Harlan County – Where adventure begins

Published 8:59 am Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Thank you for visiting Harlan County, Kentucky — where adventure begins!

Black bears roar as you climb Kentucky’s highest mountains by ATV and the wind cracks as you soar about treetop canopies at the Black Mountain Thunder Zipline. Visit us and take a step back in time by visiting our Portal 31 Exhibition Mine tour or the Kentucky Coal Mine Museum in the Tri-City area.

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Here you will discover the many unique opportunities our county has to offer, but to fully experience Harlan, you have to visit us!

Since its opening to the public in October 2005, Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area is the No. 1 and fastest-growing destination for adventure in southeastern Kentucky and surrounding areas.

Located in the picturesque mountains of Harlan County and the birthplace of adventure tourism, we are your one-stop destination for fun.

Here you will climb the highest elevations that any off-road park in Kentucky has to offer. The trails at the Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area were created from strip mining roads and logging roads and offer a variety of experiences and levels of difficulty.

The majority of trails at Black Mountain are multi-use trails and open to all types of vehicles, including ATVs, side-by-sides, dirtbikes, trucks, jeeps, and buggies. Some trails are restricted for ATV or dirtbike use only. Some of the amenities of our ATV park include:

· Open all day, all year-round

· Over 150 miles of marked and rated Trails

· Approximately 7,000 acres of mountainous terrain

· Elevations up to 3,300 feet high

· Detailed trail maps available

· Beginner, intermediate, and extreme ATV trails

· Levels one through five 4×4 trails and obstacles

· Two convenient trailheads located in Evarts and Putney

· Minutes from rental cabins, RV hookups, and other amenities

· Lowest rates nationwide

For more information on the Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area, please visit or call the trailhead at 606-837-3205.

You may also call the tourism office at 606-573-4495.

Experience breathtaking views of the majestic Appalachian mountains on a 2-hour canopy tour at the Black Mountain Thunder Zipline.

Completed in August 2011, Black Mountain Thunder is the newest addition to Black Mountain Off-Road Adventure Area. Our zipline is the highest, fastest and longest canopy tour in Kentucky.

Once you are shuttled to the top of the canopy tour, you will embark on a tour that is filled with over two miles of cable and speeds up to 60 mph. At 400 feet, our zipline is the tallest in Kentucky and you will soar over beautiful treetop canopies.

Reservations are required so call 606-837-3205 today to make your reservation or inquire for more information.

Portal No. 31 Underground Mine Tour offers visitors the unique experience of touring a once-working coal mine by rail car.

Here, visitors will experience traveling through a coal mine as they enjoy animated exhibits along the tour, which tells the story of how coal helped shape, not only Kentucky, but the world from the early 1900s to the present day.

This underground ride takes approximately 45 minutes and you should plan to be there 15-20 minutes prior to your tour.

Before you begin, be sure to explore outside Portal 31 where a black granite monument stands in tribute to John L. Lewis, the long-time president of the United Mine Workers. You will also find a memorial to U.S. Steel District #1 miners who died in mining accidents.

A 1920s lamp house, bathhouse, L&N train depot, and loadout system can be found at Portal 31 in addition to the other historical monuments mentioned above.

You can also take a walking tour around the site that includes signage explaining the history of the Portal 31 mining complex.

Portal 31 RV Park is located directly across from the Portal. With 12 hookups and eight primitive parking spaces, the park adds another option for local accommodations. The park offers a sewer dump station for tour buses and RV vehicles and cable television hook-ups.

It is strongly recommended to make reservations for this one-of-a-kind tour. For more information or reservations, contact the Portal 31 office at 606-848-3131.

You may also contact the Harlan Tourism office for any questions you may have at 606-573-4156.

Visitors to the Kentucky Coal Mine Museum can enjoy a step back in time to the coal miner’s workplace, his home, and his community.

The museum is housed in the old commissary built by International Harvester in the 1920s and features four stores of exhibits on the history of mining and the life of the coal miner.

Artifacts, antiques, photographs, and machinery make up more than 30 exhibits. The museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts exploring the early years of industrial coal mining in Kentucky. Continuously featured exhibits include the Loretta Lynn Exhibit and the Mock Mine Exhibit.

While visiting the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, you can see the floor plan of a typical underground coal mine. The display shows all aspects of a coal mine, including the tipple and other mining activities.

Visitors can have their picture made outside the building next to the two-ton block of coal that was specially cut for the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum.

Kids will also enjoy climbing on the 1940’s model electric locomotive. It was used to haul miners inside the mine. You can see other heavy machinery used in mining the “black diamond.”

The museum offers a complete picture of the lives that revolve around the coal industry. Visitors to the museum can view the process detailing the formation of coal by looking at several visuals and fossil displays. A narrated video describes the early coal mining days in Benham and Lynch.

Other displays include items from the company hospital, early mining tools, items from the commissary and the miner’s home, and a working scale model of a coal tipple. A photography collection documenting the history of Benham – mining accidents, new buildings, people, etc. – can also be seen.

Harlan is situated in a picturesque mountain community and offers a plethora of outdoor adventures peppered with natural beauty.

While in town, a visitor can take some time to reconnect with mother nature by traversing some of our trails at Blanton Forest, which protects 3,124 acres of old-growth and second-growth forests.

As one of 13 large old-growth tracts remaining in the eastern United States, Blanton Forest is a diverse ecological treasure. Many of the trees are 3 feet to 4 feet in diameter, towering 100 feet above the forest floor.

You can also hike at Kingdom Come State Park that rests near the Kentucky-Virginia border on the crest of Pine Mountain. The park is the highest state park in Kentucky and offers scenic vistas second to none. Extraordinary rock formations are featured at this park, including Log Rock, a natural sandstone bridge, and Raven Rock, a giant monolith that soars 290 feet into the air at a 45-degree angle.

You can also check out Pine Mountain Settlement School or even the Martins Fork Wildlife Management area for other hiking trails.

For more information, call the Harlan Tourism office at 606-573-4495 or visit us on the web at