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Harlan County, Kentucky...I kept hearing about this place through e-mails and word of mouth. "Dude, you've got to check that place out!" So when Stephen Foster, proprietor of the Harlan County Campground & RV Park, offered me a free cabin and Denny Pace, of Trail 45 Snack Shack and ATV Rentals, threw in the use of a rental quad, we were as good as there. When we pulled off Highway 119 into the campground on the Putney trailhead, we had no idea how great this place would be.

Appalachia is quickly becoming famous for churning out gold in the form of quality off-road entertainment. Harlan County is carrying this "coal mine to gold mine" trend a little further by offering 7000 acres (200-plus miles, with rumors of more to come) of awesome riding at an awesome price: FREE! That's "free," as in no fees or permits required. An officer has recently been assigned to patrol the Black Mountain Recreational Park, but riders are basically left to police themselves. There is a $5 charge each for parking and maps. But in our opinion, that's a small price to pay compared to the $15-$35 other areas charge in fees alone.

Located in the extreme southeast corner of Kentucky, Harlan County is within a day's drive of anywhere east of the Mississippi. We made the trip from north of Memphis, Tennessee, in 6.5 hours. The trails were originally blazed by 4x4 trucks, and through lobbying by the local ATV club (H.C. Ridge Runners), the truckers welcomed ATVs and dirt bikes into their utopia. See what happens when off-road factions work together instead of against each other? Black Mountain has since been leased to and become sanctioned by the state of Kentucky as an official OHV area.

After unloading our gear into the cabin, we were ready to hit the trails. The trailhead is, literally, one step from the front porch of the cabin. About the only complaint we can muster is that the well water at the cabins has a high sulfur content. It doesn't taste bad, but you might want to bring bottled water to drink. It's even safe to shower in. The smell didn't stick to us-we did a "smell check" afterward. Speaking of water, there is a spigot next to the shower house that everyone uses to wash the quads. Again, this is free too.
 

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I agree, in-laws live on the border of Harlan County. This is some of the best riding i have ever done. White Rocks, hole in the wall, black mountain, all amazing. beware of some of the locals in Harlan County though, they dont take to strangers real well. All in all it is unbeliveable riding.
 

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Just an FYI, the sulpher in the water forms H2S a very leathal and poisonous gas primarily found in the oil and gas industry and it deadens your sence of smell (amoung other things.) When you first walk in or turn the shower on you'll notice a rotton egg smell and after a while it "goes away" or deadens your sence of smell. My folks well has a lot of H2S in it. I guess it's something that you learn to live with over time. I have never heard of this gas being found in lethal concentrations in well water. Besides if it came anywhere close they would abondon the well.
 
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