Pine Mountain Trail – Elkhorn City to Skeet Rock

Skegg WallHiker Hiker Pine Mountain Trail Map
Distance: 14 Miles round-trip from trailhead
Difficulty: ++++
Scenic Views: +++
Elevation Relief: 2,100ft ^^^
Ownership: Private, Kentucky SP, Jefferson NF
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The Pine Mountain Trail is one of the most challenging trails in Kentucky. The elevation change, distance, and the undulating, serrated ridge together make a hard, but rewarding backpacking trip. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the trail are the many intersecting jeep and ohv trails. Even with a good map and navigation tools, you will loose the trail and hopscotch down this trail or that. No worries though, since the trail essentially hugs the knife edge of the ridge, you will eventually, if arduously, retake the trail.

Hikers will find fantastic outcroppings along the linear summit, sand and gravel pits in dry gaps, and limestone karst features further down the mountain. Faulting displaced the northwest base of Pine Mountain approximately 2,000 feet higher than land immediately to the north. This movement also titled the rock layers on Pine Mountain so that they “dip” to the southeast at about 40 degrees. Erosion since has lowered the height of Pine Mountain and removed most of the coal seams that are so numerous in the surrounding mountains.

Gold Fish PondFinding water after Gold Fish Pond can be an issue in drier months, but in the worst case, you’ll follow a dry gap or draw in the mountain until you reach a spring, which are common at lower elevations. A nice spring gurgles up in a wet area with tremendous ferns just north of Skegg Gap. Bear are active on the mountain and it is recommended that you hang food at night.

Pine Mountain ViewThe trail is signed (sporadically) with yellow/white rectangular blazes. You will lose the blazes, especially between Skegg Spring and benchmark Cumberland (which is the centerline survey for the park), but use the map and follow only the blazes.

Park at the Elkhorn police and fire station located just before the bridge across the Russell Fork. Hike the gravel road past a fenced-in pay fish pond until it ends at a large river campsite. Follow the narrowing road up the mountain with a hard-right turn here. It will intersect a quad-track road. Take a left. You’ll start seeing blazes now as the ohv trail slowly ascends the mountain. Technically, you can drive up the mountain, and you might hear, then see, folks doing that. Just discretely step off trail, fading into the forest, and they’ll pass you without even noticing.

Photographs: http://pixel.outragegis.com/v/070527-28_PineMtnTrail

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