Drive the Woodlands Trace Scenic Byway and experience the beautiful fall color of Western Kentucky.
The Woodlands Trace is a corridor through Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. The Trace runs North and South between Grand Rivers, KY and Dover, TN.
Enjoy rolling wooded views along this drive. Add the short loop of Kentucky Lake Drive for a scenic view of Kentucky Lake. This drive also features opportunities to stop and explore at interpretive facilities along the way, or on trails and back-country areas.
The Trace has been named a National Scenic Byway, Kentucky Scenic Byway, and Tennessee State Scenic Byway. You can easily do this drive in one day, or take a fall vacation and add hiking, fishing, mountain biking, to your agenda.
Total Distance One Way: 42 miles
Total Travel Time One Way: 1 hour 30 minutes
Of course, allow plenty of time for stops. If you choose to add the bonus stop your travel distance is 55 miles, and your drive time is 1 hour and 45 minutes. This is not a loop drive, so do allow the same distance and time to return to Grand Rivers.
Start in Grand Rivers, KY and head south on Highway 453. If you want to travel with a map, you may download the Land Between the Lakes Map Here.
Kentucky Lake Drive
When you enter Land Between the Lakes, take the first right turn and go east on Route 101 or Kentucky Lake Scenic Drive. The Kentucky Lake Drive is a 1-mile loop that takes travelers along the shores of Kentucky Lake. The loop will bring you back to the main byway where you will turn right to continue south.
North Welcome Center
Traveling south on The Trace from Grand Rivers, the first stop is the LBL North Welcome Station. This welcome station provides information, maps, a gift shop, and restroom facilities.
Hikers and bikers may use the North Welcome parking area to access the Canal Loop Trail. Canal Loop is an 11-mile single-track wooded trail that takes you along the shore of both Kentucky and Barkley Lakes.
The D Connector is one of our favorite shorter hikes. This up and down loop offers a beautiful ridge view of Kentucky Lake.
Elk and Bison Prairie
Another 20 minutes south of the North Welcome Station is the Elk & Bison Prairie. The Prairie has a three-mile paved loop that lets visitors see the animals up close but also from the safety of their vehicles. Mid-September to Mid-October is the peak bugling season for the mature bull elk.
The late afternoon provides the best chance to hear the bugles of the rutting male elk. Admission is $5 per car (entry cards may be purchased at the Prairie or any LBL facility. Hours of operation are dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium
Again, continuing south on the Trace; next to the Prairie, you will find the Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium. The Golden Pond Planetarium offers shows on their 40-foot dome screen. Call 1-800-455-5897 for more information. Visit the Land Between the Lakes website for the schedule. Admission is $5.00 per adult and $3.00 per child (twelve and under).
Again, we are continuing south to The Homeplace, a living demonstration 1850s-era farm. The farm was originally part of a Revolutionary War land grant. Visit with interpreters in period clothing undertaking the seasonal chores of farm life. The Homeplace is open from March through November, and hours of operation are 10AM – 5PM. Admission is $5 for Adults, $3 ages 5-12, and 4 and under are free.
Great Western Iron Furnace (TN)
Continuing just a few miles south, visitors will find the Great Western Iron Furnace. The Furnace is on the National Register of Historic Places. During the mid-19th century, the iron industry was the primary industry in this area.
South Bison Range (TN)
Across the Woodlands Trace from the Furnace is the South Bison Range. This herd was the first bison herd established in LBL. In 1969, stemming from 19 bison (17 bulls and 12 cows) were brought in from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
Bonus Stop: Ft. Donaldson Dover TN
174 National Cemetery Drive
Just a short drive south from the Bison Range, visit Fort Donelson in Dover, TN Fort Donelson was a fortress built by the Confederacy during the American Civil War to control the Cumberland River. This river not only led to the heart of Tennessee but the heart of the Confederacy as well. The Union Army commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant captured the fort from the Confederate Army in the Battle of Fort Donelson in February 1862.
If you want to include this drive as part of a Kentucky Lake weekend, make sure and visit our Lodging Page for hotel and camping ideas. You can also find more fun things to do at Kentucky Lake on our Attractions Page and our Calendar of Events.