North-South Trail (North Section)
ElevationAscent: 3,362' 1,025 m
Descent: -3,145' -959 m
High: 688' 210 m
Low: 374' 114 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 19% (11°)
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“A classic example of western KY hollows with peeks of Kentucky Lake.”— Brandon L
Features Birding · Fall Colors · Fishing · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
A few highlights include old pre-TVA era cemeteries reminding you of the thriving communities here before the damming of the Cumberland River. Pay special attention as the trail turns at the mouth of Higgins bay and you'll notice a small island with a cemetery. This island is accessible by a small land bridge if the lake is low enough.
From here, the trail is clearly marked with white blazes for the main trail and yellow for spur trails that lead to springs or shelters. Continue along the main trail and the trail eases down toward a small inlet of the lake called Nickell Cove and on toward a section that runs along the main body of the lake. Continuing south and away from the lake, you'll find the turn off for Brown Spring and a couple of mile stretch of going up and down hollows. Most of the climbs are gentle and rolling, but elevation adds up by the end of the day. The next major water sighting will be Pisgah Bay. Keep an eye out for an empty picnic table and grab a spot for some lunch. Continuing on and away from the lake has you finally reach the area just inland of Smith Bay. Cross the first creek (no bridge) and continue through the open field to the next substantial bridge crossing. This is a good site for camping the first night.
The second day continues the same pattern of water/woods/water/woods. After leaving Smith Creek, the next bay you'll encounter will be Duncan Bay, then Sugar Bay and finally Higgins Bay. If the water in the lake is low enough to expose the sand beach, Higgins Bay should provide a good campsite for the second day. If not, continue on and there are a couple of good options shortly after. We end up at a previously used campsite just to the north of Rhodes Bay.
Day three has you continuing south past Rhodes Bay, a small inlet named Savells Branch, and finally Vickers Bay (this will be the last time you see the lake for this portion of the N-S trail). After turning inland from Vickers, you continue through what is, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the trail as you wind through the woods, criss-crossing Barnett Creek and its feeders. Eventually, you split away from the creek and you begin to hear road noise from the more boring tourists cruising down the Trace scenic highway. The trail then turns south for one last climb before spitting you out onto the Trace south of the bison/elk viewing area and highway 68. Follow the Trace under highway 68 and end at the Golden Pond Visitor Center. Grab a pop from the vending machine or maybe a show at the planetarium while you wait for your ride!
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Land Manager: USFS - Land Between the Lakes National Rec Area Office