Kentucky might not stand out on a map of the Southeastern United States, as it’s surrounded by other similarly sized states. But the state has some major claims to fame that have earned it recognition domestically and abroad. It’s the birthplace of Bluegrass music, the home of bourbon, and hosts some of the world’s most well-known horse races.
Although Kentucky isn’t especially large in size, it has 120 counties, which is more counties than most other states in the US. Originally, counties were sized this way to enable residents to be able to reach the county seat from their homes in a day. Later, smaller counties were established by residents who didn’t agree with the politics of their county government.
Below, we’ll look at a Kentucky Counties Map that details all of the state’s counties and their major cities. Then, we’ll dive into what makes some of the counties unique.
Map of Kentucky Counties
Below is a map of the 120 counties of Kentucky (you can click on the map to enlarge it and to see the major city in each county).
Interactive Map of Kentucky Counties
Click on any of the counties on the map to see the county’s population, economic data, time zone, and zip code (the data will appear below the map). Data is sourced from the US Census 2021.
List of the Counties of Kentucky:
|County||Population||Per sq. km||Largest City|
|Ballard County||7,814||12.22||La Center|
|Bullitt County||81,729||106.23||Mount Washington|
|Campbell County||93,023||237.32||Fort Thomas|
|Elliott County||7,414||12.22||Sandy Hook|
|Hart County||19,194||17.96||Horse Cave|
|McCreary County||17,044||15.42||Pine Knot|
|Meade County||29,735||37.59||Fort Knox|
|Montgomery County||28,084||54.94||Mount Sterling|
|Morgan County||13,772||13.95||West Liberty|
|Muhlenberg County||31,011||25.62||Central City|
|Ohio County||23,861||15.69||Beaver Dam|
|Oldham County||67,586||139.36||La Grange|
|Robertson County||2,196||8.49||Mount Olivet|
|Rockcastle County||16,167||19.72||Mount Vernon|
|Russell County||17,909||27.26||Russell Springs|
|Spencer County||19,256||39.82||Elk Creek|
|Warren County||133,216||94.95||Bowling Green|
Biggest Counties in Kentucky by Population
Jefferson County is the most populous county in Kentucky and serves as the economic and cultural hub of the state. Located in the north-central part of Kentucky along the Ohio River, it is home to the city of Louisville, the state’s largest city.
Established in 1780, Jefferson County has a rich history that includes being a significant site for river commerce and a range of industries from manufacturing to healthcare. The county is perhaps best known for hosting the annual Kentucky Derby, a horse racing event that attracts visitors from around the world.
Economically, it boasts a strong job market that includes opportunities in sectors like logistics, healthcare, and information technology. The county also has a focus on education, featuring numerous public and private schools, as well as higher-education institutions like the University of Louisville.
Additionally, Jefferson County is a center for healthcare services, being home to several large hospitals and medical research facilities. With a variety of parks, museums, and cultural sites, Jefferson County offers a high quality of life to its residents and visitors alike.
Fayette County is located in the central part of Kentucky and is the state’s second most populous county. Its county seat, Lexington, is known as the “Horse Capital of the World” and is a focal point for the state’s thoroughbred horse industry.
Fayette County is a major center for higher education, being home to the University of Kentucky, which significantly contributes to the local economy and culture. In addition to education and horse racing, the county has a robust healthcare sector, featuring multiple hospitals and clinics that serve the region.
The thriving arts scene in this county is also worth mentioning, with a variety of theaters, galleries, and live music venues. The University of Kentucky Art Museum and the International Museum of the Horse are two of the most popular museums in the county.
The area’s agricultural roots are evident in its numerous farmers’ markets and locally produced food products, reinforcing a strong sense of community. The county also boasts excellent public schools, making it attractive for families.
Kenton County is situated in the northern part of Kentucky, bordering the state of Ohio. It is the third most populous county in the state and has two county seats: Independence and Covington. Established in 1840, Kenton County was named after Simon Kenton, an early pioneer and explorer.
One of the county’s distinguishing features is its proximity to Cincinnati, Ohio, which makes it a part of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Area. This strategic location gives Kenton County access to a larger job market and numerous cultural amenities, effectively blending urban and suburban lifestyles.
The county’s diversified economy includes sectors ranging from manufacturing and logistics to healthcare and professional services. The area is home to several corporate headquarters, contributing to its economic vitality.
Warren County is located in south-central Kentucky and is one of the state’s rapidly growing regions. The county seat, Bowling Green, is the third-largest city in Kentucky and is known for its strong economy and diverse industrial base.
One notable aspect of Warren County is the presence of the General Motors Corvette assembly plant, which has been a major employer in the area since 1981. This has led to an influx of auto supply companies, diversifying the local economy further.
Warren County is also home to Western Kentucky University, a significant contributor to the educational and cultural atmosphere of the region. The county has made investments in infrastructure, including a network of well-maintained roads and public facilities.
In terms of recreation, the county offers various parks and outdoor activities, including water sports on the Barren River Lake. There’s also an ice rink in Bowling Green that’s available during the winter months.
Boone County is located in the northern part of Kentucky, adjacent to the Ohio and Indiana state lines. It’s part of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Area and has experienced significant growth in both population and economic activity. The county seat is Burlington, a census-designated place.
