Tater Knob Trail – Pioneer Weapons

Tater Knob Fire Tower stairs

Sheltowee Trace North Trail Map: $26

This is an essential Cave Run Lake experience: hiking to the top of Tater Knob. You can’t say you’ve ‘done’ Cave Run, unless you’ve watched the sunset from this last-standing fire tower in the Daniel Boone national forest. Built in 1934, the tower was decommissioned in the 1970’s when aircraft replaced fixed observation points.

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Grand Gap Loop – John Muir Trail

Twin ArchesHiker Big South Fork Map

Distance: 6 Miles round-trip from Leatherwood Ford
Difficulty: ++
Scenic Views: ++++
Elevation Relief: 525ft ^

Ownership: Big South Fork, NPS

Google to trailhead & coordinates

Big South Fork Trail Map: $12

The hike from Leatherwood Ford along the John Muir Trail to the Grand Gap Loop trail is one of the most scenic river walks in the park. Contrasting the views of wildflowers and Fall Branch creek are the gorge overlooks found along the 4 mile stretch of Grand Gap Trail that hugs the cliffline above the river. The notable vista is the Angel Falls overlook and many deep pools in the river for swimming and fishing. You might find other happy day hikers and backpackers who shuttle from Bandy Creek Campground and hike the 12 miles from Leatherwood Ford back to the campground.


Gibson Gap – Ridge Trail – Hensley Settlement

Hensley SettlementHiker Hiker Cumberland Gap Map
Distance: 23 Miles round-trip from Wilderness Road Campground
Difficulty: +++
Scenic Views: ++++
Elevation Relief: 2,100ft ^^^
Ownership: Cumberland Gap, NPS
Google to trailheads

Cumberland Gap Trail Map: $12

Trails in Hensley settlement

Sherman Hensley hiked up this mountain in 1903 with his pregnant wife and all of the tools and food-on-foot he could drive. They saw the large meadow that would bear the Hensley name and carved out a pioneer homestead. The Gibson family later joined the settlement and together they lived on the mountain, even after the park purchases their land until Sherman left in 1970. [Read more…]

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
Google to Elkhorn City trailhead

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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. [Read more…]

Twin Arches Loop

Twin ArchesHiker Big South Fork Map
Distance: 4.7 Miles round-trip from trailhead
Difficulty: ++
Scenic Views: ++++
Elevation Relief: 525ft ^
Ownership: Big South Fork, NPS
Google to trailhead & coordinates

Big South Fork Trail Map

The Twin Arches loop is the benchmark trail for the Big South Fork. You’ll see not one, but two spectacular arches, hike under fine cliffline, visit two historic homesteads, collect numerous great photos, and to top it off, you can overnight at Charit Creek Lodge.

Twin Arches

The lodge offers two cabins, full meals, and hostel loding for the hiker or equestrian. Reservations are required. A great morning hike is to take 3.2-mile round-trip excursion to the Charit Creek Overlook.

Charit Creek Lodge

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Hidden Passage & Rock Creek Loop

Hidden Passage TrailHiker Big South Fork Map
Distance: 9.7 Miles loop
Difficulty: ++++
Scenic Views: +++
Elevation Relief: 250ft ^^
Ownership: Pickett State Park, Tennessee
Google to trailhead

Big South Fork Trail Map

Rock Creek valley

This loop just southwest of the Big South Area in Pickett State Park is a wonderful trail for seclusion and scenic rests developed by the CCC in the 1930s. While Pickett doesn’t have the elevation relief of the Big South to the east, this trail follows the rugged meanders of Thompson Creek and exposed ridges with nice views of pine forests.

The great deal with this loop is that you visit Rock Creek, if only for a mile. Rock Creek forms essentially the northwest boundary of the Big South Fork recreation area and is one of the largest tributaries of the Big South Fork river. The lower sections are muddied by historic coal mining, but the upper reaches are damned by beavers and fished for trout. Hikers will find large pools and wide, cool stream channels.

Entering Big South Fork country

Directions: Start at the historic Sheltowee Trace southern terminus trailhead in Pickett Start Park on TN 154.

  • Mile 0: Hike from a rerouted parking access trail to the historic trail
  • 0.5, intersection with group camp trail.
  • 0.6, Hidden Passage rockhouse and Crystal Falls.
  • 4.4, side trail to Double Falls, a 1.5-mile round-trip.
  • 5.0, turn right to Rock Creek. If continue straight on Hidden Passage Loop, then you’ll reduce the loop distance by 1.7 miles, but avoiding the cooling waters of the creek.
  • 5.8, intersection with Rock Creek and camp. Ford creek, turn left and follow up creek on old rail bed.
  • 6.7, Cross creek on Tunnel Trail and visit old train tunnel.
  • 7.2, after passing a few scenic rests and nice vista, go straight at intersection with Hidden Passage Loop trail.
  • 9.2, close loop one tributary west of Crystal Falls
  • 9.7, historic Sheltowee Trace terminus parking lot.

Crystal Falls

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