Hikers Deserve To Know About This Secret Nature Sanctuary With Great Trails

Heading out into nature means escaping the hustle and bustle, daily stresses, and digital overload that most people deal with on a daily basis. An opportunity to reconnect with the simple things in life — think fresh air, chirping birds, and panoramic views — lacing up your walking shoes and hitting the trails offers a much-needed break. But, let's face it, finding where to go isn't always easy. 

Luckily, though, there are plenty of hidden gem nature reserves, sanctuaries, and even national parks that cater to nature lovers and don't require too much of a detour. Kentucky's Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is just one of them. Located just a 30-minute drive south of Lexington, the sanctuary is easily accessible and brimming with outdoor activities and opportunities to explore nature — which makes it perfect for a quick morning walk or a pre-office boost of energy. Composed of 734 acres, and with more than 10 miles of hiking trails of varying difficulties and lengths, access to the park is free of charge and open year-round to the public.

Plus, along with offering guests the opportunity to explore various nature trails and hikes, the reserve also hosts events and programs that are open to the public — including stargazing evenings and a Raven 10K race.

Things to do at the sanctuary

Before hitting up the trails, visitors must stop by the nature center to sign up. Along with this, the center also hosts exhibits and hands-on activities, as well as informational displays about the area's ecology and history — making it the perfect place to kickstart your adventure.

From there, you can choose from a series of trail systems. These include the Red Trail, a nearly 5-mile loop that takes you around most of the park; the Green Trail, which passes through meadows and is easy to walk on; the Orange Trail, a 1-mile loop with some gentle climbs to viewpoints; the Blue Trails, which connect the Green and Red trails; the Yellow Trail, which blooms with wildflowers between April and May; the White Trails, which connect the Red Trail to spots like the Kentucky River Overlook, Evans Mill and Moore Grave; and the Freedom Trail, a 1-mile, paved road just off the parking lot. These different trail systems then intertwine to create some pretty spectacular hikes, including the Meadow Loop (3.1 miles), Kentucky River Overlook (2 miles), and Flower Bowl (1.7 miles).

In addition to these, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is also a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, and home to over 600 species of plants and 200 species of birds throughout the year. This is why the reserve is so adamant about visitors sticking to the trailheads and not hiking off-trail in an effort to protect the safety of both the park's wildlife and the hikers.

Other tips for your visit

Depending on when you visit, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary works with different operating hours. From November through March, the park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with trails closing at 4:30 p.m. In April, the park operates from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., while trails close at 5:30 p.m. Lastly, between May and September, the park's operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and trails close at 6:30 p.m. It's also important to note that the park closes for Thanksgiving, as well as from December 24 through December 26 for Christmas.

Additionally, the sanctuary also has strict rules regarding what you can and can't bring in. Specifically, alcoholic beverages, concealed weapons, drones, and bicycles are strictly prohibited. Along with this, pets aren't allowed into the nature sanctuary either — which means you'll have to leave your furry pal at home. Lastly, any off-trail picnicking — the park has designated areas for this — is also not allowed.

Lastly, in terms of what you can bring, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary recommends that visitors carry water — especially during the hotter months — to help better prepare you for the hike. Other small drinks and snacks are also available at the nature center — just make sure you're not littering on the trail!