Kentucky : Safety by City
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Pikeville, Kentucky, is known as the “City That Moves Mountains,” but unless you know what to look for, that namesake might be a head-scratcher.
This is also one of the places where the infamous Hatfield & McCoy feud fired up in the late 1800s.
The historic driving tour goes all the way into West Virginia.
You can also visit the Hatfield & McCoy River Trail.
While the families have since reconciled, the violent battle led to deaths, drama, and decisive action by the courts time and time again.
Pikeville is in far eastern Kentucky, and you can be in West Virginia or Virginia within 30 minutes.
You can explore the mountains on foot or by the waters along the Lasvisa Fork of the Big Sandy River.
You’ll hear a lot about moving mountains, so let’s dive into that.
The Pikeville Cut-Through was an engineering marvel, requiring workers to blast 18 million cubic yards of rock and dirt.
This allows travelers, the train, and the river to move freely without impacting traffic or causing natural disasters.
Before the Cut-Through, Pikeville flooded just about every year.
Bob Amos Park is at the top of the Cut-Through, giving an incredible overlook of the city and the mountains beyond.
This is a great part of the country to see by horseback, and there are opportunities to ride a three-mile trail on a horse suited to your skill level.
Paddleboats and kayaks are also available for rent along the river.
Downtown Pikeville has a historical charm to it, with unique boutiques and some restaurants stuck in a previous era with ice cream, the “original smashburger,” and several other cultural options.
Within an hour’s drive, you can visit Loretta Lynn’s Home Place and Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.
Warnings & Dangers in Pikeville
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Pikeville has a low overall crime risk, with property and violent crimes being at or below the national averages. Luckily, the family feud days are over in this Kentucky community, and police work with residents to keep the city safe.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
There is no public transportation system, so you'll need a vehicle of your own. You can get taxis and rideshares if you want, but it might be a longer wait than you'd like.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The number of thefts plummeted from 296 to 109 from 2019 to 2020, possibly due to the pandemic closures. However, neither year had any pickpockets or purse snatchings. That's a low risk for tourists, but you should still keep your wallet and purse secured and carry only what you need.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Kentucky as a whole gets a medium risk because if a disaster can happen, it's possible in this state. The biggest risks are flash flooding, crippling ice storms, and tornadoes, but you'll get heavy rain, severe thunderstorms, and snow storms here too.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
With just three robberies in 2020, only one of those happened in public. There's a low risk it will happen to you, but with a growing number of drug crimes, that tide can quickly turn. You should still use personal protection tactics, like avoiding walking around at night and staying in well-lit areas.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of a terror attack in this rural area. Larger population locations and military installations are prime targets, but you don't have to worry about that in Pikeville.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Several phone scams have been reported where the caller identifies themselves as a police officer, but those are targeted at residents, not tourists. You can feel safe visiting here with a low risk of being scammed.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women were slightly more likely to be a victim of a crime in 2020, and 60% of the 15 violent crimes happened against strangers. There's low risk because the crime numbers are low, but don't let your guard down. You also need to have wilderness safety knowledge to visit the great outdoors here.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report from the city of Pikeville shows no violations, and all standards were met or exceeded. The tap water is low risk, but there might be contaminants in the river water. You can check the lake and river testing through the Kentucky Department of Energy and Environment.
Safest Places to Visit in Pikeville
Bob Amos Park is a great place to start for a great view of the region.
This is at the Pikeville Cut-Through, so you’ll see the space they blasted to make way for the interstate.
When you learn more about how they moved the railroad, the road, and even the river to make this happen, you’ll see why the NY Times called it the “8th Wonder of the World.”
Stop by the Pikesville-Pike County Tourism Center to pick up a map of the Hatfield & McCoy’s Historic Feud Driving Tour.
It spans from Pikeville about 40 minutes east to West Virginia, but there are a lot of stories you might not know about this feud and how it was finally reconciled years later.
The Big Sandy Heritage Museum takes you through the centuries of this region, from Native Americans to the Civil War through the Family Feud and the Pikeville Cut-Through, going from idea to actuality.
Less than 40 miles northwest of Pikesville, you can visit the U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum.
There are more than a dozen exhibits of singers who grew up or live in this region.
Names include The Judds, Dwight Yoakum, Loretta Lynn, Chris Stapleton, and several more!
You can also drive the Country Music Highway and see all the stops along the way.
While you’re in that neck of the woods, visit Loretta Lynn’s Home Place on Butcher Hollow Road.
Loretta and her sister, Crystal Gale, grew up in this home, and you’ll get to sit on the porch where they first sang like songbirds.
Tours are $5, and you don’t have to reserve a spot ahead of time.
It isn’t open between November and April.
Just like the ladies did, you can visit the Butcher Hollow shopping spot called Webb’s General Store.
This was a hot spot for miners to get a snack or a cool drink after a hard day’s work.
Downtown Pikeville is charming and charismatic at the same time.
There is history in the buildings but modern amenities like an area.
Live music can often be heard wafting down the street, and Dueling Barrells Brewing and Distillery is a popular place to stop and grab a drink.
If you’re visiting in April, see if you can coordinate around the popular Hillbilly Days in Pikeville.
