Hiking Sheltowee National Trail

Cumberland River in Daniel Boone National Forest in Southern KentuckySheltowee Trace National Trail is a network of 260 miles of backcountry trails running north to south through the Daniel Boone National Forest. It is the major long-distance trek in Kentucky, as all but 10 miles are in the eastern part of that state, and the route winds through many of the state's best parks, including Natural Bridge and Cumberland Falls. In addition, the trail is for more than just long distance trekkers. Long stretches are open to horseback riders, mountain bikers and even ATVs, making stretches of the trail a great place for day trippers engaged in these recreational activities.

Southern End

The southern end of the trail begins in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park, just inside the borders of Tennessee. From there it is a ten mile hike to the next major landmark, at the Hemlock Grove Picnic Area inside Kentucky. This brings trekkers into the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. From there, it is a 25 mile hump to reach the next major landmarks, Yahoo Falls and the Alum Boat Launch, which are adjacent. A further five miles down the trail, cutting through the township of Stearns and US 27, is Barren Fork Horse Camp. After departing Pickett State Park, spending the night on this part of the trail will involve either backcountry camping or taking major, time-consuming detours off the trail and into adjacent towns.

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

Cumberland Falls

From the horse camp, it is a roughly 16-mile hike to reach the first major stop on the trail, Kentucky's Cumberland Falls State Park. This was the original southern terminus of the trail, prior to its southward expansion. Cumberland Falls is sometimes called "the Niagara of the South," and offers a lodge and good campground facilities, making it an excellent place to stop and look around. The next 20 miles pass through three separate campgrounds, skirt the western edge of Laurel Lake and come to the old northern terminus of the Sheltowee Trace trail.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

The Rough Middle

After the relative comforts of the area around Cumberland Falls, the trail has no major stops until the Wildcat Battlefield Historic Area is reached almost 30 miles later. After that, it is another 14 miles of hiking before the S-Tree Campground is reached, meaning that this stretch will also involve either backcountry camping, or major detours into nearby towns. From there it is a further 17 miles to reach Turkey Foot Group Camp Site, although the route does come within a mile of McKee, Kentucky. From here, the overnights and provisioning stops become easier again. Eight miles after Turkey Foot is the small town of Arvel, followed 11 miles later by Heidelberg. The trail runs right through both towns.

Camp Wildcat Preservation Foundation

Natural Bridge

Twenty-one miles after Heidelberg is Natural Bridge State Park. Similar to Cumberland Falls, this area has a lodge and good campgrounds, and is a good place to stop for a while and have a look around. The 14 miles after the camp are well-marked, with three separate trailheads and a camping facility off the trail near the town of Stanton.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

The Northern End

From the Corner Ridge Trailhead, the path continues northward over 16 miles, crossing US 460, until it reaches Clear Creek Campground near Cave Run Lake. It continues around and past the lake, passing very close to Morehead, Kentucky. The skirt around Morehead brings it over Rodburn Hollow Recreation Area, which is the last regular campground on the trail. After Rodburn, the trail continues another 16 miles. At the northern terminus, it emerges onto Route 377, several miles north of the town of Triplet.

Clear Creek Campground 

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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