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Rough Trail #221



7.9 mile 12.7 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 1,616' 493 m
Descent: -2,021' -616 m
High: 1,282' 391 m
Low: 792' 241 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 45% (24°)


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Trail shared by Chris Chaney

Rough Trail lives up to its name with numerous tough climbs and descents.

Chris Chaney

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


Rough Trail is rough. From end to end Rough Trail packs in more climbing and descending than any other trail in the area. In short, Rough lives up to its name.

The trail is just shy of 8 miles long and traverses the Red River Gorge across its heart from west to east. At the east end the Swift Camp Creek Trail #219 continues into Clifty Wilderness for almost another 7 miles making for a long trail outing of nearly 15 miles one way.

Rough Trail begins on the western end at the busy Martin's Fork Trailhead. It's used heavily by rock climbers, backpackers, day hikers, and trail runners. From the TH hike back toward Nada Tunnel and cross the road at a footbridge. Right away the woods are cool and dark and the trail stays tight with the small stream. The 1st Section climbs up Martin's Fork and gains Tunnel Ridge at the end of the Gray's Arch Trail #205.

From the intersection with Gray's Arch Trail Rough continues on toward Gray's Arch itself through its 2nd Section, first continuing out a broad, flat ridge before dropping steeply down a newly cut section of trail and then some steep stairs. At the bottom of the stairs run or walk a few yards to the right for a fantastic view of Gray's Arch before turning around and continuing east on Rough Trail. The trail continues down into the deep valley and immediately begins climbing up to Rush Ridge. The 2nd Section ends when the trail levels out on top.

The 3rd Section immediately drops steeply over a rock step from the crest of the ridge and then passes under an overhanging section of cliff and then into a narrow slot canyon for a short distance before coming out on a steep and thickly vegetated slope that drops down and down and down to Rush Branch. Again, Rough Trail begins climbing steeply as soon as it hits bottom. The 3rd Section ends with the 3rd climb along the trail as Rough Trail intersects the Sheltowee Trace on Pinch Em Tight Ridge.

Once on top of the ridge the first real reprieve comes as Rough Trail runs with the Sheltowee Trace straight out the ridge for about a mile before beginning another brutal descent. In the valley, the trails cross two creeks in quick succession before splitting. The Sheltowee heads north and Rough continues east, once again beginning a lung-burning climb out of Chimney Top Creek to gain Chimney Top Rd.

At the beginning of the 5th section is another respite before the descent into Parch Corn Creek. Have faith; there is one more big climb before the end at KY 715.

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna


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May 21, 2019
Michael Kontos
Very steep trail. It's called the Rough Trail for a reason. Interesting hike, and maintained fairly well 3mi
Apr 26, 2019
Ilya Zolotko
Apr 7, 2019
Mircea Damian
7.9mi — 5h 00m
Dec 25, 2018
Mike Damian
Sep 2, 2018
Matt Benes
5mi — 1h 30m
Jul 27, 2018
Austin Schneider
Sep 9, 2017
Jeff Gandee
Took the Rough Trail up to the cut off for the Hanson's Point Trail (unofficial, shhh...) for some beautiful views then back to camp for night 2. 3.8mi — 4h 00m
May 26, 2017
Danny Turner

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 12 votes


  4.4 from 12 votes
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May 29, 2015 near Campton, KY

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