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blueBlack Sheltowee - Osborne Loop

  4.0 ( 7 )

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19.8 mile 31.9 kilometer loop


Ascent: 2,474' 754 m
Descent: -2,501' -762 m
High: 1,274' 388 m
Low: 718' 219 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 32% (18°)


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Trail shared by Stephen Hornbeck

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

Stephen Hornbeck

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


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.


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Apr 15, 2019
Nyle Graffice
Mar 11, 2019
James Messner
3 days off slow, life contemplating nature walking
Jul 14, 2018
Zachary Schmitz
May 23, 2018
Mike P
Mar 31, 2018
Chris Davis
Sep 15, 2017
Stephen Davis
Lots of forest cover and crossing water. Cool chances to see beaver damns. Frequent equestrian trail sharing.
Sep 15, 2017
Erik Carlsen-landy
Fun hike with some good ups and downs, scrambling over trees and rivers, and interesting wildlife. Look out for beavers! 19.8mi
Mar 16, 2016
Gary Gomer

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 7 votes


  4.0 from 7 votes
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in Kentucky


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Jessee Lynch
Louisville, KY
Jessee Lynch   Louisville, KY
Hiked/ran this loop over the weekend. All sections we're enjoyable except for the last section, Osborne Bend Trail. This trail seemed to follow a drainage ditch and looked like it has been used for horses. Other than that the loop was nice with lots of water along the whole time. Mar 21, 2019

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