Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail

The Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail traverses nearly 290 miles across narrow ridges and deep ravines. The trail is open year round.

Sheltowee Trace Trail Guide

Trail Sections

Cumberland Ranger District, Cave Run Lake Area

Cumberland Ranger District, Red River Gorge

London Ranger District

Stearns Ranger District

The Sheltowee Trace is considered the “backbone” of an expansive interconnecting trail system on the Daniel Boone National Forest. Many other trails link to the Sheltowee Trace. Some trail connections provide loops for a short day hike, while others offer opportunities for multiple days of recreational challenge.

Hiking is allowed on the entire trail. The terrain is mostly rugged, so be prepared for strenuous travel in some areas.

Horses, mountain bikes and off-highway vehicles less than 50 inches wide are permitted, but only on sections designated for those uses.

Along the trail, you may want to visit Red River Gorge Geological Area, Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake or Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The adjacent rivers are well-suited for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

Map of Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail

Trail History

In 1979, the Sheltowee Trace was officially dedicated as part of the Daniel Boone National Forest trail system. The trail is named in honor of Daniel Boone. Sheltowee (pronounced shel-toe-ee) is the name given to Boone by Chief Blackfish of the Shawnee tribe, meaning “Big Turtle.”

White diamonds bearing the image of a turtle mark the trail route. Trail junctions may also be marked with the national recreation trail symbol.

Trail Boundaries

The Sheltowee Trace occasionally crosses privately owned land. Be respectful of landowner rights when crossing private rights-of-way. The land boundaries may be marked with yellow signs or red paint on trees. Maps are recommended to help determine land boundary locations.

National Recreation Trail blazeSome trail segments follow existing road corridors. The National Recreation Trail symbol or Sheltowee Trace turtle diamond will mark exit and entry points for the trail along roadways.

Overnight Camping

Camping is allowed on national forest lands along the trail. Help protect trail and water resources by camping at least 300 feet away from the trail or any water resource. Camping is prohibited in or near rock shelters.

Developed campgrounds commonly used for overnight camping along the trail are Turkey Foot, S-Tree and Clear Creek.

Trail Etiquette

Riding horses or mountain bikes on wet trails can damage the trail. Check the weather forecast or call the local ranger station to avoid using the trail after a heavy rain.

  • Stay on the trail and never shortcut trail switchbacks. Avoid creating side paths off the trail.
  • Do not disturb trail signs or markings. Report damaged or missing trail signs and markings to the nearest district office.
  • Pack out all trash.
  • Keep dogs under control.

Concerning Firewood

Invasive pests, such as the Emerald Ash Borer, can be introduced to this forest if you bring in firewood from another location. Help prevent the spread of invasive pests by using camp stoves, or wait and purchase firewood at your destination. Burn all firewood and completely extinguish the fire before leaving your campsite.

Learn more at Don't Move Firewood.

Staying Safe

  • Bring your own water. Stream water may be unsafe to drink.
  • During drought conditions, use a camp stove instead of building a campfire. Check the forest website or call the district office for current information about fire bans. 
  • Avoid camping close to water’s edge. Water levels can rise quickly during rainstorms, causing a flash flood. Camp on high ground away from rivers and streams. 
  • Watch your footing near cliffs and avoid hiking or riding the trail after dark. 
  • Hunting is allowed on national forest lands under state regulations, so take appropriate safety precautions during hunting seasons. 
  • Cell phone service may not be available in many locations due to tower location and terrain.

Recreation Fees

Use of the Sheltowee Trace Trail is free, but some recreation areas along the trail charge a small fee.

A recreation fee permit is required if you park overnight in the Red River Gorge and at Indian Creek. Most developed campgrounds and some boat ramps require a fee for use.

More information about regulations, fees and trail-use designations is available at district offices. Permits and forest maps may be purchased at district offices and some local stores near the forest. Check trailhead bulletin boards for additional trail information.

Trailing Away

You might encounter “user-developed” trails that are not part of the official Forest Service trail system. These unofficial trails can cause confusion and lead you astray. If you think you might be lost, retrace your path and look for Sheltowee trail markers.

Trail Stewards

Volunteering is a fun and rewarding way to learn new skills while experiencing nature and the outdoors. Contact a district office for more information about how you can help.

Please report fallen trees, missing signs and other trail damage to help provide a better trail for everyone.


Sheltowee Trace Association is a nonprofit organization organized to preserve, protect and promote The Sheltowee Trace.

External links information