Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail

Area Status: Open

Sheltowee Trace

The Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail is considered the "backbone" of the forest's trail system. Many other trails link to the Sheltowee forming loops for day hikes or opportunities for long distance adventure. Visit the day hiking page for a complete list of all trails and additional information about each section of the Sheltowee.

The trail begins in northern Kentucky on KY377 and travels south nearly 290 miles to its terminus at Pickett State Park in Tennessee. Old homesteads, oil and gas wells and logging tracts, remnants of past land uses, can be seen along the trail. The rugged trail meanders narrow ridges and dips into gorges surrounded by towering cliffs. You may also cross private land or follow road corridors between tracts of national forest land. 

The trail route is marked with white diamonds bearing the image of a turtle. Exit and entry points along roadways are marked with the turtle diamond or the National Recreation Trail symbol. Yellow signs or red paint on trees may occasionally be seen marking the boundary of private property.  Please be respectful of landowner rights and stay on the designated trail when crossing sections of privately owned land. You may 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. 

Sheltowee Trace Trail Guide (pdf)

Designated Trail Uses:

Hiking is allowed on the entire trail. Horses, mountain bikes and off-highway vehicles less than 50 inches wide are permitted only on sections designated for those uses.  The individual trail pages in the day hiking section identify designated uses for each section of the trail.

Safety Tips:

  • Be bear aware and properly store food and personal items to avoid attracting bears. 
  • Stream water may be unsafe to drink. Bring or treat your drinking water. 
  • Hunting is allowed on national forest lands under state regulations.  Trail users should take appropriate safety precautions during hunting seasons. 
  • The forest is remote and rugged. Cell phone service is not available on many sections of the trail. Notify a friend of your travel plans as a safety precaution.

Additional Information



Campground Camping

Turkey Foot, S-Tree and Clear Creek campgrounds may be an option for overnight stays when hiking the trail. 

Dispersed 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 source.  Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of the base of any cliff or back of any rock shelter. Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or stove within 100
feet of the base of any cliff, or the back of a rock shelter is also prohibited.

Fees: Overnight camping fee when camping in the Red River Gorge.

Day Hiking


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities