This is a fantastic half-day hike in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The area near the bend of the Rockcastle River (between mile 3 and 3.5 if hiking clockwise) at the stream crossing is not blazed in either direction, and there is a worn path that leads away from the trail at the crossing. I spent some time working out where to cross the stream to stay on this trail. Otherwise, the trail is well blazed and is easy to follow.
This trail is in a remote area, which can be access off KY 192 to FS 56 and FS 119. Remote is right - don't plan on cell service or Google maps to help you find the trailhead. Parking is limited to the area off the gravel road.
As mapped the trail starts at the intersection with Sheltowee Trace NRT: Section 25
, but the trailhead is actually off FS 119, past the gate and this is where the description begins. You'll need to park off the road and work your way along the road down to the trail (it will be off to the left heading east. After some easy descending, the trail follows along Yuel Branch Creek. With some looking, you'll be able to see the creek in places. At about 1 mile, you'll cross Yuel Branch and intersect the Sheltowee Trace NCT - Section 25. (As mapped this is the endpoint of the trail). To reach the rest of Rockcastle Narrows East Trailhead south on Sheltowee Trace NRT: Section 25
for about 1.5 miles.
You'll see a couple of trail signs to turn off to Van Hook Falls. The 0.8 mile trek to Van Hook Falls is well worth the time, as the falls drop off a rock shelf well over three stories in height.
The Rockcastle Narrows East Trail however goes off to the right and runs along Cane Creek. You'll go past boulders as big as cabins and have easy access down to the sandy beach in various places. Once the trail reaches the Rockcastle River, it turns north, following the shore. You'll enjoy numerous views of the Class 2 whitewater as it works through the Narrows. When the trail turns away from the water for the return, you'll climb a steep ridge line.
While the trail ends when it lets out on FS 119, you still have a short trip of around 0.5 mile back past the trailhead where you started from and to the gate where you left the car, adding some distance onto the trip.
Holy trees, blueberries, snakes.