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Energy and Environment Cabinet

Bad Branch Falls ~ photo by James Archambeault

Bad Branch State Nature Preserve

Location: Letcher County
Size: 2,639 acres
Access: Open to the publicOpen to Public
Brochure/Trail Map: 

* The Nature Conservancy 
Purchased with Assistance of: 
Land & Water Conservation Fund
* Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund

Link to Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund

Initially, 435 acres of land in Letcher County were dedicated on Sept. 26, 1985, launching protection efforts for one of the most significant and beautiful natural areas in the state of Kentucky. The original acreage includes Bad Branch Gorge, a forested gorge with a 60-foot waterfall tumbling over sandstone cliffs on the south face of Pine Mountain. Subsequent acquisitions have expanded the preserve west into the Presley House Branch watershed, northeast into the upper reaches of the Bad Branch watershed and a small portion of the north face of Pine Mountain.   

Today, this 2,639-acre preserve protects the scenic beauty of the gorge and one of the largest concentrations of rare and uncommon species known in the state. The preserve also protects Kentucky’s only known nesting pair of common ravens (Corvus corax). Bad Branch has been designated a Kentucky Wild River.

  • Features - hemlock gorge, waterfall, high-quality stream, numerous rare species, trail along mountain crest
  • Access - foot trail and bridges, 5 miles of trail over uneven terrain, strenuous
  • Facilities - none
  • Parking - 10 cars; one bus
  • Hazards - steep cliffs, venomous snakes (rare)
  • Activities - hiking, birding, nature photography and research
  • Directions - Letcher County. From the junction of KY 15 and U.S. 119 S.E. of Whitesburg, follow U.S. 119 south 8.0 miles. Turn left at junction with KY 932, travel east for 2.0 miles to gravel parking area on left side of KY 932.
Bad Branch was highlighted in the Summer 2015 edition of Land, Air & Water magazine.