Kentucky River trails

Trails and hikes along the Kentucky River and in the greater Lexington area.

We’re excited to start compiling great hikes near Lexington and along the Kentucky River. Often we feel compelled to travel long distances to find natural areas to enjoy. While the Daniel Boone and Big South Fork forests provide multiday excursions, we can find challenging day hikes along Kentucky River. If we do a little research, we can find

Our goal is to do good research and offer a free map here to use on your mobile device. We will focus on four types of trails.

  1. Rugged and remote trails along the Kentucky River where on can explore the unique ecosystem of the Palisades.
  2. Shared-use trails that connect different parts of a city and provide opportunities to explore the urban edges.
  3. Walking trails, which are typically paved, that families can use to exercise and take a break from street sidewalks.
  4. Bike trails in the area, which are typically mountain bike and technical, but try to suggest trails that young cyclists can use for off-road fun.

We will publish the full map soon, so keep tuned. You can follow our explorations on Pixel’s Travels.

Here is 360 photo of the John Holder Public Trail in the Lower Howard’s Creek Nature Preserve.

Students map Town Branch Trail

Town Branch Trail in maps

Students create many maps and a website for the soon-to-be-built Town Branch Trail during the Spring 2017 semester in the GEO 409 (Advanced Topics in GIS) in the Department of Geography, University of Kentucky. We used mainly open source GIS software QGIS and GitHub to create and publish our maps.

We used mainly open source GIS software QGIS and GitHub to create and publish our maps. For the final project, students grouped into separate teams for web page production, field GPS and photography, story production, and 3D mapping.

An interactive map of the content produced for the final project can be found in the following map:

[Read more…]

Robinson Forest NRES camp 2017

360 photography at camp

This is the third year teaching at the UK NRES (Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences) summer camp. This course was a one-day GPS and GIS exercise to map the interpretive trails around base camp. With seventeen undergraduates and their mobile devices, we split into two teams. One team focused on the trail network and GPS mapped trail alignment and intersections. A second team mapped points of interests and interpretive sites along the main hiking trail up to the fire tower.

We worked in the camp classroom with QGIS, the leading free and open source GIS software, to make all of our maps. We imported our GPS data as KML or GPX formatted text files, which we then edited in QGIS. We created a shaded relief base map from DEM data (using the Terrain plugin!) over which we laid the cleaned trail data. We finally exported a GeoTIFF which could be loaded on mobile devices and used to locate position without requiring a cellular data connection.

Link to interactive map (6 MB)

We also touched on how to make interactive 3D maps. QGIS offers one of the richest environments to experiment with GIS data. We introduced a plugin, qgis2threejs, that is perhaps the easiest method to make online 3d maps. Take a look!

Robinson Forest

Robinson Forest Camp trail map

Robinson Forest Camp trail map

Last year, we GPS mapped the road to the fire tower. During the first year, we spent time making a static bird’s eye view of the main trail up to the fire tower. Since the first year, some students have asked about updating the map in the trailhead kiosk. It is a block diagram of the trail and its style is dated. This year, we discovered that theqgis2threejs QGIS plugin can make similar block diagrams. Maybe one year we can get one of these maps in the kiosk!

3D map with 2014 aerial photography (25 MB)

Ohio River bend at Dayton, Kentucky

Newport levee system

Dayton levee system

Dayton, Kentucky depends on a levee system to prevent flooding by the Ohio River. From this overlook at Eden Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, we can clearly see in the left half of the image how much the city is protected. The inside channel of the meander (the Kentucky side) historically had a much lower slope created by the mechanics of stream flow. As stream flow congested and slowed on the inside channel, sediment dropped from the river that mounded into a point bar and usable land.  However, periodic high river flows would inundate the whole point bar and the challenge became flood management. Dayton’s point bar was secured by this artificial levee system that is only so high. Our engineering of cities depends on knowledge of climate change.

We have created a zoomable photograph that you can use to inspect this levee:

Full-screen view of the photograph.


Eagle Rock and Boulder Canyon views

Eagle Rock climbing area in Boulder City canyon

We’ve made a series of 3D views for Wolverine Publishing’s climbing guidebook for Boulder Canyon, Colorado. This image shows Eagle Rock and was made with high-resolution aerial photography and LiDAR elevation data. The data was supplied by Boulder Canyon Climber Community.

Drafts of Cumberland Gap map

Map packaging artwork

We’ve been hard at work finishing our trail map for the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and surrounding area. This project is an update of our first Gap trail map. We’re hoping to have the maps in stock by Memorial Day, 2017.

Our new map is on a larger sheet size (39″ x 13.35″ divided into two sheets for convenient use) and at a scale of one-inch to a half-mile.

Please explore the drafts via links below and let us know if you have any suggestions.