I guarantee you haven’t seen a festival like this and the eclectic characters truly make this worth every single photo.
Grab a spot on the parade route early!
Places to Avoid in Pikeville
There aren’t any dangerous neighborhoods or bad parts of town here.
You can travel freely throughout Pike County and not enter a bad place.
It will always be the smartest choice to stay on main roads and highways.
Even the designated scenic highways are safe and well-patrolled.
If you haven’t been to this part of Kentucky, you should be prepared that it’s a little different than Louisville or Paducah.
This is down-home hillbilly country.
If you don’t know what a hillbilly is, the dictionary defines it as “an unsophisticated country person, associated originally with the remote regions of the Appalachians.”
The people of Appalachia speak in a distinct accent and use words like “dadgummit” and “varmint.”
If you are truly unfamiliar with this area, it might be wise to study some common words in Appalachia.
There are also black bears in this area, which might even be seen in town.
Never approach a bear or turn your back on one.
Black bears generally avoid people, but they might get curious about if you are a person or not and stand on their back legs or move toward you.
Just speak in a loud voice and wave your arms.
Never try to approach a bear, no matter how “friendly” you think it is.
In 2021, a bear was injured in the roadway, and a driver thought he was dead and tried to move it.
He ended up getting bitten by the bear.
Always call the Department of Fish & Wildlife if you see an injured bear or a bear acting aggressively.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Pikeville
- There’s a Facebook page called Pikeville Public Safety, and it’s a great way to learn about weather or road hazards during your visit.
- Even with the Pikeville Cut-Through, there’s a risk of flooding in this region. The summer of 2022 saw record rainfall in the region and led to many streets getting flooded. Never try to drive through a flooded roadway as just six inches of water can carry a car away. Chloe Road seems to be one of the first roadways to flood in Pikeville.
- If you want to hunt or fish here, you’ll need a license from the Department of Fish & Game. There are different stamps and permits for certain animals. Bear hunting is also allowed in parts of this area. Be sure to review the non-resident options before you purchase.
- A recent road project in Pikeville changed traffic flow on certain city roadways. This change might not be adjusted on your GPS, so make sure you read the street signs instead of blindly following your GPS. You might end up going the wrong way on a one-way road.
- The weather here can change quickly. For example, on March 11, 2022, there was a Winter Storm Warning. 12 days later, there was a tornado emergency. Always be prepared for any kind of weather and find your favorite weather app. Make sure to enable emergency notifications.
- If you are visiting during a winter storm watch, warning, or ice storm warning, avoid the scenic highways. The roads can become impassible or very dangerous to drive on, and you don’t want to end up in a ditch during a storm.
- Be sure when you’re doing research that you are on Pikeville pages and not Pineville. The two cities are about two hours apart.
- There are a lot of boil orders issued in Pikeville and Pike County. I have seen this just reviewing the social media pages for the past year. Always make sure when you arrive where your hotel will post boil water orders or if they will send out alerts to visitors. When there’s a boil order, you must bring water to a rolling boil and then let it cool down before it’s safe to drink.
- Check with your hotel and city hall about the location of tornado shelters. When a tornado warning is issued, you’ll have just minutes, if not seconds, before you need to be in a safe place. Plot your safety route out ahead of time.
- Public parking is free in downtown Pikeville, but there are some locations that have time limits, and if you stay too long, you could get a ticket. Be sure to check that your preferred parking location has no time limit, and you either want to park on the street or in a garage where there are security cameras.
So... How Safe Is Pikeville Really?
Pikeville is a safe community with low crime rates across the board.
Theft is one category that appears to be slightly over the national average, but with 30% of the thefts being shoplifting, you can rest assured there’s a lower-than-average rate for crimes that impact tourists.
While just 8% of the thefts were car break-ins, you still want to lock your car and roll up the windows every time you park.
Don’t leave any personal belongings in plain sight.
30% of the violent crimes happened in homes, which is a 30% less chance a tourist has to be a victim on the street.
In total, there were 15 violent crimes in 2020.
The weather is the biggest risk here, with many posts about flooding, tornadoes, and winter storms.
It’s going to help if you study the emergency management plan for Pike County before you go.
How Does Pikeville Compare?
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A U.S. Travel Visa will cost $160 and requires an interview at the U.S. Embassy in your home city. Those interviews are scheduled ahead of time, and some places have a wait list six months long. You will need your visa at the airports, but not as you travel throughout Kentucky. Store it somewhere safe during your travels.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Bring some cash with you because not all businesses will accept credit cards. Just don't carry a lot of cash in one place.
You get a mixed bag of weather here, so plan for various layers of clothing. You'll want a waterproof outer layer and closed-toed waterproof shoes. Bring hiking boots if you want to explore the wilderness. Bug spray is a necessity here too.
The Huntington, West Virginia, airport is the closest option, at 93 miles away. Charleston, West Virginia, is another option that is 115 miles away. Lexington's Blue Grass Airport is about 150 miles away.
You should definitely get travel insurance to cover any incidentals on your flight and your rental car. You'll be doing a lot of driving in this area and want to be covered in case of an accident or breakdown.
Pikeville Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Kentucky - Safety by City