Sometimes, itâ€™s just great to get outside and leave it all behind. Whether itâ€™s pitching a tent in the wilderness, grabbing a backpack to go explore some wooded trails, or perhaps even going fishing, thereâ€™s nothing quite like getting out into the great outdoors. Well, all of the aforementioned activities can be done at Louisvilleâ€™s own Jefferson Memorial Forest â€“ the largest urban municipal forest in the United States and only 25 minutes from downtown Louisville. To get a feel for the forest, we here at The Voice-Tribune decided to spend a recent afternoon exploring the scenery that this park has to offer.
The first thing you notice when you get close to the park and glance at your carâ€™s GPS is how big it is. Back in 1946, when the plan was to create a forest and nature reserve to honor the soldiers who fell during the Second World War, the aim was 10,000 acres. While falling short, the forest still stands at a mammoth 6,500 acres and stretches nearly 10 miles from east to west with 35 miles of trails inside of it.
We decided to get on the Memorial Trail â€“ a reasonably short, but nevertheless adventurous affair. Like many of Jefferson Memorial Forestâ€™s trails, this one is found on inclined terrain with paths carved into pine coated slopes. When you get to the trail, youâ€™re usually rewarded with a view overlooking the hills that stretch beyond or faced with the vast expanse of the creeks below. Either way, the views are stunning. If you want to take a longer trail that traverses much of the forestâ€™s width, then the Siltstone trail is your best bet.
But if slopes are not quite your thing, why not take a walk around the seven-acre Tom Wallace lake? With the afternoon sun beating down on the rippling water, itâ€™s dazzling, and, best of all, extremely peaceful as you watch fisherman try to nab a catch of the day, or walkers circling the trails along the lake with their dog.
One of the best things about the forest is the fact that there is plenty of wildlife to be seen. On our visit, we stumbled across a turtle trying to make its way up one of the slopes. But elsewhere in the forest â€“ which has been designated as an Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary â€“ visitors can catch glimpses of bobcats, red foxes, horned owls and plenty of white tail deer.
The fact that itâ€™s a public park and a working nature reserve means that Jefferson Memorial is also a bustling location for school parties, educational programs, scout troops and team-building exercises. Go Ape!, the forestâ€™s outdoor adventure facility that takes visitors into the tall trees on zip lines, Tarzan swings and rope ladders is an exciting option, but more sedate activities such as camping and fishing are permitted and encouraged with the right permit.
In regards to upcoming activities, the forest will host a Stone Age Tools event on Saturday, October 10, which, for $15 per person, will teach visitors how to make and use Stone Age tools while offering the chance to preview private artifacts on loan from the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky.
Regardless of what strikes your personal interest, get down to the Jefferson Memorial Forest today and enjoy the outdoors that is so much more accessible than you think. VT
Jefferson Memorial Forest is located at 11311 Mitchell Hill Rd, Fairdale, KY 40118. For more information visit louisvilleky.gov/government/jefferson-memorial-forest