Kentucky : Safety by City
- Bowling Green
- Cave City
- Cumberland Falls
- Harlan Tri-Cities
- La Grange
- St. Matthews
It’s amazing that Morehead, Kentucky is still here to talk about after its tumultuous history.
Family feuds and fierce fires both put the city and Rowan county on the brink of extinction.
With the tenacity of a proud Kentucky town, the city still stands in the center of Daniel Boone National Forest.
Visiting here doesn’t just put you near the forest.
You are immersed in it.
It’s hard to define Morehead because it’s a college town, a lake town, and an artsy town.
Morehead State University has a larger population than the entire city and is consistently rated by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best Southern universities.
Downtown Morehead is the quintessential Southern city embracing the art world and old-fashioned values.
American flags proudly fly as church steeples tower as high as the treeline.
Nearby Cave Run Lake provides ample water activities through the warmer months, and the surrounding wilderness provides camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing throughout the year.
Rock climbers trek to this region to do death-defying climbs and reach new levels of expertise.
Anglers will love the “Musky Capital of the South” as these freshwater apex predators make good trophies for those looking to tackle a new fishing challenge.
Warnings & Dangers in Morehead
OVERALL RISK: LOW
You can enjoy the activities in Morehead at low risk, but you'll need to have good safety plans, especially when exploring the outdoors.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
While Morehead is very walkable, you'll need a car to get there and to the trails and lakes nearby. There isn't a public bus system or many taxis/rideshares.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's low risk with shoplifting being the largest theft category. Over the past few years, no pickpockets have been reported in Morehead.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This is the one that is a medium risk and, at times, can be at high risk. Flooding, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, winter storms, ice storms - the risks run the gamut. Invest in a battery-powered weather radio to get weather information even if there isn't cellular service.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
One robbery was reported in 2020, and that was at a gas station. There's a low risk of it happening to a tourist. The only exception would be a bear taking your food if you didn't "bear-proof" it before packing.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
You don't need to worry about terror attacks of any kind here. This is a remote area with a small population. In fact, this is a great place to go if there was a larger terror attack on a big city, assuming you can survive in the wilderness.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The main scam to worry about is a rental scam. While the most commonly reported rental scam involves someone listing a house for sale, it could end up on the vacation rental market. Red flags on this include someone asking for money wired up front, the person only communicating via email, and the landlord not being able to show proof of a rental permit.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
You'll have to be comfortable with being outdoors in various types of weather and among various types of wildlife to be at low risk here. You should also weigh all the risks of activities you want to try. For example, a first-time rock climber shouldn't start on the Military Wall Trail.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Rowan Water is the utility provider here, and all testing meets the required standards. No violations were reported. It's important to follow the rules of the lakes and streams around there because that water comes out of the tap after being treated.
Safest Places to Visit in Morehead
In a place like Morehead, safety is in the skills and safety steps of the participants.
There are full-on adrenaline junkie opportunities here, yet someone like me who is scared of heights and snakes can find something to do as well.
While there are probably a thousand things you can do here, I’m only going to list the safest activities assuming a family is traveling.
Starting in Morehead, the Kentucky Folk Art Center is a great way to get accustomed to the artistic vibe of the area.
More than 1,400 pieces of art are on display, and they all are from self-taught artists.
Don’t go looking for a Van Gogh here.
You can also buy some of the crafts at the expansive gift shop.
The Morehead Railroad and History Museum is a great place to learn about the railroads that once ran through here, but there’s so much more.
You can tour a seized moonshine still and see how this backwoods liquor was once made.
There are Native American artifacts on display as well.
For more art, grab a map of the art walk from the visitors center and stroll through downtown to see where history and art have met throughout the decades.
There’s also a historical walking tour of Rowan County, and believe me, there are some amazing stories here.
That includes a family feud so intense that the entire county was almost disbanded to stop the violence.
The Sheltowee Trace Trail runs through downtown Morehead and goes for more than 300 miles, so set a stopping point before you go.
You could walk all the way to Tennessee if you wanted to!
There are suspension bridges along the way if you are scared of heights.
Some of the bridges look fairly stable, while others are nothing more than wood and rope strung together.
Dirt Nasty Off-Road Park has 300 acres to explore on dirt bikes, Jeeps, or ATVs.
There are stunning views of sheer rock cliffs, waterfalls, and a rock arch.
Cave Run Lake and several connecting rivers or creeks provide endless water activities.
The lake and its jagged edges form more than 200 miles of shoreline.
This is also where the massive Musky fish are waiting for a fight to the finish, and the largest ever pulled from this lake was nearly 50 pounds!
There are also plenty of other fish species if you aren’t looking to catch “the big one.”
You can book boating tours, rent kayaks, reserve a horseback ride, camp, or drive the scenic route to see different nooks and crannies of this expansive region.
Places to Avoid in Morehead
Morehead is a small area, and there’s really no reason to go into the neighborhoods.
There aren’t many sidewalks on the sidestreets, and this isn’t an affluent area with mountain homes to admire.
In fact, the poverty rate in this city is 35%.
While there aren’t dangerous parts of town, it’s best to stay on the main roads and avoid the side streets.
