Powell county is located in the eastern knobs region of Kentucky, the boundary between the rolling Bluegrass and the hillier Cumberland Plateau. It was formed in 1852 and named for Lazarus Powell, governor of of Kentucky from 1851 to 1855. The county seat is Stanton. The population of the county in 1990 was 11,686.
Much of Powell county lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Red River Gorge Geological Area. Also in the county are Pilot Knob State Nature Preserve and Natural Bridge State Resort Park.