319 mi (513 km)
20 - 32 days
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.
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.
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.