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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Getaway option! Review of Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I decided to explore Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. We departed Louisville after breakfast and enjoyed an easy, scenic drive down I-64 and I-75. After exiting I-75, we drove another 10 - 15 miles on a rural road. At one point there was a pull off with a scenic view of the mountains. It was beautiful! The resort park was a short distance from that point, and there were plenty of signs directing the way. The entire drive took about 3 hours from Northeast Louisville.

Upon arrival, we parked near the DuPont Lodge to check in. The outside of the lodge looked rustic. There was a grassy area in front with two hammocks. We saw a family having a picnic on the grass. The lodge lobby had a cozy sitting area in front of a large stone fireplace. The ceiling had beautiful wood beams that added to the rustic feel. The staff was courteous and attentive. We were able to check in just after noon, even though the website indicated our room would not be ready until late afternoon. The staff was friendly and accommodating, providing us with pamphlets about area attractions and an area map with descriptions of the trails.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park offers multiple types of accommodations. There are lodge rooms, cottages, camp sites and Woodland rooms. We selected a Woodland room because it sounded unique. Located adjacent to the lodge, the Woodland rooms are similar to a lodge room on the inside, but resemble a cabin on the outside. Each Woodland building contains two separate rooms, which are adjoining. It would be a great option for two families vacationing together. There was a couple staying in the room next to ours, so we kept the adjoining door locked. The room was very basic with two full size beds, a shower, an older model TV, and wet bar area with a mini fridge and microwave. There was a small front porch with a table and two chairs. It wasn't the kind of room you'd want to hang out in all day, but it was clean and fine for resting after a long day exploring the park.

After unloading the car, we walked back across the parking lot to the lodge for lunch. The Riverview Restaurant inside the DuPont lodge serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with menu choices and buffets available for each. The lunch/dinner menu features, appetizers, salads, soups sandwiches, wraps, veggies and many “country style” platters, such as catfish and country ham. The full menu can be previewed online. The food on the buffet varies from day to day. We arrived on a Saturday, and the buffet had Tex Mex food, such as tacos, burritos, chicken fajitas, beans, rice and chips and dip. There was also a salad bar. My husband, son and I selected the buffet and our daughter ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of fruit. We were all happy with our selections and got plenty of food. The prices were reasonable and we were pleasantly surprised that children 5 and under eat FREE off the menu or the buffet! As the name suggests, the restaurant overlooks the river. The back wall features several windows and there are multiple bird feeders to just outside which attract many different species.

With our bodies properly fueled and hydrated, we set out to explore the Falls. We took a marked trail which began beside the lodge. The lady at the front desk advised us that the .75 mile trail would included many stairs, and would be tiring for the kids, but doable. For those who prefer to drive, the is a parking lot near the Falls as well. My 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter enjoyed the trail and didn't seem to mind the stairs, though I did have to hold my daughter's hand to help her with some of the larger steps. The way to the Falls is downhill, so the hardest part going back.

The trail ends at the parking area, and then there is a paved path. There is a riverside gift shop, information center, snack bar and restrooms. Beyond that there are several different paths and vantage points for viewing Cumberland Falls. Sixty eight feet tall and 125 feet wide, the waterfall is quite impressive! I took countless photos of the waterfall from different angles, but these are some of my favorites.

Down by the river, we were surprised to find a sandy beach area. Swimming and wading in the river is strictly prohibited, but the kids were especially excited to play in the sand. We saw a few families with buckets, shovels and sand toys. I was particularly intrigued by some the fossilized wood and exposed tree roots. Beyond the beach, there was a rocky area that we explored the next day.

Along the path, there was a small cave that was fun to explore. It was also a great place to cool off. Unfortunately, there was some graffiti, but the kids didn't seem to notice it. Throughout the park, there were signs posted warning of black bears, but we did not not encounter wildlife other than birds, squirrels, chipmunks, one raccoon and my son's favorite: caterpillars.

On they way back, we stopped at the snack bar for blue raspberry slushes, which my kids loved. We also explored the gift shop and information center. - After a brief rest in our room, we headed back out to fish in the river. The main fishing area is several miles from the lodge and it was getting close to dinner time, so we decided to just take our poles down to the river to practice casting, sans bait. (The only place to buy bait is several miles up the road as well). Needless to say, we didn't catch anything but it was fun and made for good photo opps. Then we decided to check out the playground and tennis court, which were up the hill behind our Woodland room. According to the resort website, tennis equipment can be checked out by overnight guests, though we did not attempt this.

For dinner, we returned to the lodge restaurant. My husband and I had both planned to order the catfish, which happened to be on the buffet that night, so we got to sample many other things as well. Once again we were pleased with the variety, quality and pricing, and our daughter’s meal was free.

We learned from the front desk that there was a Star Party going on that night, which would include the opportunity to view the stars through a powerful telescope. We decided to hang around the lodge for a while and wait for it to start. Adjacent to the lobby, there is a TV room that features another large stone fireplace and a game table. But for most of the time, we enjoyed sitting on the porch while the sun went down. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy in the evening, and the stars were not visible, but we did have the opportunity to view the moon through the telescope. It was neat seeing the craters in such detail! -- Back at our Woodland room, we decided to use our grill to make Campfire Cones. They’re basically smores inside of an ice cream cone instead of graham crackers. You stuff the cone with whatever you’d like. We used marshmallows, chocolate chips, strawberries and peanuts. Then you wrap the cone in foil and throw it on the grill (or campfire) for a few minutes to melt it all together. It was fun, and yummy too!

The following morning, we started the day with a delicious breakfast at the Riverview Restaurant. The kids each ordered silver dollar pancakes and my husband and I ordered a meal that included two full plates of food! -- After breakfast, we set out for a nature walk on trail #4. This is a wooded trail that included signs describing several plants and animals in the area. We especially enjoyed the large magnolia leaves and it was good that another sign informed us of poison ivy along the path. I must say, there was quite a bit of poison ivy, but we were mostly able to avoid it by staying on the path. There was one tricky part where a tree had fallen and my husband had to lift the kids over. I had a hard time avoiding the ivy there, but fortunately, none of us had a reaction.

My family was only at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park for 24 hours and we had tons of fun. My kids are still talking about it and acting it out when they play. It was a great little weekend getaway. There were several other trails that we could’ve explored. There is also horseback riding available, but which we skipped because our daughter was not the minimum age of 6 required to participate. We visited in April, but starting in May there is rafting available nearby. In the summer, the Olympic size pool is open as well. But probably the most popular reason for visiting Cumberland Falls, is to see the moonbow. Visible only at night during a full moon, the moonbow is like a rainbow that forms in the mist of the waterfall. It is a phenomenon not found anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. The moonbow at Cumberland Falls draws visitors from all over the world, as the only other place to view this phenomenon is at Victoria Falls in Africa. My family will definitely return to see this!

More information regarding Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is available at http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/cumberland-falls/default.aspx

By guest contributor: Brandy

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