Originally published by the Richmond Register
Written by Andy McDonald
The Pinnacles in the Berea College Forest were recently recognized as the best hike in Kentucky according to Outside magazine. The publication’s April issue listed the best hikes in each state, and the Pinnacles topped the list in Kentucky for their beautiful views, proximity to Daniel Boone National Forest and easy access to local attractions.
“Avoid the crowds of Red River Gorge and head to Berea, Kentucky, and the various pinnacle trails that overlook the area. These dog-friendly hikes offer sweeping overlooks and different vantages of the surrounding area…” stated the article by Outside editorial assistant Abbey Gingras. (https://www.outsideonline.com/2393036/50-best-hikes-us)
The top ranking came as welcome news to officials, who believe the honor bodes well for the future of local tourism.
“I think the ranking and the publicity of the Pinnacles being the top hike in the state of Kentucky is revealing a secret we always knew,” said Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley. “Now it’s being shared with other people in our state, our region and beyond. I hope that we’re able to bring more people to town to experience the beauty of the Pinnacles, Indian Fort area Berea College Forest and our city.”
With the announcement, Fraley also expressed hope that communities in Madison County and the surrounding counties can forge a cooperative effort to bolster tourism in central Kentucky, collaborating to offer deals to tourists that would keep them in the area for a longer period of time, benefitting local attractions, restaurants, hotels, gas stations and shops as visitors spend more of their tourism dollars.
Mayor Fraley praised Berea College, noting for many years it has kept the Pinnacles and Berea College Forest open for the public to enjoy. He added that when he goes to Indian Fort these days, the parking lot is often full of cars with license plates from other states, but also from distant Kentucky counties, a positive indication that the site is drawing visitors to the region.
“Bringing people to the Pinnacles then into town helps all of our tourist attractions throughout the city,” Fraley said.
Business owners also hope to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Pinnacles. Tim Harding, owner of Boone Gap Outfitters, believes the selection of the Pinnacles as a top hiking spot might be the beginning of more promising economic developments.
“It’s definitely an honor that we were picked out of all the amazing places to hike in Kentucky. I believe it’s just the first step in us becoming one of the most nationally recognized places to travel and hike in the area.” Harding said. “Something like this could spark peoples’ curiosity about Berea in general, and I really believe it’s going to impact our summer,” he added.
Harding is hoping to begin a shuttle in the coming months that would take visitors to sites like Indian Fort and other natural areas around the city. Additionally, he’s anticipating progress as the city tries to develop more opportunities in adventure tourism in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the Pinnacles has possibly been bolstered with infrastructure investments in recent years near Indian Fort. The city has connected the site to Berea’s shared-used paths, while Berea College has refurbished the parking lot and added the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center. A consequence of those projects may be more visitors are being drawn to experience the vision of the forest’s original caretaker, Silas Mason, according to current Berea College Forester Clint Patterson.
“It isn’t just a great hike with beautiful vistas, it’s a chance to explore one of the oldest continuously managed forests in America,” Patterson said of the Pinnacles. “When Silas Mason, Berea College’s first forester, looked out at the beautiful view from Indian Fort Lookout on Mountain Day over 100 years ago, he was inspired by a vision for this area to become a multiple-use forest owned by Berea College to provide for timber, water, recreation and education. His vision can be seen today by hikers and explored at Berea College’s Forestry Outreach Center.”
When asked how Outside magazine’s announcement might affect the local tourism trade, Berea Tourism Director Kerri Hensley said it will likely be very positive.
“We’ll probably be sending a lot more visitors to hike in the Pinnacles,” Hensley said.