National Scenic Trails - Sheltowee Trace Overview

By Joan M. Johnson
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Follow the footsteps of Daniel Boone through Shawnee Country: a 268-mile hike, with stretches for mountain biking and horsemanship.

Sheltowee means Big Turtle. That's the name the Shawnee gave Daniel Boone when they adopted him into their tribe. Centuries after Big Turtle led early settlers through the Cumberland Gap into the Shawnee's sacred hunting ground, John Muir and other explorers followed in his footsteps. Now the Sheltowee Trace retraces the ground broken by these pioneers, along a 268-mile National Recreation Trail.

Built by the government and volunteers, the trail was dedicated on June 23, 1979. The route begins in Pickett State Park, Tennessee, and ends just past Morehead, Kentucky. All but the southernmost ten miles are in Kentucky. From the southern terminus at Pickett State Park, the trail crosses into Kentucky, then passes through the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. While winding though the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Sheltowee passes by Cumberland Falls, Natural Bridge, and the Red River Gorge. Ten miles from the northern terminus, the Dry Branch Connector permits hikers to follow the Jenny Wiley Trail north to Portsmouth, Ohio, or south to Jenny Wiley State Park.

Large portions of the Sheltowee Trace are open to horses and mountain bikes. In the northern half, motorized vehicles are permitted on much of the trail. However, the only way to complete the entire trail is to do so on foot. In fact, by connecting with the Jenny Wiley Trail (open only to foot traffic), one can hike from Tennessee to Ohio!

There are numerous small stores along the Sheltowee Trace, but resupplying at most of these would be difficult. Using maildrops or asking employees at the parks to hold food packages is advisable.

Showers and Laundry
Showers are available at Cumberland Falls State Park and Natural Bridge State Park. During the summer, Holly Bay campground has showers. Also in the summer months, laundry facilities are available at Whittledown campground in Natural Bridge State Park.

Many post offices in Kentucky have been closed because of budget cuts. You should call ahead to verify that they are still open and ask for their hours of operation. Do not depend on the current listing of post offices and zip codes! Some possible post offices for sending packages General Delivery are Waneta, McKee, and Heidelberg.

Oftentimes park and forest service district offices will hold packages for hikers. Call them, ask politely, and verify how the package will arrive (by mail or delivered in person) if you wish to resupply at these points. Be sure to thank them when you're finished! Some suggested spots are Stearns Ranger Station, Cumberland Falls State Park, Holly Bay Marina, Natural Bridge State Park, and Morehead Ranger Station.

Restaurants and Country Stores
The Little South Fork Grocery at Yamacraw sells ice cream, pizza, sodas, chips, macaroni and cheese, canned tuna, and deli sandwiches. They also sell unleaded gas and will let you use their phone to make collect or calling card calls.

Tuckers Handy Mart, visible from the parking lot on US 27, sells milk, rice, macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, sodas, chips, and canned tuna. They have a soda machine outside for late-night hikers, and sell unleaded gas. (A phone is available at the Stearns Ranger Office, a mile from here.)

Cumberland Falls State Park offers a snack bar, outside soda machine, pay phone (on the trail), and a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat salad bar (at the lodge). There is also a pay campground—ask for directions at the gift shop.

The Holly Bay Marina sells chips, sodas, and unleaded gas. In the summer, they carry a variety of picnic supplies and have a deli.

The Kentucky Grub Diner at exit 49 of I-75 has lots of good grub! In addition, they sell sodas, chips, peanut butter, cookies, vienna sausages and, of course, unleaded gas. A pay phone is available. The gas station next door has similar fare, but no diner.

On the northern end of US 421 a car wash has a soda machine. Rumors of innumerable stores and restaurants abound in McKee, the county seat. It's a good walk down US 421 to get there, though.

Todds Grocery in Arvel has hours from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sunday they are open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.. I showed up after six, so what's inside is still a mystery for me!

In addition to having a post office right on the trail, Heildelberg has a store with sodas, chips, ramen noodles, cookies, ice cream, and peanut butter.

Our Daily Bread, located on US 52, has a pay phone and soda machine outside the store. Inside, there's a deli and a large selection of food. This store is good for short-term resupply. The hours are 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6:30 a.m.  to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Natural Bridge State Park has a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat salad bar in the lodge. A soda machine and pay phone can be found outside. Shampoo is available for sale at the desk.

The Cra Market on KY 77 has a soda machine on the porch. They are open seven days a week and carry sodas, chips, cookies, and unleaded gas.

Bryants Market on US 460 carries sodas, juice, milk, chips, cookies, ice cream, and meat. There is a phone inside that you might be able to use for collect or calling card calls.

The second I-64 crossing has almost everything a hiker could want. Pay phones and soda machines are available outside. Lodging is available at the Holiday Inn or Days Inn. A full-size Kroger is available for long-term resupply. There's a clothing store and a Walmart. Restaurants range from Mexican and Chinese to steakhouses and fast food joints. Unleaded gas is available.

Daniel Boone NF
List of Ranger Stations

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
South Corbin, KY 40701

Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Slade, KY 40376

Pickett State Park
Rock Creek Route, Box 174
Jamestown, TN 38556

Big South Fork NRA
Route 3, Box 401
Oneida, TN 37841

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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