Fairmount Falls: The Best Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Gem
Louisville, Kentucky is home to some of the prettiest parks in any major city. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and one of his four major projects throughout the US – we’ve loved exploring them all! But just when we thought we thought we had explored all of the parks in our area – we heard about Fairmount Falls tucked away in Jefferson Memorial Forest.
If you’ve never heard of Fairmount Falls in Louisville, Kentucky – it’s because it’s not listed on any of the major maps. It’s an ecologically sensitive area, but if you can get access – we highly recommend spending a day exploring! As far as free things to do go in Louisville – this is one of our favorites.
How To Get Access to Fairmount Falls
Ecologically sensitive areas are often closed off to the public with limited access. This might seem like an inconvenience but’s incredibly important.
To allow the region to heal after people hike extensively in pretty areas – it’s necessary to limit the number of feet trampling the vegetation. The falls themselves wouldn’t be as pretty if it weren’t for the vegetation in the area!! Do your part and respect the number of visitors allowed a day!
Since the area is protected – only three cars are allowed a day! This means you’ll need to plan ahead a little to get a spot. We called on three separate occasions to get a spot when the weather was going to be decent – and on the third try, we were able to get in!
Call 502-368-5404 – The Jefferson Memorial Forest Welcome Center a few days in advance. They only take reservations 72 hours in advance – so on a pretty weekend, you need to call ASAP!
The person who takes your reservation will give you the code to the parking area gate. When you get the code, remember not to share it with anyone. To preserve the falls for future generations, please follow the guidelines and only let in as many as you reserved for. Three cars a day isn’t much but if it’s all that’s allowed – we should all respect the guidelines.
How To Get To Fairmount Falls Trailhead
About twenty minutes from downtown Louisville, Fairmount Falls is easy to find if you know what you’re looking for! Start by grabbing breakfast at one of our delicious local eateries, (Highland Morning is our favorite!), and then head West out to Jefferson Memorial Forest.
When you call and get access, you’ll be given directions to the parking area, which is up the street from where Fairmount Falls Park’s address is. 9800 Thixton Lane is where the park actually is (the picture above is what you’ll see).
Above is where the park address takes you, but you can’t actually park here! You need to follow Thixton Lane up to 9601 Thixton Lane. The parking area for Fairmont Falls is hidden off of a bend in the road past where the actual address will take you!
9601 Thixton Lane is the house address across the street from the parking lot for Fairmount Falls. This is where you’ll need to input the code you were given. It’s the only available parking area, and you’ll need to remember to lock the gate behind you.
The main trail to the top of the waterfalls is clearly marked. You’ll be able to climb across the top of the stream and peer down at the waterfall below. On this same trail, there are many lookout points so that you can see the falls before you get to the top.
Many people have commented on Alltrails that you can climb down the sides of the waterfall. We do not recommend this! It’s dangerous and will disturb the natural undergrowth that needs to flourish in order to preserve the area.
When you’re at the top of the falls, you’ll see that the creek is actually pretty wide and there is no fence protecting the edge of the falls. Be careful trying to get a peek over the edge!
How to Get To The Bottom of Fairmont Falls
There are so many comments from people on Alltrails about climbing down near the waterfall. While it’s possible – it’s also dangerous. The amount of dead leaves and unstable brush, in combination with Kentucky’s generally wet climate, means you’re likely to slip. (And take a tumble down the hill. Not ideal really!) The best way to get to the bottom of the falls is to take the scenic route.
- Start on the normal trail and you’ll come to a paved road.
- Take a right and walk all the way down until you can safely access the creek from the road. This is what it looked like when we accessed the creek.
- Turn left and hike back up the creek for about 30 minutes.
It might seem like this is out of your way but it’s worth it! See our little collage below for some snaps along the hike!
You’ll see a ton of mini waterfalls as you hike up the creek. These are sometimes just as pretty as the bigger Fairmount Falls you’re about to see because they’re just so peaceful. Just about everywhere you go in Kentucky you’ll find little cascades like these.
