into paranormal oddities, you might want to keep an eye out for the Cumberland Falls Bride Ghost.
Warnings & Dangers in Cumberland Falls
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here if you make good choices. As long as you follow all the safety guidelines and take the available classes as needed, like Backpacking 101, you'll be in for the outdoor time of your life.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll need a car to get here, and the rest of the adventure is on foot, by horse, or possibly by bicycle or ATV. Assuming you head into the wilderness with the right equipment, there's a low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Neither the park police nor the Kentucky State Police reported any pickpockets in this area in 2020. While you should never leave your belongings abandoned or lying around, you can rest assured you won't have to constantly worry about someone snatching your purse.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The weather can be quite extreme in Kentucky, so there's a medium risk here just because of the potential. Flooding and severe thunderstorms are among the greatest concerns. Winter weather like blizzards and ice storms can make roads impassible and trails dangerous. You also face a risk of wildfire during droughts.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There is very little violent crime reported in Daniel Boone National Forest. No robberies were reported by the park rangers or the state police in 2020. The biggest risk of a dangerous crime could be an active or abandoned meth lab in the woods. Yes, that's really a thing.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
You don't have to worry about terrorists or attacks here. Nature brings enough terrorizing things of its own, like poisonous snakes and precarious cliffs with no guardrails.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of a tourist scam, but in a place like this, you always have to verify the rental company you use. Booking through the Cumberland Falls Park website is the smartest option. You can reserve a room in the lodge, cabins, or campsite. There are numerous other travel sites that offer cabins in the remote wilderness, but just be sure you're looking at a secure website and that the person offering the place to stay has a rental license. A sure sign of a scam is being asked to wire money in advance to pay for a room.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Assuming the women know how to handle themselves in the outdoors, there's a low risk here. The biggest risk comes from adventuring alone. There are just a lot of ways to get hurt here if you aren't careful. Even experienced hikers can slip and fall or get a little too close to the edge of a cliff.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report for the Cumberland Falls Highway Water District shows no violations and all standards set by the state and EPA were met. You *cannot drink the river water, but you can use the tap water.
Safest Places to Visit in Cumberland Falls
“Safe” is really in the eye of the beholder here.
Some of the most popular places are also the most dangerous.
Judge your own skills and comfort level before taking in any of these activities.
At the state park, you can participate in gem and fossil mining throughout the year.
It’s a very safe and controlled activity good for every member of the family.
While you won’t strike it rich, you’ll have a great time trying.
The Moonbow Trail (moderate to difficult level hike) takes you so close to Cumberland Falls you’ll feel the mist of the water.
You’ll get a firsthand look at why this is called the “Niagara of the South.”
With a 60-foot drop to the rocks below, it’s either inspiring or vertigo-inducing.
There are parts of this area where fences block you from going over the edge but are not nearly secure enough that a child, animal, or nimble adult can’t get past them.
There is also an easier trail, the Cumberland Falls Trail, that takes you to observation decks to see the moonbow or get spectacular overhead views of the falls.
For those who want to see the Moonbow, you’ll have to do some evening and night hiking.
This might be a great night to camp, so you don’t have to walk back in the dark.
You should arrive no more than two hours after sundown to get the best views.
The skies DO have to be clear to see a moonbow.
The upcoming dates for the Moonbow area:
- September 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
- October 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
- November 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
- December 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
- January 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
- February 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
- March 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
- April 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
- May 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
- June 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
- July 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 30, 31
- August 1, 2, 3, 27, 28, 30, 31
- September 1, 27, 28, 29, 30
- October 1, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
- November 25, 26, 27, 28, 29
- December 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
The Pinnacle Knob hiking trail will take you to a lookout tower, once the home of “Firewatchers” during wildfire season.
Check with a park ranger to see if the tower is open during your visit.
The horrible named Dog Slaughter Trail and Falls is another option to see a waterfall that isn’t as dynamic but just as cool to see.
Legend says that dogs might have lost their lives here, either from wildlife or the infamous “Bigfoot”, but nobody is 100% sure how it got its name.
I’m 100% sure I don’t understand why it hasn’t been renamed.
About 30 minutes north of Cumberland Falls, you can take a riverboat tour on Lake Cumberland.
Cruises run from breakfast through dinner and usually run for about 90 minutes.
Ky-rafting.com is a great website to review the dozens of tour options in the Cumberland Falls area.
You can kayak below the falls, ride a zip line, rent a “duckie”, go whitewater rafting, and so much more.
Check this site for shuttles that can take weary campers back from certain rest stops along the way.
30 minutes west of Cumberland Falls, you’ll find another series of natural wonders – arches.
Natural Arch Scenic Area offers different trail options, from the Panoramic Trail that takes you around the arch, giving soul-soothing views, to a trail that takes you right over the top of the 100-foot-long arch.
Places to Avoid in Cumberland Falls
It’s important to know that the farther you get away from the resort area, the more you are fully immersed in nature – for better and for worse.
Not all of those trails are well-kept; some can be confusing or hard to see.
Many of them aren’t handicapped accessible.
Unless there is a designated overlook, you won’t find anything to stop you from falling or slipping.
I won’t go into the real-life stories in too much detail because I don’t want to scare anyone.
However, a quick Google Search for “Cumberland Falls Deaths” will show you the real-life dangers, where something as simple as skipping over rocks jutting out from the water or wading in knee-deep water led to deaths.
Now, if you believe in ghosts, you’ll want to read on.
If you don’t, skip ahead to the next section.
In the 1950s, there was a bride and groom so excited about seeing the falls that they didn’t even remove their wedding clothes.