One major asset is the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which plays a crucial role in the regional and national transportation network. The presence of the airport has also attracted a variety of businesses, making Boone County a hub for logistics and trade.
Education is a strong focus in the county, with numerous highly-rated public and private schools available for residents. In terms of recreation, Boone County offers several parks, including Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, known for its hiking trails and educational programs.
Smallest Counties in Kentucky by Population
Kentucky’s Robertson County is the smallest county in the state by both total area and population. Mount Olivet serves as the county seat, and the county itself is named after George Robertson, a former Kentucky Congressman. It was formed in 1867 from portions of Bracken County, Harrison County, Mason County, and Nicholas County.
Education is a focal point in Robertson County, where the mission of the local school district is to “provide a safe, education-focused environment that fosters the development of all students to be college and/or career ready by graduation.”
The University of Kentucky operates a Robertson County Extension Office, which provides services such as a Community & Economic Development program. The program helps communities resolve local issues with objective information and educational assistance.
Another of the least populated counties in Kentucky is Owsley County, located in the southeastern part of the state. It was formed in 1843 and named after Governor William Owsley. The county seat is Booneville, which was incorporated in 1847 and is the largest city in the county.
Owsley County is predominantly white and has endured a long history of economic hardship, in part due to the rugged landscape. Primarily rural, the county places a focus on agriculture and forestry, though the Owsley County School District is also a major economic driver.
The Owsley County Alliance for Recreation & Entertainment Incorporated (OCARE) organization in the county is involved in projects such as revitalizing Booneville’s Seale Theater and supporting individuals and families in need of support.
Hickman County has one of the smallest population and population densities in the state of Kentucky. It’s situated near the far southwestern corner of the state and borders Missouri. The Mississippi River flows through part of the county, and the county seat is the city of Clinton, which is also its largest city.
Formed in 1821, Hickman County was named after Paschal Hickman, a casualty in the War of 1812. The county later played an early role in the American Civil War, where a fortification was constructed to control a contested strategic location. This is now the location of Columbus-Belmont State Park.
The Hickman County Museum is an excellent place for visitors to the county to learn more about the local history, and the several additional attractions in the county include parks, a farmer’s market, and historical sites.
The far western part of Kentucky is home to Carlisle County, one of the least populated regions in the state. The county is bordered by both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, and the former makes up the county’s boundary with the neighboring state of Missouri.
Although the county has a small population, it plays an important role in the state’s agricultural sector. The local economy is predominantly based on farming, with soybeans, corn, and wheat being the main crops.
The county’s riverfront location provides a range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including fishing, boating, and bird-watching, adding to the quality of life for its residents. Additional outdoor amenities in the county include a campground and ATV trails.
Notable Kentucky Counties
Pike County is located in the eastern part of Kentucky and is the largest county in the state by land area. It is perhaps most famous for being the backdrop of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, a long-standing family conflict that captured national attention in the late 19th century. The county was established in 1821 and named for General Zebulon M. Pike.
The county has a rich history of coal mining, which has been both an economic boon and a challenge as the industry has waned in recent years. Pikeville, the county seat, is the commercial and administrative center of the region, featuring a range of amenities including healthcare facilities and educational institutions like the University of Pikeville.
The landscape of Pike County is marked by the rugged terrain of the Appalachian Mountains, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation like hiking and fishing. The county is making efforts to diversify its economy, with tourism becoming an increasingly important sector.
Another notable county in Kentucky is Madison County, located in the central part of the state and home to the city of Richmond, which serves as the county seat.
One of the most notable aspects of Madison County is the presence of Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), which plays a significant role in the educational and economic landscape of the region.
In addition to its university, Madison County is rich in historical landmarks. Fort Boonesborough State Park is a key attraction, marking the location of one of Kentucky’s earliest settlements. The park’s reconstructed fort and various educational programs provide a glimpse into pioneer life and is a popular tourist destination.
The scenic Kentucky River also flows through Madison County. The river and the area’s three County Parks make a range of outdoor activities possible such as boating, walking, and fishing.
Bullitt County is located in the north-central part of Kentucky and is part of the Louisville Metropolitan Area. It was founded in 1796 and is named after landowner Alexander Scott Bullitt.
One of its most distinguishing features is its significant role in the bourbon industry, primarily through the presence of the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont. The facility is one of the largest producers of bourbon in the world, serving as both a major employer and a tourist attraction.
Beyond its bourbon credentials, Bullitt County is also known for its convenient proximity to Louisville, offering residents a blend of suburban and rural lifestyles. The county has various parks and natural reserves, like the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, which provide outdoor recreational opportunities including hiking and bird-watching.
More About Kentucky Counties: FAQs
What is the richest county in Kentucky?
Oldham County repeatedly ranks as the wealthiest county in Kentucky, with a median home value of more than $400,000.
What is the newest county in Kentucky?
The newest county in Kentucky is McCreary County, which was formed in 1912.
Are there dry counties in Kentucky?
Yes, despite Kentucky’s fame for bourbon, there are 10 dry counties in the state, meaning they prohibit the sale of alcohol.
Which Kentucky county has the highest elevation?
Harlan County contains Black Mountain, which has the highest elevation in Kentucky at 4,145 feet (1,262 meters).
What’s the friendliest city in Kentucky?
The city of Murray, Kentucky in Calloway County has been named America’s Friendliest Small Town on five separate occasions.