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  • Starting Point: Seneca Rocks
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    Starting Point: Seneca Rocks

  • Historic Elegance: Greenbrier Resort
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    Historic Elegance: Greenbrier Resort

  • Bourbon in the Bluegrass State: Lexington, Kentucky
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    Bourbon in the Bluegrass State: Lexington, Kentucky

  • The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports: Louisville, Kentucky
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    The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports: Louisville, Kentucky

  • Final Leg: Mammoth Cave National Park
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    Final Leg: Mammoth Cave National Park

Rugged Wilderness, Thoroughbreds and Bourbon: West Virginia and Kentucky Road Trip
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Rugged Wilderness, Thoroughbreds and Bourbon: West Virginia and Kentucky Road Trip

By Shayla Martin

  • Route distance:
    911.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    4 days

The Best of Outdoors and Urban Excitement.

A road trip through neighboring states of West Virginia and Kentucky offers the best of both worlds. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the opportunities that await them for hiking, rock climbing and bike riding through scenic vistas in West Virginia, while urbanites will enjoy the glitz, fantastic cuisine and entertainment in Kentucky's major cities. Experience it all on this picturesque drive through the Mountain and Bluegrass states.

01
Starting Point: Seneca Rocks
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Starting Point: Seneca Rocks

Begin the journey at the iconic Appalachian Mountain landmark, Seneca Rocks, located in Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Take in the wild terrain during a moderate five-kilometer hike (there and back). This self-guided trail crosses a wooden arched bridge over the powerful North Fork River, ascending gentle hills and switchbacks. You'll slowly climb nearly 300 meters of elevation, partly via a row of stairs, before reaching an observation platform for stunning western views of the valley and countryside. For sure-footed adventurists and experienced rock climbers, follow the path past the observation platform to hike to the peak of Seneca Rocks. Fair warning: this rock-scaling hike is filled with difficult approaches, loose rock and vertical rock faces, so if you've never climbed before, seek out help from a local guide or skip it. If you decide to go for the quartzite summit, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking eastern and western views

168 km
2 hours by car
02
Historic Elegance: Greenbrier Resort
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Historic Elegance: Greenbrier Resort

Travel south on state highways 28 and 92 past lush, mountainous terrain to refined luxury at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. This Grande Dame resort is a National Historic Landmark, welcoming distinguished guests from around the world (including 26 U.S. presidents) since 1778. The 4,450-hectare property features championship golf and tennis facilities, fine dining, a world-renowned spa offering white sulphur mineral water treatments and a 9,570-square-meter Casino Club. Don't miss an opportunity to tour the underground Bunker, a Cold War fallout shelter completed in 1961 to serve as a refuge for government officials in the event of an emergency.

475 km
4.5 hours by car
03
Bourbon in the Bluegrass State: Lexington, Kentucky
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Bourbon in the Bluegrass State: Lexington, Kentucky

Head west on Interstate Highway 64, crossing the state line into Kentucky. After traveling nearly 300 kilometers through the Kentucky countryside, you'll approach the twinkling lights of downtown Lexington, one of the starting points on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Bourbon whiskey is the only native spirit to the United States, and its largest export category of all U.S. spirits, with 95 percent of bourbon produced in Kentucky. Five historic distilleries in the Lexington area welcome visitors to view their giant copper and steel tanks and take a peek at the seemingly never-ending rows of wooden barrels slowly aging the native nectar. The Woodford Reserve Distillery, Wild Turkey Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Four Roses Distilling Company and Town Branch Distillery all offer tours Monday through Saturdays, and seasonally on Sundays.

Play it safe and take the worry out of driving to each distillery by hopping on a Mint Julep Tour, or plan out your own itinerary with R&R Limousine. If you drive and happen to overestimate your consumption, ride-hailing app companies Lyft and Uber offer on-demand safe ride services and promo code KYDISTILLERS for new users.

126 km
1.5 hours by car
04
The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports: Louisville, Kentucky
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The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports: Louisville, Kentucky

Continue west on Interstate Highway 64 to the unofficial horse racing capital of the United States. If you plan your trip near the first weekend in May, prepare to don traditional bowties and pastel colored hats to enjoy all of the festivities surrounding the Kentucky Derby. Held at the historic Churchill Downs race course, the Kentucky Derby is the most esteemed annual horse race in the United States, and the first jewel of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. 

Even if you can't get tickets to the race itself, take part in the Kentucky Derby Festival, a two-week lineup of activities including a fireworks show, half and full marathons, hot-air balloon rides, outdoor concerts and multiple culinary events. Take an afternoon to explore the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, where two floors of interactive exhibits lead guests through the history of the Derby since 1875, tell the personal stories of jockeys and chart every stage of a Thoroughbred horse's life from birth to race day.

143 km
1.5 hours by car
05
Final Leg: Mammoth Cave National Park
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Final Leg: Mammoth Cave National Park

After the bright lights and cosmopolitan living of two vibrant Kentucky cities, it's time to come full circle and end this road trip at another natural wonder. Drive due south on Interstate Highway 65 to Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world. There are more than 640 kilometers of caves to explore, filled with domed chambers, stalactites and stalagmites, historic cave writings and complex labyrinths. Take advantage of park ranger-led tours through the caves, all ranging in duration, distance and difficulty, so you're sure to find something for everyone. Above ground, there are more than 140 kilometers of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, as well as the tranquil Green and Nolin rivers for canoeing and kayaking.

This road trip takes you through the highlights of West Virginia and Kentucky, but be sure to check out everything these two states have to offer — and what else you need to add to your itinerary.

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