Find Lebanon, KY, hidden gems Gorley and Quilt Trails right out in the open!!
As home to legendary Maker’s Mark Distillery and the Kentucky Cooperage Company, Lebanon, KY, is the only place on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail where visitors can watch both bourbon and bourbon barrels being made. But this tiny burg tucked amidst rolling countryside in central Kentucky has other appealing, though perhaps less well-known assets, too – and they’re hidden in plain sight, and perfect for a summer outing.
Located a mere 10 minutes from downtown Lebanon and at the geographical center of Kentucky is Gorley Naturalist Trail, a gorgeous pocket of nature circling Fagan Branch Reservoir. It offers a scenic setting for summer picnics and fresh-air fun, with a beautiful wooded backdrop of oak, pine, poplar, maple, bald cypress, Christmas fern and flowering dogwood trees, among other trees.
Carved from the landscape surrounding the waters of Fagan Branch, Gorley is noted for the 47 bridges hikers and bikers cross while traversing the trail, which was named for Cecil Gorley, a long-time conservation officer who lived in Marion County for many years. Wide pathways, fishing stations, a boat launch, picnic tables and benches are among trail amenities.
At 3.2 miles, this trail may seem like a piece of cake, but its hilly terrain and steep climbs provide a good workout to both seasoned hikers and recreational walkers as well as mountain bikers. The lake meanders in and out of view along the trail and unique species of wildlife, including bald eagles, may be spotted. At just 140 acres, the lake is sized just right for boaters who can put in their canoe, sailboat or fishing boat with electric motor for an afternoon on the water. Fishers and anglers can toss in a line for rainbow trout and bass.
Another outdoor haven is Lebanon’s Sportsman’s Lake. Loaded with largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie and hybrid bluegill, it was built originally in 1952 and then reconstructed in 1990 to improve it as a fishing habitat. The setting is rugged and beautiful, and photographers should keep cameras handy for wildlife sightings. Onsite is the Marion County Sportsman Club with clubhouse, playground and facilities for fishing, picnicking – even archery.
As you drive around Lebanon and the surrounding county, take note of the vividly colorful quilt blocks of the Marion County Quilt Trail. Part of the “Clothesline of Quilts” Trail that runs throughout Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee – one of the largest community trails in the state – the segment here features some 70 quilt blocks on the sides of weathered tobacco barns and other buildings and structures.
Each quilt block tells its own story and together they spin a historical narrative about a tradition that continues to thrive in Kentucky and a symbol that evokes home – or, in many a Kentuckian’s mind – the old homeplace.
Plan Your Visit
Print a map of Gorley Trail before you head out or pick one up from the Lebanon Visitor Center, located downtown at Centre Square. (This would be a good time to make use of the restroom as there are no facilities at Gorley Trail.) A Quilt Trail brochure with a trail map and barn descriptions is also available at the Visitor Center.
The legendary Maker’s Mark Distillery.
Gorley Naturalist Trail is known for its dozens of scenic bridges.
Hikers will want to keep camera or cellphone handy to snap pics of the abundant wildlife.
Bikers enjoy the challenges presented by Gorley Naturalist Trail.
Take a Sunday drive along the backroads of Lebanon to see the Marion County Quilt Trail.
Above photos courtesy of Lebanon Tourist & Convention Commission.