I cannot stress this part enough – this area is massive.
It’s easy to get lost, turned around, confused, or exhausted while exploring.
With so many trees, it’s not always easy to see the sun’s position.
Don’t rely on a mobile device to be a compass here, as the service will be spotty if not totally unavailable.
Do not go into the wilderness without basics like a gallon of water per person, bear spray, bug spray, hiking boots, a second pair of socks, sunscreen, a compass, a weather radio, and a printed map.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Morehead
- When you are researching Morehead, make sure you aren’t getting results for Morehead City, which is a location in North Carolina. The Kentucky city is just “Morehead” while the North Carolina city is “Morehead City.”
- The police department in Morehead doesn’t have a website, but there is a Facebook page. You can find that at @moreheadpdky. The department’s main phone number is (606) 784-7511.
- Drug crimes are among the highest crime categories in the city and county. In early August of 2022, a rash of overdoses happened from a “potent batch” of heroin. With the opioid crisis happening and the dangerous trend of drugs being filled with fentanyl, it’s not a bad idea to bring Narcan with you in case you come across someone overdosing.
- Parking is free in Morehead, but it’s also limited. Be sure to always lock your car doors and keep the windows rolled up when you park. 20% of all thefts here are related to car break-ins. When visiting outdoor areas, never leave a car unlocked. A thief knows it will be a while, if not days, before your return. Never leave any valuables in the car, even in the trunk.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through Rowan County’s Smart 911 system. There’s a link on the county’s website. This will send you emergency weather alerts, road closures, and other things like water quality concerns.
- If you are an experienced rock climber, never attempt to climb in an area that is closed. The equipment on some of the sheer cliffs can be old and dangerous. Also, no hammocks are allowed on any of the rock faces here.
- Black Bears are known to be in this region, and you are required to pack all food in bear-resistant containers or in a hard-top vehicle. If you come across a bear, do not approach it. If you see cubs with bears, back away until the bears are out of sight. A momma bear will violently defend her babies. Use the bear spray as a last resort if a bear is charging at you. Don’t try to climb a tree to get away from a bear because bears are much better climbers than you could ever be.
- Always check the river levels through the USGS or Daniel Boone National Forest website before you go. The heavy rains of summer 2022 left some parts of the lakes too dangerous for any activities, and campsites can be easily flooded.
- When driving the scenic routes, assign a driver who is least likely to get distracted by the stunning views. There are plenty of places to pull over and take pictures or soak in the sights. The roads here are winding, with steep drop-offs in some places. Don’t risk being distracted and getting into an accident or worse.
- We’re going to get a little personal here. What do you do when you are in nature and nature calls? The Daniel Boone Forest Rangers have some tips:
- Position yourself at least 200 feet from lakes, rivers, or streams.
- Dig a 6-8 inch hole, then bury the waste.
- Bring toilet paper and feminine hygiene products with you in a sealed trash bag, so animals don’t dig them up and spread the remains throughout the forest.
- Look for an enzyme-based waste disposal product to use each time you “go”.
So... How Safe Is Morehead Really?
From a crime standpoint, Morehead is safe.
Crime rates are low, and it’s a small town that depends on tourists and college students to keep the community thriving.
However, many of the crime rates from the latest 2020 data took a huge plunge, most likely because of the pandemic.
The outdoor areas’ safety really depends on how prepared you are to “rough it.”
You should study wilderness survival and training to ensure you don’t get stuck in a place without food, water, or a way to call for help.
If there is any threat of severe weather, you should stay close to town and do activities indoors.
You don’t want to be caught outside in a flash flood or tornado warning.
It’s tempting to try something new in this unique environment.
However, if you’ve never ridden a four-wheeler, don’t go full steam ahead on the off-road track.
If you have never fished before, don’t try to catch a Murky on your first go.
Don’t climb a rock wall if you aren’t trained in the skills required.
Make sure your car is packed with drinking water, flares, a red garment to use as a warning flag, a tire gauge, and a spare tire that’s inflated.
Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.
How Does Morehead Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
You'll need a U.S. Visa to enter the country at the airport. This process requires an in-person meeting at the U.S. Embassy in your country, so check the wait time as some go up to six months ahead of time. Once you are in America, you don't have to show your visa as you travel throughout cities and states.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here, and you won't be able to exchange currency in Morehead, so do that at the airport.
Since there's a lot to do outside, always pack more than you'll need, but pack smart. You need hiking boots that are well broken-in. Don't ever wear new hiking boots to a remote area like this, as blisters and pinched toes can slow you down if not stop the fun in its tracks. Dress for extremes in all seasons, with warm, water-resistant layers in the winter and comfortable clothing in the warmer months. Bring bug spray and sunscreen with you.
Lexington's Blue Grass Airport is about an hour and 15 minutes away. You can also get to the airport in Cincinnati and Louisville in two hours.
Please make sure you have travel insurance, adding health coverage as needed for any accidents that might happen. Getting helicoptered out after a fall can be very costly. The weather here can also quickly close key tourist attractions, so you want to protect your excursions and your flight.
Morehead Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Kentucky - Safety by City