The groom wanted a picture of his beautiful bride with the falls behind her.
She jumped with excitement and slipped to her death.
Almost so many people have reported seeing this ghost bride that it’s hard to believe it’s not real.
Some of the stories come from workers at the lodge.
Others come from tourists who couldn’t possibly know each other.
Here are some places she has been spotted:
- Any overlook near the falls
- During a moonbow
- On the side of the road, asking for help, only to disappear
- Sounds of a loud “thud”, followed by white flowers falling in the middle of the winter
- Screams near the falls without seeing a person around
- Standing in the middle of the road near a curve near where she fell. Drivers have reported “hitting her”, only to see nothing when they stopped and looked around.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Cumberland Falls
- You need a battery-powered weather radio if you are going into the wilderness. You can check your mobile service provider’s coverage map to see what areas get service here, but it’s few and far between outside of the lodge area. Your best chance of getting a signal would be at the highest point you can find.
- You might come across abandoned mines in your travels. Don’t go near them. These mines are unsafe and can lead to dangerous plummets below the earth. The chances of someone escaping a mine collapse are slim.
- Check with the park ranger about bear activity during your visit. There is “bear spray” you can purchase. It’s not to be used ahead of time, like perfume. It’s the last resort when a black bear is charging at you. If you see a bear, don’t panic. Speak in a human, calm voice to let them know you’re not a threat. Back away, but never turn your back on the bear. If you look on social media, there are plenty of videos of people handling this situation well, screaming “Hey, Bear! Go away, Bear” as they slowly back away. Going up a tree or into the water isn’t going to stop a bear from coming after you.
- Bring bear-proof containers for all your food. No exceptions. You should also hang your food at least 10 feet above the ground and 10 feet from the tree trunk holding the branch. It’s also allowed to keep food in a hard-top vehicle with the windows rolled up. Lock the doors, too, because a bear can easily get trapped in a car and rip that sucker apart.
- The USDA Forest Service warns about remote natural areas like Daniel Boone National Forest having meth labs. This is another “Don’t believe me? Google it!” point of distinction. If you come across a makeshift shanty house or see people who aren’t friendly as you approach, keep your head down and get away as soon as possible. While it’s not terribly common, it’s something that could catch you off guard, so I wanted to bring it up.
- Parking is a pain in the neck here. There’s no getting around that. Trailheads will have parking lots, but they’ll fill up quickly. There are places where parking is allowed on the side of the road. Those places will be clearly marked. Even though hundreds of others are going to park where there are “NO PARKING” signs, don’t do that. You can get a ticket, towed, or worse – involved in an accident. With so many trails here, you can always go to another location. As an avid hiker, I find that going out at sunrise is the best bet. Only once in my life have I found a lot that was full with no overflow parking.
- You should bring enough water to get you through the hike, about a gallon per person, and pack tools to purify river water. This can be as simple as a metal cup you boil over a fire, pellets to clean the water, or a special water filtration system. Costs and ease of use vary, so choose the one that is right for you. Just don’t ever leave yourself without a way to get water in the wild.
- Unless you are an expert-level kayaker, do NOT try to kayak over the falls. Yeah, the social media photos posted look really cool, but there’s more of a chance you’ll hit the rocks below and end up seriously injured or dead.
- You cannot bring alcohol or metal detectors into any of the parks. Don’t even try it. If a park ranger doesn’t catch you, a passing hiker might.
- If you are hiking during a rainstorm, get as high up as possible. Being in ravines or under rocky areas can lead to flash flooding too fast to outmaneuver.
So... How Safe Is Cumberland Falls Really?
Cumberland Falls is generally a destination for people who are outdoors-savvy.
Before you go, you should study up on a few necessary items:
- How to pack a backpack for efficiency and comfort
- How to turn river water into drinking water
- How to handle encounters with a bear or poisonous snake
- The different rapid levels. It’s not going to help if you take a Level 4 whitewater trip and you don’t know what that means.
- Basic first aid in the wilderness
- How to operate a compass (a real compass, not the one on your mobile device)
- Weather risks and safety for a particular region
While too many accidents happen, the majority of people who visit Cumberland Falls walk away with no injuries and a lifetime of memories.
It’s important to know the numbers for law enforcement, whether it’s the Forest Service Law Enforcement, Whitley County Sheriff, and Kentucky State Police.
Enjoy your experience, and we’d love to hear your advice in the comments below.
How Does Cumberland Falls Compare?
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
- Visas - Anyone can visit Cumberland Falls without having to show a U.S. Travel or Work Visa, but you'll need a visa to get through Customs at the airport. This process can take several months and strongly depends on how long the wait is for an interview at the U.S. Embassy in your country.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and it's wise to keep some cash on you. Some of the businesses in this area might only accept cash or have credit card machine outages. This is the first time I've seen this advice, but the U.S. Forest Service states on its website, "Law enforcement agencies suggest keeping 'mugger money' of ten or fifteen dollars in your wallet or purse to satisfy money-hungry thieves."
- Weather - You need to pack waterproof layers for every exposed portion of your body. Bring hiking boots that give good support to your ankles. In winter, you'll likely need a coat, but be sure it's easy to remove and store if you get warm. Don't forget extra pairs of socks for when your feet get wet.
- Airports - You can get to Knoxville or Lexington's airports in less than two hours but plan for more time if there's severe or winter weather happening. The roads here are winding and narrow.
- Travel Insurance - In addition to traditional travel insurance, you can also buy special "adventurer" insurance that covers medical costs or the price of rescue up to $500,000. Outdoor equipment can be expensive, so make sure your plan covers any equipment lost by the airline.
Cumberland Falls Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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