RVer’s Guide to Finding Country Music History

The freedom to pursue our passions is one of the best reasons to travel by RV. For some of us, that means tracking down the places connected to our favorite pastimes. You could, for example, map a course for your next RV camping trip to places rich with country music history. If that sounds like your kind of journey, consider this itinerary to spots sacred to country music fans.

RV Travel on the Country Music Highway

An RV camping trip along Eastern Kentucky’s “Country Music Highway” will lead campers to the hometowns of no less than eleven country stars. This route, also known as US-23, runs along the Kentucky/West Virginia border through the Pound Gap from Virginia to the city of Flatwoods near the Ohio border.

Here’s our route: start your trip on the southern border of Kentucky, and drive to Jenkins, birthplace of the late singer/songwriter Gary Stewart. Detour thirty minutes east on KY-197 through coal mining country to see Elkhorn City, hometown of Patty Loveless.

We’ll then return to the Country Music Highway and travel north to the coal town of Betsy Layne, where country megastar Dwight Yoakum was born. Farther north along US23, RV travelers will find the coal camp of Van Lear, KY. Plan to tour the homeplace of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle, just outside of town in ‘Butcher Holler’. For five dollars each, you’ll see the settings immortalized in the film Coal Miner’s Daughter and get a feel for the rugged, family-centered life that nurtured both country superstars.

Van Lear is also on the outskirts of Paintsville, where country fans can visit the US-23 Country Music Museum, an attraction rich with exhibits that tell the stories of stars born in Eastern Kentucky.  

Country Music

Country Music

You may be wondering at this point where to find RV campgrounds in the area. If you’re a state park camper, you’ll enjoy the wooded campsites and mountain lake recreation at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, just off US-23 at Prestonsburg. North of Paintsville, RV campers will find full-hookup campsites and hiking trails through densely-wooded terrain at Paintsville Lake State Park.

A little farther up the road, near the towns of River, KY (hometown of singer Frank “Hylo” Brown) and Cordell, where bluegrass and country superstar Ricky Skaggs was born, Yatesville Lake State Park offers modern campsites and amenities, including an 18-hole golf course.

Numerous private campgrounds can also be found along your route. You’ll find more on Kentucky RV campgrounds here. Our El Monte RV Rental location in Louisville will also be happy to provide a rental RV for your trip.

Coming back to our search for the places that influenced some of country music’s greatest stars—we’ll detour at Blaine along KY-32 to find Sandy Hook, the birthplace of the late Keith Whitley. Although Whitley was buried in Nashville, you’ll find a statue in his honor at the local cemetery.

Loop north on State Highway 504 to Olive Hill, KY for a chance to visit the hometown of country great Tom T. Hall. This quaint mountain town is also a stopping point on the Kentucky Quilt Trail, so be sure to enjoy the artwork displayed by local quilters. Nearby Carter Caves State Resort Park welcomes RVers with full-hookups campsites, scenic hiking trails and guided cave tours.

To finish our journey, we’ll follow US-64 back to the Country Music Highway and go north to Ashland, birthplace of Naomi Judd. One half of the famous singing duo The Judds, Naomi returns to Ashland often and her famous daughter, Wynonna, gives concerts in town from time to time.

Your final stop to find the Eastern Kentucky towns where country music stars were born is Flatwoods, a small bedroom community just north of Ashland. Flatwoods is the hometown of Billy Ray Cyrus, star of the ‘Doc’ television series and famous for his hit song ‘Achy Breaky Heart’.

Our journey along the Country Music Highway in Kentucky has covered about two-hundred-fifty miles, and could be completed in just a few hours. For RV travelers, though, the joy is in the journey, so take the time to discover the rugged beauty of the Appalachians, the remote towns and mining camps where coal was once king and the people and places who influenced some of country music’s most cherished stars.

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