By: Joe Geoghegan, Senior Manager Public Policy & Planning, Greater Louisville Inc.

Louisville has been ranked one of the top outdoorsy cities, cities for cycling, and Kentucky holds three of the seven “Wonders of the South” according to Southern Living. So how do you find some other people interested in getting outside the Snyder to go explore some of these nearby gems?

Newbies: The Explore Kentucky Initiative (EKI)

Founded just last year by Kentucky transplant, Gerry James, EKI is a non-profit initaitves to put Kentucky’s natural wonders on display. EKI hosts regular exploratory trips to the Red River Gorge, Mammoth Cave, and elsewhere around Kentucky. Trips can focus on hiking, climbing, or photography (James is a professional photographer) but get your spot soon – these trips fill up fast.

Runners: Trail Runners of Louisville

In the vaunted Olmsted Parks and the new 21st Century Parks, Louisville has one of the top park systems in the world. We also have the country’s largest urban forest in Jefferson Memorial. In all, that’s more than 200 miles of trail inside the county line, If you’re interested in getting out to run some of it a couple of times a week, hook up with the Trail Runners of Louisville. Overseen by local trail running guru (and former owner of the now-defunct Louisville Trail Store) Jim Ball. Jim has been running ultramarathons and hosting trail races in Louisville since before you were born. The trail runners now usually have a few brave souls who make it out for a weekly half-marathon in Jefferson Memorial each Sunday morning and the chance for 4-5 mile runs in Cherokee Park each Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning. It’s a great way to meet some people with common goals and interests.

Hikers: Louisville Hiking Meet-Up and Ohio Valley Backpackers

You walk. Sometimes in the woods. Congratulations! You’re a hiker. With some of the most beautiful nature east of the Mississippi River within a couple hours’ drive (Red River Gorge, Clifty Falls State Park, Shawnee Forest), it’s time to get to hiking. The Louisville Hiking Meet-Up offers day hikes in Louisville’s parks and longer weekend and weeklong trips for beginners and seasoned veterans alike.The annual Frozen Feet trip to Red River Gorge is a must for those looking for frozen waterfalls and wide open vistas while all the sane people are home in front of the fire. 

Ohio Valley Backpackers is a more advanced cousin of Louisville Hiking – though more regionally focused. With trips across Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, excursions are longer with days upwards of 10 miles. OVB offers a great chance to meet some hikers from Cincinnati and Lexington while exploring a little farther afield. Trips tend to be less frequent. 

Paddlers: Louisville Area Canoe & Kayak (LACK)

Kentucky has the most “coastline” of any state in the country. Including California. Look it up. It would be damn near impossible to paddle all of the Commonwealth’s navigable waterways but I certainly encourage you to try. If you do, start with LACK. A very active local group, this crazy collection of local kayakers, canoe enthusiasts (read “ex-boyscouts”) and Stand Up Paddle Boarders (SUPs) is out 3-4 days a week all year round. See the new Parklands from the view of Floyd’s Fork, camp out on 18-mile Island (just an easy 1-mile downstream paddle from the Westport boat ramp), or do a lazy river fishing trip on the Elkhorn. The choice is yours and you will have many paddlers from all walks right there with you. 

So go forth, newly empowered with knowledge and see some of what our coastal friends dismissively call “God’s Country.” Mother Nature’s waiting. See you out there.


About the Series
The YPAL Get Healthy Blog Series, sponsored by Norton Healthcare, will focus on the health and well-being of our Louisville Young Professionals. This blog series will feature various young professional bloggers in our community sharing their stories on health, wellness, nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyles. Want to write a Get Healthy Blog Post? Email for details!