Carter Caves State Park has several natural bridges. Smokey Bridge is the largest natural bridge in Kentucky. Carter Cave Natural Bridge is the only one in the state with a paved road on top.
Although established as a state park in 1946, funding for Carter Caves did not occur until 1948. Between 1948 and 1955, the state spent $600,000 to create one of the most beautiful parks in the commonwealth. The construction of 45-acre Smokey Lake for fishing and boating added to the attractions of the park. Between 1960 and 1968, the state spent $900,000 to make Carter Caves one of the best resort parks in the system. Improvements at the park included the construction of Caveland Lodge, a nine-hole regulation golf course, miniature golf, picnic areas, and a number of other improvements.
Stop by the Carter Caves Gem Mine, located at the Welcome Center Gift Shop. Begin your discoveries of real, colorful gemstones and fossils at the gemstone flume. Just place a scoop of rough material on the screen...then rinse with clean water. The gem stones, when wet, will reveal colors and crystal shapes!
There are lots of different gemstones to discover! Anything from locally-found Pyrite, Fluorite and Quartz, to Ruby, Moonstone, Topaz, Crystal Points, Sapphire, Emerald, Amethyst, Garnett, Citrine, Aventurine, Obsidian, Sodalite, Calcite and Raspberry Quartz could be found.
Sharing the experience of mining at the flume mine is a lot of fun. You can compare finds and help each other to identify what you've found. We invite individuals, families, and groups of all sizes. Mining is available during regular business hours of the Welcome Center Gift Shop, April through the Sunday after Thanksgiving (weather permitting).
Winter is a time for northern sparrows, finches, wrens, juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, purple finches, pine siskins, and occasionally, evening grobeaks and brown creepers. Spring is alive with warbler migrations, waterfowl & thrushes. Interesting birds to look for are Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Double-breasted Cormorants, and cedar waxwings. In the summer nesting warblers include redstarts, ceruleans, pines, Blue wings, Parulas, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Red-tailed Hawks. Excellent birding opportunities about throughout the park, but of special note is in the mature forests around the campgrounds, cottage area (red-headed Woodpeckers), the Box Canyon Trail, and the short trail to Carter Caves Natural Bridge.
Enjoy the great outdoors! The campground features 89 campsites with utilities, 8 equestrian campsites with utilities, and 30 tent sites without utilities. Two bunkhouses with six wooden bunk beds and electric give those without tents or RV an opportunity to "rough it" (bring your own bedding/linens). A dump station, and three central service buildings with rest rooms and showers available for campers use.
Bring your canoe and experience the 45–acre Smokey Lake. See the beauty of the rugged, undisturbed terrain in a beautiful, peaceful setting.
The Carter County region has the highest concentration of caves to be found in any area of Kentucky. Two of the park’s caves offer guided tours year-round, Cascade Cave and X-Cave. Enjoy a subterranean adventure, created by nature over millions of years. View tour information from Tours link on Carter Cave's Home page.
Eight pull-through campsites specifically designed for horse owners feature electric, water and sewer hook-ups. Each site has its own corresponding hitching posts for up to four horses, picnic table, lantern hanger & fire ring/grill combo. Horse campers have access to all campground amenities, which include bathhouses, laundry area and playgrounds.
Smokey Valley Lake is Kentucky’s first trophy bass lake! In addition to largemouth bass, anglers vie for bluegill, catfish, and crappie. Fishing license required for both residents and non-residents and are available at the front desk.
Discover the above ground beauty of Carter Caves on 26 miles of wooded nature trails. Trails range from easy to difficult hiking level ability. The Kiser Hollow Trail, 10 miles, and the newly developed Cave Branch Loop Trail, 2 miles, are multi use trails for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking. Guests bring and ride mountain bikes. No ATVs allowed, and no overnight camping on the trail.
Guided rides are available from 10:00am - 6:00pm. The trail is 3 1/2 miles and lasts about 45 minutes. Pony rides available for children. Rides are available seasonally. Call 606-286-4411 for more information.
Also enjoy the 18-hole miniature golf course. In the off-season, clubs and balls are available at the campground registration building and the Lodge front desk. Open seasonally.
Pedal Boats are no longer available until further notice.
Picnic tables, grills, and playgrounds are located throughout the park. Two rental shelters are available.
Playgrounds are located throughout the park.
A large, lifeguard-protected swimming pool, located a half-mile drive from the lodge, is free to lodge and cottage guests. Please present your key to enter.
Two tennis courts are in the lodge area. Overnight guest may check out rackets.