If you love all things autumn, Harlan County can offer you the dreamy fall vibes of your dreams! We’ve put together a list of 20 things to do to make the most out of fall in Harlan County…
–Sip the Season– Stop in at a local coffee shop like Moonbow Tipple Coffee & Sweets in downtown Harlan or Lamp House Coffee in Lynch and order something seasonal. Pumpkin and apple flavors will be the right choice for drinks and baked goods!
–Fashionably Fall– Find your fall look at a local boutique in one of the downtown areas of the county! We recommend Sonwood’s and Sweet Southern Peach Boutique in downtown Harlan and My Sister’s Closet and Hill & Holler in downtown Cumberland!
–Picture Perfect– Harlan County is home to talented photographers and they know all of the best spots for fall photo shoots. Contact a local photographer and get on their schedule to have senior photos, engagement pictures, or family portraits shot with the most beautiful backdrop nature can provide! Photographers book up early so schedule right away!
–Go Golf- The mild temperatures of fall give golfers great weather to hit the links. As a bonus, Harlan Country Club, Lynch Country Club, and Sleepy Hollow Golf Course all provide great views of the fall colors.
–Treetop Thrills– Why simply view the fall colors when you can soar through them on a thrilling zipline, reaching speeds of up to 60 mph and heights of 500 ft. off the ground? Black Mountain Thunder Zipline provides a 2 mile canopy tour to experience fall leaves like never before!
-Stirring Tradition- Pine Mountain Settlement School has been inviting visitors to their campus for over a century for a Fair Day and Sorghum Stir Off! In 2022, Fair Day will be held on September 24. View exhibits of arts and food. Enjoy live music. Shop with vendors. And offer your help with the process of stirring sorghum!
-Lake Life- Swimming season may be over at Martins Fork Lake but there’s still fun to be had! The kids can play on the playground equipment while you roast hotdogs. After dinner, spend some time fishing from the bank or dock. End the evening with s’mores roasted over the grill!
-Birds Eye View- You’ve seen fall but have you seen fall in Kentucky’s largest old growth forest? Visit Blanton Forest and hike to the top of Knobby Rock for a breathtaking view of autumn in an ancient forest!
-Under the Stars- We get it. Sometimes summer heat can make tent camping uncomfortable. Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the mild days and then gather around a fire at night before getting cozy in your tent. Have you checked out the primitive camping sites at Kingdom Come State Park?
-Hit the Trails- Harlan County is known for its off-roading! Have you visited the Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area? You can explore 7,000 acres of trails with natural challenges and gorgeous views. Don’t have your own ATV? Black Mountain Adventure Tours will provide you with a side by side, safety training, and a knowledgeable guide to take you on the park!
-Swappin’ Meetin’- The Kingdom Come Swappin’ Meetin’ has welcomed visitors to the Cumberland Campus of the Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College for decades. It’s a great festival where you can find handmade items, demonstrations of Appalachian crafts, and activities for the whole family. This year’s festival will be September 30 and October 1.
-A Gourd Time!- Kingdom Come State Park invites you to their hayride and pumpkin patch on October 1 and October 8. Stop at the gift shop to purchase your wristband, giving you access to the hayride and a pumpkin of your choice. Enjoy the beauty of Pine Mountain as you take part in this Kingdom Come event.
-Terrifying Tour- Harlan County is such a great place to live that some residents just couldn’t leave it behind even after death. Bloody Harlan Ghost Tours is led by locals who are well versed in local history and local lore. The walking tour moves through downtown Harlan with stories of true crime and the paranormal. Some tours even culminate in an EVP session where tour participants can make contact with the other side. Contact them to book a private tour for your group or to ask about scheduled tours you can join!
-Bates Mountain Mansion- The Harlan County Campground offers a variety of accommodations ranging from primitive camping to luxury cabins. Fans of classic horror films will be especially interested in Riley’s Retreat. The four bedroom cabin exterior is modeled after the Bates Mansion from the film Psycho. While the outside looks like a scary movie set, the inside offers the modern amenities you expect in a mountain getaway including arcade games, a hot tub, and direct access to the adjoining Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area!
-Ride the Ridge- One of the best drives you can take to enjoy fall leaves is the 38 mile road running along the ridge of Pine Mountain from 119 near Whitesburg to 421 near Harlan. While some portions are paved, other portions remain primitive. We recommend hiking the trail or taking a 4×4 if you hope to see the entire expanse of Little Shepherd Trail. You’ll find beautiful fall color, areas with impressive mountain views, and likely some wildlife!
-Haunted Harlan- Several of our talented local authors have chosen to devote their talent to telling and retelling the haunted history of some well known locations throughout the county. Want to take a fall drive with a creepy twist? Pick up a copy of one of these scary story books and set out to visit the locations described in the pages. Who knows? Maybe you’ll come away with your own tale of the unexplained.
-Trick or Treat- As families celebrate Halloween, some cities within the county will host special hours when downtown businesses will distribute candy to trick or treaters! Whether you participate by handing out candy or by bringing your family and joining in the fun of going door to door, watch for details of these events so you can be a part of the fun!
-Slay the Dragon- The Dragon Slayer Hwy 160 winds itself from the city of Lynch to Kentucky’s highest point on Black Mountain! With a wide variety of trees along the way, you’ll see an explosion of fall color as you wind your way to the top of the mountain. Many visitors also report seeing wildlife along the way. Take your time and enjoy the drive. Watch for the motorcycles and exotic cars that flock to Hwy 160 for its curves and scenery.
-Mountain Masters- At the intersection where fall ends and the Christmas season begins in Harlan County, you’ll find the Festival of the Mountain Masters. This festival takes place at the Village Center Mall on the Friday & Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving. Vendors bring their best handmade, handcrafted, and home-baked items for shoppers to browse as they enjoy festive music and seeing old friends!
-Tell Your Friends– As you check these activities and spots off of your Harlan County Fall Bucket List, share your experiences on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok. Help spread the word about all the things to love about Autumn in Harlan County.