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Cave Run Lake: Recreational Guide for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Situated in the eastern part of Kentucky, Cave Run Lake, a sprawling reservoir enveloping 8,270 acres, is renowned for its diverse recreational activities. 
Waterskiing on Cave Run Lake

Situated in the eastern part of Kentucky, Cave Run Lake, a sprawling reservoir enveloping 8,270 acres, is renowned for its diverse recreational activities. 

Built on the Licking River basin in 1965, it has since served both residents and tourists as a popular vacation getaway.

This guide aims to provide a overview of Cave Run Lake’s recreational opportunities. 

From water-based activities to camping and hiking options, our goal is to equip visitors with the necessary information and promote lakeside vacations.

Cave Run Lake Climate

Insight into the Region’s Climate

Cave Run Lake resides in a humid subtropical climate zone, experiencing warm, humid summers and moderately cold winters. 

The region benefits from an average of 197 sunny days annually, above the U.S. average of 180.

Average Yearly Temperatures

Temperatures vary throughout the year, with the coldest month being January, averaging lows of 24 degrees Fahrenheit, and the warmest month, July, boasting highs of around 87 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seasonal Weather Patterns

Spring (March to May) and Fall (September to November) are typically the most pleasant seasons, with mild temperatures averaging between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit, making them ideal for outdoor activities. 

In contrast, the summer months can be hot and humid, with occasional thunderstorms, whereas winter can experience some snowfall.

Water Temperatures

The water temperature of Cave Run Lake ranges significantly throughout the year, from an icy 32 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to a pleasant 84 degrees in the height of summer. 

This fluctuation plays a crucial role in dictating the type of activities possible during different seasons, making it an essential consideration when planning a trip.

You can find out the current water temperature here.

Water Activities

Boating In Kentucky - Boating and Water Skiing on Cave Run Lake in Kentucky, USA
Source: dreamstime

Cave Run Lake, a veritable playground for water enthusiasts, permits a myriad of watercraft. 

From kayaks and canoes to motorboats and pontoons, the waterway provides an arena for all types of boaters.

Thanks to its massive size, the lake is a hub for waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing.

What’s more, Cave Run Lake has a thriving sailing community with Cave Run Sailing Association as headquarters. The big Annual Regatta and Cook Out & Raft Up are just a few events that the organization runs.

Boat Rental Services and Marinas

For the convenience of visitors who might not own personal watercraft, several rental services operate in the vicinity. 

Cave Run Lake Kayaking Adventures, for instance, offers a selection of kayaks. Scott Creek Marina, on the other hand, provides larger boats, including jon boats and pontoons.

Boat Ramps

The boat ramp at Cave Run Lake. Kentucky, USA
Source: dreamstime

Cave Run Lake has 15 boat ramps accommodating all types of watercraft. The list can be found here.

Boat-In Camping

Adventurous boaters can take advantage of Claylick Boat-In Campground, located across the lake from Zilpo Recreational Area.

This spot features 13 primitive campsites and moorings, suitable for boaters and kayakers.

Safety Guidelines and Regulations

Safety is paramount on the water. 

As such, it’s crucial to be aware of the guidelines set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who manage the lake.

These include adhering to speed limits, having adequate safety gear on board, and ensuring all watercraft are properly licensed and registered.


Popular Fish Species

Cave Run Lake is renowned as a prime spot for muskellunge fishing. It is responsible for the current Kentucky record  – a staggering 47.0 pounds muskie was caught in 2008 by a 14-year-old.

Other popular species include largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish

Noteworthy fishing locales include the Clay Lick and Scott Creek areas.

Fishing Licenses and Regulations

It’s essential for all anglers aged 16 and over to hold a valid Kentucky fishing license, with certain areas also requiring an additional permit. 

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources provides comprehensive guidelines on fishing regulations, including size limits and catch limits.

Swimming and Beach Areas

The beauty of the picnic areas at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky, USA
Source: dreamstime


The sandy beaches at Twin Knobs and Zilpo Campgrounds offer respite from the summer heat. 

Equipped with picnic tables, BBQ grills, and restrooms, these areas provide all the necessary facilities for a relaxing day on the shore.

Activities at the Beach

Beyond swimming, the beaches of Cave Run Lake offer a wide variety of activities. 

Sandcastle building, sunbathing, and picnicking are among the favorites. 

The adjacent playgrounds are an added bonus for families with children.

Beach Rules and Regulations

To ensure safety and enjoyment for all, beachgoers must adhere to specific rules. These include prohibiting pets, glass containers, and alcohol on the beach. 

