Who better than the directors of parks and recreation to give insider tips on where to experience the splendor of autumn’s annual kaleidoscopic display? Shawn Pickens and Chris Truelock had their top Shelby County faves at their fingertips.
Topping Pickens’ list were Shelby Trails Park and Lake Shelby Park, where hiking, canoeing or kayaking at Lake Shelby Park and/or hiking or horseback riding at the Shelby Trails Park present the county’s best opportunities to see the fall foliage.
“These areas have the most trees and will see the most variation of colors in the park system,” Pickens said.
In fact, Shelby Trails Park is a thickly wooded 462-acre nature preserve with 21 acres of groomed hiking and horseback riding trails. A perfect day? One with sunny skies, a crisp nip in the air that smells of fall, and the sight of blazing color as you crunch your way, by foot or by hoof, along paths strewn with fallen leaves.
Lake Shelby is located within the 130-acre Clear Creek Park, the county’s oldest park and home to the Clear Creek Golf Course and the Family Activity Center. Leaf peeping is possible at Clear Creek Park as well, although there are quite a few open areas.
The 131-acre Red Orchard Park is another choice for catching the turning leaves. In 1792, the orchard was planted by settler Aquilla Whitaker, who helped establish the town of Shelbyville with her husband, John.
The park got its name because the orchard supposedly turned a flaming red in the fall. Today, this nature lover’s paradise is planted lushly with gorgeous mature trees: walnut, blue ash and sycamore and other species.
Red Orchard Park is also home to a 2-acre bark park with small shade structures, agility pieces and water hydrants, so dog lovers can enjoy fall’s display while walking Fido. The free-admission Miller Outdoor Education Center is also here for enjoying wildlife exhibits and demos, live box turtles, an active bee hive and natural exhibits that teach about the surrounding environment.
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Find fall color on the Greenway Trail from Seventh Street to Stratton Bottom Park. The concrete/paved trail runs about one mile along a railroad bridge and the shaded creek bank of Clear Creek.
“This hike takes you along Clear Creek and through heavily wooded areas with a wide variety of trees and colors,” Pickens said.
Truelock’s top picks started with Simpsonville Park, a vibrant swatch of green in the heart of Simpsonville beloved by the locals.
“The park is surrounded by various bordering trees and greenery, making for a rich green summer look with various colors throughout in the fall,” he said.
Truelock’s other picks include the stretch of land full of trees and shrubbery just south of the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass, where Simpsonville holds its annual The Boom Fourth of July celebration, and the Cardinal Club Golf Course.
“This is one of the finest courses in Kentucky, featuring an array of trees, greenery and landscaping,” he said. “This beautiful piece of land also houses two ponds, adding just the right touch.”
Visitors also find fantastic fall color at the county’s largest lake. Guist Creek Lake, considered one of Shelby County’s best kept secrets, offers a chance to get in the midst of the changing season, either hiking the trails or taking a kayak, canoe or other boat out. With more than 25 miles of shoreline, the lake has a beautiful, rural backdrop and is a natural gathering place for deer, turkey and other wildlife.
According to Eddie Meeks, manager at the marina, the campground area is also great for fall color.
Guist Creek Lake has a launching ramp at the marina, where canoes, pontoons and jon boats can be rented. Visit the website for pricing. The campground is open March 1 through November for primitive and pull-through RV camping.