When you come to the base of the falls, expect to see a lot of mossy rocks and towering limestone cliffs. The base of the cliff has water that really is that bright blue-green! We imagine this will be even more beautiful in the summer as the forest comes alive with all of its greenery. (If you haven’t hiked in the spring or summer in Kentucky – you absolutely need to!)
TIP: You can walk up behind the waterfall – but it is a bit slippery! Be careful when leaving over to get your hands wet because you know you will!
Take the same way back to safely hike away from the park!
Respect The Forest
Don’t forget your Leave No Trace principles when hiking this area! We’d hate to see the area be closed for future visitors because it really is so stunning!!
When we hike, we’re forever picking up trash that people leave behind and this time was no different. The little side pocket on my backpack got sprayed with Lysol once more when I got home. If you happen to see some – please pick it up and stow it away. (To do this safely – just carry a plastic bag and use it as a mitt– then drop the trash into a separate plastic bag.)
What To Bring With You To Fairmount Falls
We have a pretty standard list of what to bring for most hikes and this one is no different. Since you’re going to want to hang out and enjoy or hike up the creek – be prepared to get wet!
- Waterproof Hiking Boots (In the winter, you’ll definitely want these!)
- Water Shoes (In the Summer – It’s not a hard hike, and you could wear them the whole time if you wanted!)
- Microfiber Towel
- Reef Safe Sunscreen (We know it’s nowhere near the reef – but you’re still near a body of water, and organisms that live there still need your consideration!)
- Camera Clip (This was Shelbs’ first time hiking with a camera clip, and we’ll never go back!)
- Reuseable Water Bottle (Please do not drink the creek water… lol unless you have a life straw or something? )
The Best Time Of Year To Visit Fairmount Falls
Any time of year would be great to visit this waterfall. Since the hike is not strenuous or prolonged, you’ll be comfortable any time of year. You won’t be out in the cold for too long in the winter if you want to see the top of the falls and take a quick escape.
Notice anything here? A perk of going in the winter is getting to see an extra waterfall up on the cliff. You wouldn’t be able to see it if it was a full-blown green Kentucky summer.
However, if you wanted to spend a day away from the summer humidity – this would also be a great adventure. Consider hiking up from the bottom of the creek, which takes about 30 minutes if you’re fast. You’ll be able to splash around a little along the way!!
Dogs are also allowed on this trail – which for us is a plus. We hate having to leave him at home because he loves the water. Just make sure to clean up your pet’s waste, so the natural ecosystem isn’t disturbed.
Our Favorite Trails Near By
Since this is a short trail – there are some other trails nearby that are fun to add to your list. (A lot of times if we’re hiking – we’re hoping to do a few hours’ worth at least and get in a good sweat!)
- Scotts Gap Loop Trail – Level: Moderate | Distance 3.3 miles
- Horine Reservation Red Trail – Level: Moderate | Distance: 5.8 miles
- Siltstone Trail – Level: Hard | Distance: 12.1 miles – So pretty!!
Where To Stay In Louisville
Since there are so many incredible hiking trails and things to do in the area – consider staying a full weekend. From restaurants to distilleries, Louisville is an adventure-lovers paradise.
If you need any recommendations – please feel free to ask! Drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
When you’re done exploring these falls you’re probably going to want to see more of our city. See our post here on the best local lunch spots in Louisville, and our post on the best parks in Louisville. We hope you enjoy our city!
Want more hiking and hidden gems in Kentucky? We have guides for different cities, hiking across the state, and more from all over Southern USA. For Kentucky travels, here are a few to get you started!
- 12 Prettist Summer Hikes in Kentucky
- 50 Fun Things To Do in Lexington, Kentucky
- Hike the Tioga Falls, Saunders Springs, and Emmert Falls Loop Near Elizabethtown, Kentucky
- Waterfalls of Big South Fork, Kentucky
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Until next time friends,