Key At-A-Glance Information
Length: 1.8 miles
Scenery: Woods, prairie, and old fields
Exposure: Full sun and some shade
Trail Surface: Mowed Path
Hiking Time: 1-1.5 hours
Driving Distance: 1.5 hours from Cincinnati
Maps: USGS Switzer; John A. Kleber Wildlife Management Area map
Wheelchair Accessible: No
For More Information: John A. Kleber Wildlife Management Area, (502) 535-6335
Special Comments: The popular hunting area is abundant with white-tailed deer and wild turkeys. Be aware of basic safety, including wearing a blaze-orange jacket, hiking during daylight hours, and never imitating the sound of a wild animal.
Leave the manicured lawns to the state parks. John A. Kleber Wildlife Management Area’s wild and untamed characteristic steep hills and flattop ridges invite visitors to explore unbridled nature. Sure, the trail is a mowed path along a ridge, but the surrounding hills and valleys are every bit wild Kentucky.
Wild turkeys make their home in the 2,605 acres of ridges, valleys, and floodplains. At the turn of the century turkeys were wiped out by several factors, including unregulated hunting through most of the Tri-State area. Over the course of several years, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the National Wild Turkey Federation worked to restore the population.
Those restoration efforts included using a large net blasted over the top of a group. of wild turkeys. In that scenario, captured turkeys are placed inside specially designed cardboard boxes, then transported and released in a suitable habitat. Nature takes its course and soon the area has a healthy turkey population again.
Without blocking a building or driveway, park near the maintenance buildings. On the front side of the lean-to building under the shade of an enormous hackberry tree is an enlarged map and current information about wildlife.
Cross KY 368 and walk to the right of the old farmhouse and along the access road. Look for the trail entrance to the right of the house, marked with a yellow sign. As you come up the hill, you’ll see an old stone fence.
Walk up an old lane bordered by autumn olive trees and black-eyed Susans. A good portion of the hike is in full sun. Along the edges of the trail, red cedars are pioneering the old farm fields.
The high spot at 0.27 miles offers an excellent spot to view the ridgelines and enjoy the area’s tranquility.
At 0.41 miles, the small pond to the right of the trail is home to enormous bullfrogs. Near the pond are sassafras trees, hickories, and red cedars, as well as red, white, and chinquapin oak trees. Here, the trail winds through a stand of trees that are just a little bit older. The grand white oaks are accompanied by large sassafras trees. Turkeys frequent this area, as evidenced by the scratch marks on the ground, dusting areas, feathers, and ample quantities of turkey scat.
You’ll pass a fence line to the left of the trail at 0.59 miles. Plenty of honey locust trees are found here. The large needles growing from the trees’ bark have been used throughout history for a variety of purposes, including as sewing needles and fishing implements.
The path is a mowed corridor through tall grass. Wearing pants helps to reduce scratches from the grasses. Light-colored pants aid in detecting ticks before they reach your skin.
A lot of grapevine and trumpet creeper grow around and on the crabapple trees to the right of the trail at 0.67 miles. Hummingbirds love the cone-shaped orange blossoms of trumpet creeper.
In fact, the John A. Kleber WMA is a one-stop bird-watching location, with visits by scarlet and summer tanagers, Acadian and great-crested flycatchers, vireos, warblers, and hawks. Each year the Frankfort Bird Club and Frankfort Audubon Society conduct their annual Christmas bird count at Kleber. For more information, call (502) 535-6335.
On the left side of the trail is a large walnut as well as locust trees. At 0.79 miles, pass through an open area. Around the curve in the trail are two stately white oak trees near a fence line.
Turn left and head downhill past white oak and redbud trees. The older white oaks are majestic, their enormous gnarled trunks and limbs reaching into the sky some 60 to 80 feet overhead.
Along this portion of the trail be careful of your footing over the fallen tree branches and exposed dolomite. This part of the trail is uneven, making it easy to twist an ankle. For the most part, this section of the hike is shaded.
At 0.88 miles, the trail ends in an open area. Here you can sit and watch the clouds go by while the forest sounds drown out the voice in your head incessantly reminding you of your never ending to-do list.
Retrace your steps to the trail, and at 1.27 miles, look for a turnoff to the left that enters into an open field and then returns to the main trail. Although there are trails that connect to this one farther down KY 368, I chose not to include them because overgrowth of dense multiflora rose makes passage difficult and painful. Continue retracing your steps to your vehicle.
Back in your car, travel south on KY 368 to the next turnoff. This lowland area is lined with milkweed, thistle, ironweed, joe-pye weed, boxelders, and elms. The result is a bountiful collection of butterflies floating through the air. This is a great spot to sketch or take photos of a wide variety of birds and butterflies.
John A. Kleber Wildlife Management Area has plenty of places to discover, and this is one place where you are welcome to go off trail. Yes, I know I’ve preached about staying on the trail and not wandering off, but this area is the exception that proves the rule. If you do decide to venture off-trail, remember to take a friend, compass, snacks, and plenty of water. Also remember that Northern copperhead snakes are found in Kentucky. You’re likely to never see one of these incredible creatures. But just in case: basic snake safety includes not reaching under or blindly stepping over logs or rocky outcroppings and watching where you are stepping. If you do come across a copperhead, give it plenty of room to escape and don’t hang around.
GPS Trailhead Coordinates
General Butler State Resort Park in Kentucky and Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana offer hilly hiking opportunities, plus great restaurants and lodges with soft beds and hot showers.