Sheltowee Trace Trail (Kentucky)

DISTANCE (round-trip)

319 mi (513 km)



20 - 32 days


Appalachian Trail


Maybe the Most-Overlooked Long Trail on the East Coast

Just an hour northwest of Knoxville is an overlooked park called Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. It's quite a mouthful. It's also the southern terminus of the Sheltowee Trace Trail.

At an impressive 300+ miles, this trail will take even the quickest hikers nearly 3 weeks to complete. It begins and ends near major metropolitan hubs (Cincinnati in the North). And it treks through some pristine public lands along the way.

Sheltowee Trace is a north-south trail that roughly parallels the Appalchian Trail, some hundred miles West of it.

The trail borrows its name from a local folklore hero, Daniel Boone. During his associate with local native tribes, he was given the name "Sheltowee". The trail, of course, follows along much of the original stomping grounds of the famous Daniel Boone.

This is a trail that follows in the footsteps of deep Americana heartland folklore. 

When to go

Mid-summer in these parts can be suffocatingly humid and hot. Planning a trip for early spring will usually mean no snow and cooler weather.

Leaving for your trip in mid-May can mean summer-like temperatures without so much of the oppressive raw heat of July and August. If you plan it right, you could even get away with carrying relatively lightweight summer equipment on a south-north thru hike.

Getting there

To reach the southern terminus you'll want to drive in from Knoxville or Nashville. You're looking for the Honey Creek Hiking Area.

From the north, consider driving from Cincinnati or Louisville. You'll find the northern terminus along a stretch of highway 377 in Kentucky right here.

Know before you go

  • Only within the last few years has the trail begun to draw attention. As popular trails become over crowded, users are beginning to turn elsewhere. Despite this, the trail still gains little traffic.
  • This trail crosses through many beautiful areas that are much less traveled than popular areas along the Appalachian Trail. It's perfect for avoiding the larger crowds during busy times.
  • You do not have to wear a coon-skin cap in order to hike the trail, despite its namesake.

Sheltowee River Bridge. Credit: NFS

Indian Staircase Intersection. Credit:

Common geology along the trail. Souce: Pintrest

Gear Recommendations for this trail:

Consider leaving in the late spring and hiking north. By taking this approach you can narrow down your gear.

I like to wear running shorts with built-in liners and the lightest polyester t-shirts I can find. Such as the Mountain Hardwear Wicked Lite.

Pro Tip: Any lightweight polyester shirt with flat sewn seams will work just fine. Often you can find off-brand shirts super cheap at your local retailer.

For more information:

  • The trail passes through Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Home to natural rock arches, beautiful landscape, and great rock climbing. Plan to stay in the area when you pass through!
  • For the most active resource on the Sheltowee Trace Trail, including trail maps, see the main webpage.
About the author

Casey Fiedler

Professional ski instructor and backpacking guide, Casey Fiedler went to school with CWC and NOLS for Outdoor Education and Leadership. Want to read more about what it takes to lead great adventure trips? Casey writes about outdoor education at


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