Artwork drafts

Map side:

Elevation profile side:

Map packaging artwork:



Cumberland Gap NHP interactive map

Interactive 3d map using Leaflet

Interactive 3d map using Leaflet

A bird’s eye view map of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park created in conjunction with our 2016 new release of the park map. This map is not georeferenced to real-world coordinates and uses a javascript mapping library, Leaflet, to generate the interactivity. We think of the developing project as a gateway for multimedia about the park’s environment and history that we want to share.


Pilot Knob State Nature Preserve student mapping project

Students in NRE 355 (a GIS calass at the University of Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences program) visited the 740-acre Pilot Knob State Nature Preserve on September 21, 2016, and used mobile devices to collect GPS data for the existing trail network. They mapped approximately 3.2 miles of trail then used ArcGIS and CARTO to measure the trails and create a 2D map and 3D visualizations of the nature preserve. Students then created websites to showcase their work. contains maps, animations, and links to student pages.

3D views and animations of Pilot Knob State Nature Preserve

3D views and animations of Pilot Knob State Nature Preserve

Elevation profile of connected interior spaces


Enlarge this graphic

It’s downtown Lexington, summer, and hot. Poor air quality and oppressive heat are hazards for older walkers and those with cranky babies. An interior (mostly air conditioned) pedway exists that connects various buildings downtown and is a walking convenience for many folks. When Lexington has more shady pedestrian paths away from city streets, walking inside wouldn’t be so inviting and necessary. [Read more…]

Cumberland Gap trail map at Woodland Art Fair, August 20-21

2016 Cumberland Gap trail map, hiking information

2016 Cumberland Gap trail map and hiking information

The update to our Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is almost complete. Much like the old map, our 2016 version is a 1 inch to 1/2 mile scale map with 50-foot contours, trail elevation profiles, and  GPS-mapped trails shown in vivid full-color printing. This year we added a layer that shows density of canopy coverage and GPS-mapped Caldwell Gap Trail. The size of the park has increased since our last update, so we’ve included most of the additional land. [Read more…]

Audio driving tour on SoundCloud

Listen to audio

Listen to audio

We’ve added our audio driving tour for Cumberland Gap and Pine Mountain to SoundCloud. This self-guided tour will show you over ancient buffalo traces and Native American trails that frontier settlers cut into roads seeking the fertile lands of Kentucky. You will walk through Cumberland Gap where the Wilderness Road and the Warrior’s Path meet and look out upon America’s First Frontier. Along the Kingdom Come Scenic Parkway, you will hear the rushing headwaters of the mighty Cumberland River.

Download audio and maps:

Lexington Bike/Ped versus Car Collision Analysis

Website of collision maps

Website of collision maps

For a GIS course at the University of Kentucky Department of Geography (GEO 409), we mapped and analyzed the incidences of car collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists. Using data from Kentucky Crash Analysis Wizard (, we harvested collisions for Fayette County from January 2004 until April 8, 2016, the entire dataset at that point in time. 

The website of collision maps is available here: and the bike map is

[Read more…]

Weather station almost full!

Happy New Year to you! We invite you to our four year anniversary of documenting weather animations in the Great Smokies. When we move into 2016, we’ll cycle out the observations for 2012. Over the past dozen years we’ve documented weather for areas our maps cover. More recently, we’ve offered an online media library of webcam and satellite animations and daily weather summaries for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. They’re offered as animated GIFs for three webcams and a visual GOES satellite for the region.

Four years of webcam animations

Four years of webcam animations

In short few hours, we’ll have four complete years of these webcams. If you need a nice sunset or sunrise, feel free to explore the archive.

As we look to the future, we’re excited to investigate the public data that many personal weather stations are feedings services like Weather Underground and Netatmo. We’ll start aggregating weather station data for our hiking areas and offer it here. That’s a goal for 2016!

Sheltowee Trace South, 2015

Six 19" x 27" pages

Six 19″ x 27″ pages

We’ve finished our Sheltowee Trace South, 2015 map. This rich color topographic trail map includes almost the entire Big South Fork National Recreation and River Area and the southern half of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Map is six 19″ x 27″ pages and is available laminated. Check it out!

Woodland Art Fair, 2015

Come down to the Woodland Art Fair this Saturday and Sunday,  August 15 and 16. We’ve made big progress on the Sheltowee Trace South map and we’ll have samples to show at our booth.  While in the same format as Sheltowee Trace North map, we’re adding an additional sheet to cover the Big South Area.

Working draft of the Sheltowee Trace South map

The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or there abouts. We’ll stay as long as you’re visiting!

Our booth location and coordinates are shown on the below map. We’ll be between Troublesome and Difficulty Creeks, at least spirit! Find us on the Woodland Christian Church side of the fair at the shady bottom of the hill.