Louisville Courier Journal
Published 8:01 AM EST Nov 8, 2019
Fall is here, and Louisville has finally cooled off after record-setting heat this summer.
Nothing signals the return of autumn like tree leaves changing from green to glowing oranges and reds. As American author Joe L. Wheeler wrote, “There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”
But they don't last long, so it's time to get out and take in the colors before the leaves and temperatures drop for winter. According to the annual Fall Foliage Prediction Map on smokymountain.com, the peak time to see fall leaves in Louisville is between Nov. 2-9 this year.
Here are some of the best places in the Louisville area to see fall colors and brighten your season — and the best part is it's free!
745 Cochran Hill Road
Cherokee Park was planned by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed New York City's Central Park. It was Louisville's most visited city park last year with 1,600,000 visitors, according to The Trust for Public Land.
The park's main feature is its 2.4-mile Scenic Loop, which has one lane for pedestrians and bicyclists and a second for vehicle use. There are multiple trails that leave the main loop for those looking for a quieter hike through a more heavily wooded area. (The secret to staying in the park is to keep turning left while on the loop. Turn right to exit the loop, and keep turning right to leave the park.)
Along with the walking trails, there are basketball courts, a playground, picnic tables, grills, and a nine-hole golf course. At the edge of the park is Cochran Hill Dog Run, a dog park with three fenced-in areas to let dogs off the leash and swim in kiddie pools, play fetch and let off steam — an ideal escape from the city for dog owners without a yard of their own.
You may like: Take a break from the city with these 5 hiking spots within 50 miles of Louisville
2120 Rundill Road
Also designed by Olmsted, Iroquois Park was built in 1891 and fills just over 1 square mile of Southwest Louisville.
Pedestrians and cyclists can use the road to the top of the park, where you can sit at an overlook with a view of the city.
Iroquois Park also has an open-air amphitheater, where a variety of concerts and other shows are held throughout the year. The park has a playground as well as areas for basketball, tennis, disc golf, fishing, golf, picnics and more.
And, bonus — the park is home to what is believed to be the largest tree in Louisville's park system, a 120-feet tall tulip poplar, which turns a vibrant yellow during fall.
You may like: Pumpkin spice is an abomination and ruins all the good things about fall
Jefferson Memorial Forest
11311 Mitchell Hill Road
Jefferson Memorial Forest has more than 50 miles of trails, including 35 miles of scenic woodland trails for hiking and trail running. Mitchell Hill Lake Trail is a 1.4-mile stretch with views of the lake, and the nearby Red Trail follows 4.8 miles of flat ridges within the Horine Reservation.
To see a full list of the trails and their difficulty levels, go to louisvilleky.gov/government/parks/hit-trails.
1340 South 4th St.
One of the city's smaller parks, Central Park is a 17-acre green oasis within the urban Old Louisville neighborhood.
The park is most known for hosting the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival at its amphitheater every summer. Despite its size, the park has elaborate walkways as well as a playground, picnic tables and volleyball and tennis courts — and plenty of trees!
George Rogers Clark Park
1024 Thruston Ave.
While Iroquois has the city's tallest tree, George Rogers Clark has the oldest: a more than 200-year-old bald cypress. Cypress trees are one of the few conifers that aren't evergreen and sheds its needle-like leaves during the fall, so make sure you see it before it goes "bald" for the winter.
There are plenty of other color-changing trees at the park to admire, surrounding 46 acres of land with a horseshoe pit, basketball and tennis courts, a playground and space for soccer and football.
It's fall, y'all! Here are 10 places to go apple picking around Louisville
Also: Has the drought carved into the Louisville region's pumpkin supply?
Joe Creason Park
1297 Trevilian Way
Across the street from Bellarmine University, Joe Creason Park is a popular spot for cross-country runners with its 3.1-mile paved walking path circling Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve.
After you visit during the fall to take in the leaves, be sure to go back in the winter; the park has some slopes perfect for sledding.
4501 W. Broadway
Shawnee Park is another Louisville treasure designed by Olmsted, located in West Louisville along the Ohio River. When he designed it, Olmsted intended for the park to be used for large formal gatherings and included the Great Lawn, an open space bordered by plants and trees.
The park boasts an 18-hole golf course and includes a portion of Louisville's Riverwalk Trail extending across the city's waterfront. The park has basketball courts and road biking, as well as access to Louisville Loop.
4800 Waverly Park Road
Sitting beside Louisville haunted attraction Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Waverly Park is the perfect destination for mountain bikers wanting to take in Louisville's fall colors.
The Kentucky Mountain Bike Association called Waverly Park "one of Louisville's best-kept secrets" with its location on 300-plus acres of scenic wooded area. In addition to its 6.4-mile mountain biking loop, the park has a nine-hole golf course, a playground, and fishing.
Reach trending reporter Emma Austin at [email protected]