Looking for hiking trails in Lexington, Kentucky? Check out the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary for a gorgeous hike close to downtown that includes a scenic overlook and wildflowers.
Are you looking for fun places to hike near Lexington, Kentucky?
But did you know there’s a park with hiking trails that’s actually in Lexington?
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is a Lexington city park with hiking trails, lots of wildflowers, and a gorgeous scenic overlook.
Looking for more things to do in (and near) Lexington, Kentucky? Check out the UK Arboretum, Evans Orchard, Talon Winery, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Veterans Park Mountain Biking Trails, or Kincaid Lake State Park.
Visiting Raven Run Nature Sanctuary
Raven Run is on the southeast side of Lexington, just outside the city center, at 3885 Raven Run Way.
As of September 2020, you need a (free) reservation to enter the park.
The reservation system serves as crowd control.
The reservation time slots are only two hours long, so if you don’t get to see everything you want to see, you’ll need to come back for another visit.
In the past, reservations were not required for Raven Run. Check here for park updates.
This park has a network of interwoven trails of varying lengths and difficulties.
The longest trail in the park is the moderately difficult red trail, a 5.6-mile trail with an elevation change of about 669 feet.
The remaining (shorter) trails include the moderately difficult yellow trail, the easy green trail and the blue and white short connector trails with varying difficulty levels.
There is also a separate Freedom trail that’s not just easy– it’s wheelchair friendly!
Choosing a Route
Since the park currently limits visits to two hours, make sure to choose a hiking route that you can complete on time.
We weren’t sure if we’d be able to complete the entire red route in two hours, so we opted to choose a route based on the points of interest that we wanted to see, such as the wayside spring, Evans Mill area, the flower bowl, and the Kentucky River Overlook.
The rest of this trail guide will follow the route we chose. Our route was about 4 miles long and took us about an hour and forty five minutes to complete.
If you need help choosing different a route, Raven Run has a list of recommended hikes.
Whichever route you choose, make sure to carry a map with you as you hike, because it’s easy to get turned around. When we visited, the park employee at the gate handed us a paper map after checking our reservation.
Raven Run Trailhead
From the parking lot, look for the signs for the Nature Center. The main trailhead is behind the Nature Center building.
The one exception is the Freedom trail, which begins in the parking lot.
The Green Trail
We began our hike by traveling north on the green trail.
This section of the trail was quite easy.
Hiking to Wayside Spring + Evans Mill
Next, we used the blue trail to move over to the red trail, and then continued hiking north.
We hiked past the wayside spring, but it was all dried up.
The wildflowers were much more interesting.
When we reached the red and white trail junction, we followed the white trail to visit the Evans Mill area.
Okay, I’ll admit that I was expecting to see an old mill at Evans Mill.
In my head I thought it would be like the Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park, a spot I grew up visiting during trips to the New River Gorge in West Virginia, or possibly like the Mingus Mill in the Great Smokey Mountains.
Guys, there’s no mill. It’s the spot where the mill used to be.
So I guess what I’m saying is, manage your expectations.
Instead of a mill, there’s a pretty creek with a small waterfall. I’m sure the waterfall is bigger after a rainstorm.
The Flower Bowl Trail in Raven Run
Next, we kept hiking along the red trail.
We were heading towards the flower bowl and the river overlook. These two sections ended up being my favorite parts of the hike.
When the red trail met the yellow trail, we turned onto the yellow trail.
The park guide mentioned that this trail is especially pretty in the springtime, but we saw lots of wildflowers during our September hike too!
The Kentucky River Overlook
The short yellow “flower bowl” trail rejoins the red trail, and we kept going.
At this point, we saw a sign for the Kentucky River Overlook.
This overlook was pretty gorgeous!
And we had the views all to ourselves.
We followed the red trail for a little bit farther until it reached the blue trail junction.
Finally, we took the blue trail to the green trail.
The easy green trail went past these bat boxes and then onto the Nature Center, putting us back where we started!