5 Rules for Outdoor Adventure in Lake Cumberland

I remember the air on that October night was uncomfortably cool. Or maybe, the chill in the air was made even more bitter by the fury spewing from the woman sitting next to me.

We were on the top level of this multi-tiered houseboat on Lake Cumberland in the heart of Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. In front of us were the eerily calm waters stretching seemingly forever. We were docked on the shore; we were a mere blip along the 1,255 miles of Lake Cumberland’s shoreline.

That fact, in and of itself, should have been an amazing talking point for me and my furious counterpart. After all, the coastline of Florida, excluding the state’s islands, comes in at 770 miles. This was one big, beautiful body of water in the Bluegrass State.

But there was a complaint to be made: A swimmer had just gone down the waterslide atop the houseboat, splashing into the shrinkage-inducing waters below--and he had donned only a Speedo. It was a horror to my American companion.

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I knew right then that there were rules to follow when it comes to outdoor adventure at Lake Cumberland.

1. Stay on a houseboat. With a lake this large, you’d feel silly not staying on the water. That’s why the area is known for its houseboats, luxurious houseboats, according to rentals. It’s a fair enough statement. From waterslides to hot tubs, the houseboats come loaded with--water else?--water-centric amenities.

2. Hike long distances or short jaunts. Just make sure you hike. The 10.8-mile Moonbow Trail in Corbin, Ky., is a tough but managed romp. On the other hand, the .25-mile Laurel Trail is a quick trip ending near a cool view from the Gatliff Bridge overlook. It’s a trail-filled area with diversity and levels of difficulty. So bring your hiking boots--or bring the kids. You will find something that works for you.

3. For those up for a challenge, keep your boots on for the Eagle Bluff Section. According to the Cumberland Trail Conference, this is arguably one of the most challenging trails in the region. Granted, it begins in east Tennessee in Cove Lake State Park, which is about a two-hour trip from your houseboat in Lake Cumberland.

4. Be ready to put your outdoor skills to the test. Fairly immediately on this 11.7-mile, one-way trail beginning at the Bruce Gap Road Trailhead, you’re witnessing beautiful views atop Devils Racetrack rock formation. From there, you’ll traverse rocky terrain, and one section requires rock climbing. There is an alternative route, though it is not well blazed and you’ll need finely tuned route-finding skills. By the end, the elevation change is 3,446. Stop. Take a photo or two. Now turn back.

5. Come back to your houseboat. Relax and remember the day’s accomplishments. Put on a Speedo. Or don’t. But what you swim in is your choice. No one should be mad about it.

For more trails in the Lake Cumberland area, visit the Kentucky State Park’s page or check out the Cumberland Trail Conference link above.