Kentucky: Harlan County

Evarts, Ky.

Do you know how to turn an old coal mine into a GOLD mine?

A very enthusiastic group of local politicians, community leaders and volunteers are doing just that with thousands of acres in Harlan County, Kentucky.

The group of visionaries formed the KY Mountain Trails Development Coalition to develop and manage the trails with thousands of hours of volunteer help from a local ATV club—the Harlan County Ridge Runners -- and the Kentucky Mountain Crawlers, a 4x4 club.

Currently, the coalition has agreements signed to allow riding on 7,000 acres, which currently includes an estimated 150 miles of trails.

Another 30,000 acres is close to being incorporated, with additional acreage under consideration. And this is all in Harlan County.

If this isn't enough to get you excited, there are eight other counties in the region that have talked to the coalition about future expansion possibilities into their areas.

If you still haven't planned your trip here then try this one—the cost to ride is zero, zilch, not one red cent. FREE!

What’s the catch? There is none. The good people of the area know most of you will want to eat (at least we did), buy gas, pop, ice, snacks, and some riders will want to stay in motels or future campgrounds and cabins.

Many of the trails were originally used by the coal mines or timber operations. The trails are wide with an easy grade and are marked with GREEN arrows. These are ideally suited for less experienced riders, families, or riders who just want to take their time and take in all the breath-taking views, stopping frequently to take photographs.

The BLUE trails are for the little-more adventurous rider. These trails can be steep in sections and may contain rocky areas. They're also not as wide as the trails with the green arrows.

RED trails have every challenge you can think of. Most are very steep, have large rocks and roots, and are just wide enough for an ATV to squeeze by. Don’t try something that will get you in trouble. There are always other options.

The trails are open to ATVs, motorcycles, dune buggies and 4x4s. An extreme challenge area with very large boulders can take hours to negotiate for the best of rock crawlers.

Currently, there is very limited parking in downtown Evarts, but with easy access to the trails and every business in town.

For most of you who have never experienced the sheer thrill of riding your ATV around town, you just have to try it. Hop on your ATV and drive to get an ice cream cone, then over to the gas station to fill up with gas and pick up a bag of ice. Yes it’s legal to ride your ATV in Evarts!

The city has a very large flat parcel, less than two miles west of town, that is open for primitive camping. You have two options, you can ride the highway into town or there is a back way that we prefer.

If motels work better for you, just trailer your ATVs to Harlan, Kentucky, nine miles west. Here, you will find a good assortment of restaurants and shopping. The closest ATV dealership is located in Middlesboro, Kentucky.

To find Harlan on the map, look in extreme southeast corner where Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee all come together. Evart is a small town east of Harlan off the beaten path, and we think that is good thing. It makes for friendly people and great riding.

Current Kentucky laws are simple when it comes to ATVs: riders are required to wear helmets and riders are to follow the manufacturers' and federal Consumer Product Safety Commission's guidelines for age and engine size.

For more information, log on to www.kyoutdoors.org and click on the link to Harlan County Ridge Runners.