The historic Wilderness Road was the main route used by settlers for more than 50 years to reach Kentucky from Virginia. In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed a trail for the Transylvania Company from Fort Chiswell in Virginia through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. It was later lengthened, following Native American trails, to the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The Wilderness Road was rough and steep. In the early days of the trail, it could only be traveled on foot or horseback. As more travelers passed, the road improved and horse-drawn wagons were able to follow the trail.
The park is crossed by portions of the Wilderness Road and Boone’s Trace, another pioneer trail blazed by Daniel Boone. It is still open today to hiking while the Wilderness Road has since been paved as part of Kentucky Route 229.
Levi Jackson was one of the first settlers in Laurel County. He arrived in 1802 with his partner, John Freeman, who claimed a large tract of land along the Wilderness Road as payment for his services in the American Revolutionary War. Jackson built a large two-story house which he licensed as a tavern in 1803. He and John Freeman ran the Wilderness Road Tavern and Laurel River Post Office. The surrounding area became known as “Jackson’s Farm” and remained in the Jackson family until 1931 when the land was donated to the state by his descendants to honor the pioneers of Kentucky.
The park facilities were constructed during the Great Depression in 1935. The National Park Service spent $55,000, building cabins, foot-bridges, parking areas, an auditorium, and observation tower. Additionally, the Civilian Conservation Corps restored an old log cabin and built McHargue’s Mill in 1939.
It remained a state park until 2019, when the Commonwealth of Kentucky transferred ownership of the property to the City of London. The name changed from Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park to Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park. The City of London immediately set out to improve the property and its many structures and attractions.
The Mountain Life Museum, a park attraction that brings visitors into a pioneer settlement, is open Friday and Saturday. Buildings in the settlement were moved from other sites or built as replicas on the park. All buildings are filled with lots of pioneer relics including tools, products of agriculture and household implements. The museum consists of 7 buildings – an excellent attraction to visitors of Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park.
There are also many other attractions within the park, including a campground, several shelters, mini golf, community swimming pool, and Treetop Adventure – an aerial treetop adventure course.
During the last quarter of the 18th Century, more than 200,000 pioneers visited Kentucky by following the Wilderness Road and Boone Trace. Today, hikers can retrace those footsteps on two hiking trails – a total of 8.5 miles in length.