The Sheltowee Trace- Kentucky's Long Trail

Posted by Alex Gash

When it comes to long trails, the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT),  and the Continental Divide (CDT) garner much of the attention from avid backpackers. The John Muir Trail running through California and Yosemite National Park is close behind the triple crown hikes.


Kentucky, however, has a long trail of its' own, and it needs more publicity. The Sheltowee Trace was officially designated a National Recreation Trail in 1979. It stretches ~300 miles (mileage fluctuates) from northern Tennessee all the way through Rowan County, Kentucky. It is a hidden gem in a state mostly known for bourbon, horses, basketball, and climbing in the Red River Gorge.



The Sheltowee Trace is named in honor of Daniel Boone, who is also known as Sheltowee (pronounced shell-toe-ee), the name given to him by Chief Blackfish of the Shawnee tribe. 

Pictured: Daniel Boone


It was originally mapped out by Verne Orndorff. Verne describes in a 2007 interview, how the Trace was inspired from the local Sierra Club. The clubs memebers wanted a long distance footpath in Kentucky ( Ironically, Verne was not much of a hiker himself.



Vern Orndorff, later in his life. 


Many people choose to hike the Sheltowee Trace in sections (called section hiking) rather than completing the trek in one full swoop (thru-hiking). 



The Sheltowee Trace winds through some of the most beautiful red maple, persimmon, and sycamore trees scattered throughout the Kentucky/Tennessee area. On this hike you will pass through a lot of the major outdoor attractions Kentucky has to offer including the Big South Fork, Beaver Creek Wildnerness Area, and The Red River Gorge. All of which are part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. 



There are many waterfalls, overlooks, creeks, rivers, and sandstone arches along the way. The ST really highlights the beauty that is eastern Kentucky. 



Next week, we will be sitting down with none other than Rick McQuerry, a six time Sheltowee Trace finisher and holder of the Fastest Known Time. 


Until then, GET OUT AND HIKE!!


Resources for Hiking the Trail

OutrageGIS provides a great Interactive map of the trail with waypoints, trailheads, campgrounds, reroutes and more embedded within.


The Sheltowee Trace Association is another valuable resource for those looking to hike the Trace.

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