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This hike presents a pleasant loop through some of the classic trails in the Red River Gorge.

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1,274' 388 m


718' 219 m


2,474' 754 m


2,501' 762 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (18°)

Dogs Leashed

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


On this hike, you'll cross many beautiful streams, utilize the Sheltowee Suspension Bridge over the Red River, and see a few arches as well. Indian Staircase and several other overlooks can be found along this route.


You can anticipate sufficient water supply throughout the Rough Trail #221 and Sheltowee Trace. At the base of Lost Branch Trail #239, expect to leave the water behind as the trail increases in altitude through Osborne Bend Trail #240.

At Rough Trail #221 and Sheltowee, be sure to take Sheltowee Trace northbound and not to the southwest. Sheltowee Trace has the unique Turtle Blazes.

Once Sheltowee Trace meets the Red River, a wood and cable suspension bridge spans the river and flood bank.

The Sheltowee section between the river and Bison Way has some intermediate grade with beautiful payoff. The best camping seems to be before and after this section. Within this rise, you'll find a few arches and overlooks, as well as Indian Staircase.

The Sheltowee - Lost Branch junction forms at a beautiful streambed in a hollow. The east bank has space for camping with decent tree spacing and minimal undergrowth.

Lost Branch Trail #239 quickly climbs to meet Osborne Bend Trail #240. The northerly section of trail will take you to the concrete bridge parking lot on 715.

One can take 715 back up the hill to your parking space at the Rough Trail #221 parking lot.

(As a side note, you might consider doing this in reverse so that your trail doesn't end with hiking uphill on the road. I personally prefer this direction for the purpose of a gradually more interesting/unique environment.)

Flora & Fauna

Pine, oak, and sycamore stands scatter the trails. Thick fern beds grow in the hollows and wildflowers spread across the drier areas.

During the day, we saw jays, a red-tailed hawk, buzzards, and golden finches. The mossy areas host newts and red efts.

At night, we heard coyotes and hoot owls.


Shared By:

Stephen Hornbeck with improvements by Kara Leann

Trail Ratings

  3.8 from 17 votes


  3.8 from 17 votes
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in Kentucky


32 Views Last Month
10,572 Since Oct 14, 2017



Chimney Top greets visitors from across the Sheltowee Trace on the Red River.
Jan 18, 2017 near Frenchburg, KY
Indian Arch poses for a dramatic photo along the Sheltowee Trace.
Jan 18, 2017 near Frenchburg, KY
Suspension bridge over the Red River.
Jan 18, 2017 near Frenchburg, KY
A large boulder rests beside the trail.
Jan 18, 2017 near Frenchburg, KY
Sheltowee Trace crosses Salt Fork Creek. Watch your step.
Jan 18, 2017 near Frenchburg, KY
Wolf tracks dot the snow on the Sheltowee Trace Trail.
Jan 18, 2017 near Frenchburg, KY


Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Oct 8, 2022
Mak O'Brien
Start on the Bison Way Trailhead and complete the loop Clockwise. The stretch on 715 is easily forgotten if you situate it in the middle of your day. 20mi — 6h 30m
Oct 23, 2021
Logan McClain
Oct 20, 2021
Madeline Cox
Oct 19, 2020
Chris W
Take some side hikes to the top of the ridgeline especially in the area of Indian Staircase for some spectacular views.
Oct 3, 2020
Jim James
Wonderful white cliff 2.3mi — 1h 00m
Sep 19, 2020
Landon Kovach
21.5mi — 8h 20m
Aug 23, 2020
Glenn Estes
Run/Hike. Good mix of terrain. Awesome training loop. 20.6mi — 6h 11m
Jun 12, 2020
Steve Kistler