Lifeguard services are not available at Cave Run Lake.

Water Quality

Water safety and quality are a top priority. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local health departments regularly monitor water conditions and provide updates, ensuring a safe and enjoyable swimming experience for all.

Land Recreational Areas

The beauty of a sunset at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky, USA
Source: dreamstime

Hiking Trails and Nature Walks

A wealth of trails crisscross the wilderness around Cave Run Lake, suitable for a variety of skill levels. 

Notable, Buckskin Trail, a moderate 4.5-mile hike, offers breathtaking lake views. 

While, Limestone Loop, an easier 1.5-mile trail, is ideal for families and birdwatchers.

Biking and Cycling Trails

For cycling enthusiasts, the area boasts a network of unpaved trails. 

Buckskin Trail and Lakeview Ridge Trail have some of the best vistas.

Check out the MTB map on TrailForks.

Horseback Riding Trails

Equestrian trails and facilities are plentiful in the region. 

For example, White Sulfur Horse Camp is designated specifically for horseback riders and has access to over 50 miles of mixed-use trails.

OHV Trails

Off-road enthusiasts can experience the thrill of the OHV trail system

All riders must adhere to the safety guidelines and operating procedures outlined by the U.S. Forest Service, including the requirement to wear helmets and follow designated ORV routes.

Camping and Lodging

Road leading to a camper parked in an RV park on the waterfront
Source: dreamstime

RV and Tent Camping Spaces

Cave Run Lake offers dozens of campgrounds accommodating both RVs and tents. 

Twin Knobs Campground, with its 200 sites, is the largest in the area, offering a blend of amenities such as electric hook-ups, picnic tables, and fire rings. 

Zilpo Campground is another popular choice with 170 sites, surrounded by hardwood trees providing ample shade.

Campsite Reservations and Fees

Reservations are highly recommended during the peak summer season and can be made online through the National Recreation Reservation System. 

Fees range from $15 to $25 per night, depending on the location and amenities provided.

Amenities and Services

Many campgrounds offer restroom facilities, potable water, picnic areas, and dump stations for RVs. 

Some also provide additional amenities such as swimming areas, boat ramps, and playgrounds.

Yet, the Cave Run Lake area has dozens of primitive and remote campsites serving hikers and escapists.

Cabins and Lodgings

Cabins and lodging are not as plentiful as campgrounds at Cave Run Lake.

For those seeking more comfort, Cave Run Cabins and Cave Run Lodging are the nearest options, a stone’s throw from the beach.

Houseboat Rentals

Houseboats are another unique lodging option on Cave Run Lake. Companies like Cave Run Marina offer various models for rent, accommodating from 4 to 12 people.

Nearby Attractions

Double Arch rock formation at Red River Gorge in Kentucky at sunset
Source: dreamstime

Natural Wonders

Close to Cave Run Lake, visitors can find a wealth of natural attractions. 

Red River Gorge, a canyon system famous for its rock formations, and Broke Leg Falls are just a short drive away.

Events and Festivals

Several annual events draw visitors to the area, including the Cave Run Storytelling Festival in the fall and the Rudy Festival in June, offering a taste of local culture and bluegrass.

Safety and Regulations

In case of emergencies, visitors can contact the Bath County Sheriff’s Office at 606-674-2931. 

For medical emergencies, St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead is the closest hospital.

Staying Safe

Wearing lifejackets while boating, staying on marked trails, and storing food properly to avoid attracting wildlife are recommended safety practices. 

It’s also advisable to check the weather forecast before venturing out, especially when planning to be on the water.

Know Before You Go

Certain regulations are in place to preserve the natural beauty of Cave Run Lake. 

These include prohibitions on glass containers and limitations on where campfires are allowed. 

Leave No Trace Principles

Visitors are encouraged to adhere to Leave No Trace principles. 

This includes respecting wildlife, leaving what you find, and disposing of waste properly to ensure the preservation of the area’s natural resources for future generations.

Best Time to Visit

While Cave Run Lake can be enjoyed year-round, the best time to visit for water activities is from May to September. 

Autumn, with its vibrant foliage, is also popular, particularly among hikers and photographers.

Cave Run Lake, with its natural beauty and wide range of recreational opportunities, promises a memorable experience for visitors of all ages. 

Whether you’re drawn by the call of the water, the tranquility of the forest, or the thrill of exploring trails, you’re sure to find your perfect outdoor adventure here.

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