Big Bone Lick State Park in Union, Kentucky gives visitors the unique opportunity to view bison completely free! Remains of ancient mammoths, Pleistocene megafauna, have been found in the area making Big Bone Lick a state historical site.
With plenty of hiking trails, a family-friendly campground, along with educational exhibits and a museum, Big Bone Lick is the perfect Kentucky day trip or weekend getaway.
Directions To Big Bone Lick State Park
Big Bone Lick State Park is located in Boone County, Kentucky. Roughly a half-hour from downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Take the Richmond exit off I 71/75 for plenty of restaurant options. The park is located roughly 10 minutes off the exit with plenty of signs to help guide the way.
Hours: The Park is open year-round from dawn to dusk. The campground closes for the winter and reopens in the spring.
Gift shop & museum open Thurs. – Sun. from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. through winter.
Admission to Big Bone Lick State Park and the museum are completely FREE!
Address: 3380 Beaver Road Union, KY 41091
Big Bone Lick State Park makes the list in our wonderful guide of Short Road Trips From Cincinnati.
Things To Do At Big Bone Lick State Park
Observe The Bison
Take a short gravel trail to visit the bison herd that call Big Bone Lick home. The bison are always available for viewing even though visitors may have to hunt for them through the wooded areas. A trail goes around the bison area giving multiple focal points on the bison.
Today the bison herd recalls the park’s prehistoric past along with being the only living mammalian link to the Ice Age.
Tip: Bring binoculars as often times the bison may be difficult to see out in the fields.
Go For A Hike
The park is home to 4.5 miles of hiking trails. Each varying in experience level. Our personal favorite is the Big Bone Creek Trail that runs along the creek. Be sure to Download a Map of the Trails and Park.
Tip: Bring proper footwear, especially if visiting after heavy rain. The trails do flood easily. Kids will love getting in the creek. Bring a change of clothes or rain boots so they can splash around!
- Big Bone Creek Trail: .9 mile, easy.
- Bison Trace Trail: .5 mile, easy.
- Cedar Run Trail: .9 mile, easy.
- Coralberry Trail: 2 miles, moderate.
- Gobblers Trace Trail: .5 mile, moderate.
Go On The Discovery Trail
The Discovery Trail tells the story of the prehistoric happenings that took place around the salt/ sulfur springs during the last Ice Age. The trail begins at the Megafauna diorama pit, directly behind the museum. Informative panels are scattered throughout the trail giving visitors an inside look into how things used to be.
The Discovery Trail will take you by the Salt Springs. It is these springs that many believe attracted Mammoths to the area. Along with mammoths many other creatures were drawn to the vegetation and salty earth near the springs. Many animals become stuck with no escape from the marshy, muddy areas around the spring, leading to fossils being found in the area.
Spend Time At The Playgrounds
There are three playgrounds found throughout Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky. The one playground is located on Mastodon Trail. The second play area is located off Bison Circle near the swinging footbridge. Both playgrounds have plenty of parking, a picnic shelter, and restrooms nearby.
The third playground is located in the campground and is for campground guests.
Basketball and Tennis
Basketball and tennis courts are available to all park guests. They can be found behind the playground on Mastodon Trail Dr.
Visit the Museum At Big Bone Lick State Park
Step back in time by visiting the museum located near the Bison Trace Trail. Inspect bones from mammoths, bison and mastodons. Marvel at how shear size of a giant ground sloth skeleton before admiring the skull of a mammoth! Other exhibits are spread out throughout this small museum highlighting the prehistoric history.
Don’t forget to swing in the gift shop for some fun swag or snacks.
Orienteering is a woods navigation sport wherein participants use map and compass or GPS to navigate an established course. The park currently offers two permanent, woodland orienteering courses. A beginners’ course covering 2.7 km and an intermediate course covering 4.5 km, both featuring 10 checkpoints.
Big Bone Lick State Park Campground
Starting mid-March the campground opens up for the season. The campground features 62 campsites with utility hookups and grills. A swimming pool is available seasonally to campground guests only.
Showers, restrooms, and laundry facilities are available at the central service building. The camp store offers a variety of groceries and camping gear to keep campers happy.
Tackle the 18-hole miniature golf course that is located near the entrance to the campground. Mini-golf is open to all visitors of Big Bone State Park, not only campground guests. They are open March 15 – November 15.