Laurel River Lake - Flatwater Paddling

Made possible by




With towering sandstone bluffs rising out of crystal-clear water, and old-growth hardwood forests shading secluded coves, Laurel River Lake is a paddler’s dream.

Written by

Shaine Smith


0.1 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

72.8 miles


1 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

0 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


There is a fee to use certain boat launches and boat-in campgrounds, others are free.

Land Website

Laurel River Lake



Laurel River Lake lies within the sprawling, unspoiled Daniel Boone National Forest. The lake is made up of two main bodies of water, the Laurel River and Craigs Creek. There’s a lot of water here. It’s 19 miles long, with over 5,600 acres of water and features 206 miles of cliff-and-forest-lined shoreline. One could easily spend days paddling the coast seeking out waterfalls or sandy beaches, scoping out cliff-diving spots, and exploring quiet backwaters. Or how about just an afternoon swimming in the warm water and lying on the beach?

What Makes It Great

Although it’s a popular place for its convenience and breathtakingly beautiful scenery, with all this space, it’s easy to find tranquil, remote, spots for a lovely picnic or quiet introspection. There are several boat-in campsites with drinking water and other amenities, as well as primitive sites if solitude is the goal. The lake allows pontoon boats, as well as motorboats, so waterskiers and tubers can get in on the action. Conversely, there are a few sections where engines are prohibited, so the only sounds are the birds, the frogs, and the swoosh of a paddle.

Fishermen flock to Laurel Lake hoping to reel in black bass, rainbow trout, walleye, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. And, if looking for smallmouth bass, anglers should know that the state record holder was hooked in Laurel River Lake. During the summer, trout fishing at night is a popular pastime.

There are also over two dozen smaller creeks that feed into the lake that are absolutely worth exploring. Cane Branch, Stillhouse Creek, Marsh Branch, and Whippoorwill Creek are just a few of them, and any of these streams make for interesting 5-10 mile round trips.

When back on terra firma and looking to get the land-legs back, there are a few short hiking trails in the area. If looking to go big, portions of the 300-mile-long Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail trace the western edge of the shoreline. And the adjacent Daniel Boone National Forest boasts over 600 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails as well!

Who is Going to Love It

Beginning paddlers find the calm, peaceful water of Laurel Lake perfect to hone skills and dial in gear choice, while more experienced boaters can simply up the mileage and explore some of the smaller feeder creeks. Families love the user-friendliness of the lake, it's easy to custom-tailor the length and distance of any trip, from lazy afternoon floats to bigger overnight trips. Birders enjoy gliding through the serene backwaters and quiet bays, hoping to spot Canadian geese, ospreys, and bald eagles. Also, deer, wild turkeys, and black bear are often seen milling about near the shore. Clean and clear water combined with an average depth of 65 feet allow for scuba diving action too.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Take exit 25 or 29 from I-75 in Kentucky, head west. The lake is well signed.

Similar Local Flat Water Paddling Spots

See all

More Lexington Activities

View Lexington

More Laurel Lake Trail Activities

Lexington Recommendations

Local Lexington Stories


Laurel Lake Trail

36.997617, -84.284789

Get Directions