Harlan county is located in far southeastern Kentucky on the border with Virginia. Settlement began by 1782 and the county was formed in 1819 and named for Silas Harlan, a pioneer. The county seat is Harlan. Several mountains run through the county, including Pine and Black. The highest point in Kentucky is on Black Mountain just outside Lynch. Coal mining and logging have long been the principle industries in the county and several of its towns, including Lynch and Benham, began as mining camps.
Cumberland is the home of Southeast Community and Technical College and Kingdom Come State Park is nearby on Pine Mountain. Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve, perhaps the largest tract of old-growth forest in the state, is also located in the county.