Today is the first installment of our summer day trip series, featuring nearby treasures around Louisville that are good for the family or just yourself. Enjoy!

 

23 square miles. 15,000 acres. That is an area as big as Manhattan. What do those numbers mean?

That area is the size of Bernheim Forest, except replace the millions of people with millions of trees.

Bernheim Forest is located at the “gateway to the Bourbon Trail,” literally across the street from Jim Beam and Four Roses. Its massive land covers two counties, Bulllitt and Nelson. Another fun fact: if you were to combine Bernheim Forest with the land at Fort Knox, which is only three miles away and has 110,000 acres, you would have a land area the size of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

 

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Just marinate on those numbers for a minute, then realize that Bernheim Forest is roughly 30 minutes from your Louisville home. Also note that it is free of charge, except on the weekends, when it is $5 a car to enter. You have probably driven or flown to a national park before, spending thousands of dollars. Guess what, there is one of comparable beauty right in your own backyard where you can enjoy the same hiking, rappelling and more.

I come here whenever I can, which sometimes works out to three times a year, other times lots more. We come here to hike, to explore and to play on the playground. We come here to disconnect because our phones barely work here. We come here in every season, because until nobody appreciates a season change more than someone that grew up without it. We love it so much that we bring my Houston family here and now they request it each time they visit.

 

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Bernheim’s mission is to connect people with nature. Whether that be through hiking, picnics or just sitting and being, it all works.

There are 35 miles of hikes here. I am not a professional hiker. In fact, I can barely follow the trail, and they are truly made for six-year olds. One year we got seriously off track and were practically spelunking with babies in carriers.  But hiking here is always first on my list. I love it, and nature girl I am not.

Family hike. Personality types all come out to play here.

Family hike. Personality types all come out to play here.

Recently, we enjoyed the special treat of a guided tour by Mark Wourms, Executive Director of Bernheim Forest. I took my summer intern (aka my 6 year old son) along for the ride. When I tell you that this is the best thing he will do all summer I am not exaggerating.

 

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We think that we are going to do some of the normal trails. Wrong. We board vans and drive about 15 minutes away. We drive through a creek in our van (like something out of an adventure movie) and my son does a total fist pump. Accompanying us on our tour are donors and members.

 

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We park and walk to a creek and then walk in the creek. We do the entire tour walking in the water up to our calves.

 

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My son is elated to be encouraged to get wet and dirty.

 

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Mark proceeds to tell us about every plant, every fish, every rock every everything. We even came across a beaver dam operation that was probably abandoned minutes before we got there. That was a special tour, and a special treat.

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Yup, that’s a crawfish. And it is not happy.

Besides the hikes, there are numerous other things to do at Bernheim Forest. There are different events during the week and weekends, everything from eco-discovery kids tours to moonlight hikes. Many people use the large loop near the entrance as a fitness trail and there are even bootcamps in the mornings here.

Looks like snow?  It's sunlight dotting the tree-lined trail.

Looks like snow? It’s actually sunlight dotting the tree-lined trail.

The visitor center and all of the buildings are beautifully designed and they are all LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. There are five categories required to achieve this status: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality. If I designed this in accordance with these specifications, my building would look something akin to Lincoln Logs. Not here. Check out the architectural beauty of all their structures:

Front Door to visitor center

Front Door to visitor center

 

Side View to Visitor Center

Side View to Visitor Center

 

Walk Way to front door

Walkway to front door

 

Front gate booth

Front gate booth

 

Glimpse of inside, bathed in natural light.

Glimpse of inside, bathed in natural light.

Renowned artist Patrick Dougherty has his famous Snake Hollow sculpture made of twigs here. It’s massive and there is nothing holding the twigs together but themselves. For more about this artist, StyleBlueprint has an article about this artist and his amazing work.

 

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Coming soon to the property is the Edible Garden. For the first time ever in its 80 year history, Bernheim plans on growing food. Their current plan is to grow food for their cafe and staff and possibly to donate to food banks and includes the garden and an arbor now. Eventually a large structure and pavillion will be added.

 

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The garden will be accessible so that everything from wheelchairs to strollers will be able to pull right up and start picking.

 

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Bernheim does have a cafe, named Isaac’s Cafe after the founder, located in the visitor center. Our entire tour group ate there after our creek tour and everyone was pleased. Sandwiches, soups, salad and fruit were offered. Local favorite Rooibee Red Tea was also on the menu.

Here’s my other favorite thing about the Bernheim Forest day trip: If you time it right, you can hit the Zappo’s Outlet on the way home, only a short distance from there. (I’m always thinking …)

Enjoy your trip and send your pictures when you go. At the end of the summer, I’m going to compile a Day Trip Online Scrapbook so that we can all enjoy each other’s vacations!

 

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For more information on Bernheim Forest, be sure to visit their website at http://bernheim.org.