Pine Mountain State Resort Parks Trails
Rock Hotel Trail
This loop trail visits Rock Hotel, one of two large sandstone rock shelters within the park. Such natural shelters or “rockhouses” as they are frequently called in the southeast, served as temporary dwelling places for both woodland Indians and white explorers. As hikers near the shelter, the trail passes through a veritable rhododendron tunnel nestled beneath the tangled, jungle-like forest shrub layer. Once past the shelter, the trail plummets to the bottom of a moist ravine where a wooden bog bridge traverses a perpetually wet seep area. Beyond, the route ascends and closes the loop rejoining the initial in-bound trail section. Elevation change of 200 feet and marked with lime blazes.
Timber Ridge Trail
Having two points of access, this trail may be entered either from the Rock Hotel trailhead along the main park road or from the trail hub near the Chained Rock Parking Lot. The path closely traces a series of ridgeline sandstone bluffs that parallel and offer views of the spine-like crest of Pine Mountain. The soil layers along the central portions of this trail are thin and dry accounting for the open canopy that characterizes this ridgeline trail. Elevation change of 350 feet and marked with dark blue blazes.
A brief adventure on a mountain path, Azalea Trail begins adjacent to a small stone building that was constructed by the CCC in the 1930s. Mossy steps begin a meandering ascent to a series of interesting sandstone bluffs that form small natural shelters beneath a heavy forest canopy. Many large trees can be observed along the way and much of the trail passes above a handsome glen of hemlock and beech trees. The trail descends and emerges from the forest near the Laurel Cove Natural Amphitheater and follows a roundabout gravel path back to the point of origin. Elevation change of 100 feet and marked with pink blazes.
Chain Rock Trail
Chained Rock was officially fastened to the adjacent cliff in the summer of 1933; allegedly to protect the city of Pineville from calamity should the ominous boulder perched precariously above town become loosened. There is an excellent panoramic view of Pineville, present day Highway 25E (formerly the Wilderness Road) and the surrounding mountain terrain. On clear days, the prominent ridge of Cumberland Mountain is visible 12 miles to the south.
Clear Creek Hollow
Following the route of an abandoned railroad grade, Clear Creek Hollow Trail parallels Clear Creek stream throughout its length. This old railway route, formerly a spur off the L&N (Louisville & Nashville) once serviced coal-mining operations in the area many years ago. In the mid 1980's the rails were taken up and the route was soon adapted for foot travel and other recreational uses. Today, it is regarded as an ideal fitness trail and is utilized by hikers, walkers, runners, mountain bikers and fisherman. The trail is flat and level and boasts a number of interesting features. Those venturing along this path will encounter beautiful creek/woodland scenery, as many as four trestle bridges. The official trailhead begins in the middle of its length, on the parking lot side of the main park road with the trail extending to either side. When traveling on the parking lot side, users will eventually encounter a sign that marks the end of the Park's boundary. On the opposite section, the trail passes through the campus of the Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and ends at a pair of log blockhouse towers that mark the entrance to the Kentucky Ridge State Forest. It is recommended that you keep small children close at hand when approaching and crossing the trestle bridges. This trail is not completely depicted on the map. Elevation change of six feet.
Fern Garden Trail
Both entrances to the trail are remote and begin on Living Stairway Trail. This route offers hikers the opportunity to explore the variations of plant communities and habitats that lie within the park. Most hikers begin the trail from at the metal stairway on Living Stairway Trail. Descending the stairs delivers hikers into a lush, ravine forest of hemlock, tulip poplar, and rhododendron. The Fern Garden itself is located near the halfway point of the trail and represents a unique, moist, herbaceous habitat favoring the growth of cinnamon ferns, royal ferns, and Sweetgum trees. In particularly wet years, the cinnamon ferns will sometimes grow to a height of three of four feet. Elevation change of 300 feet and marked with light blue blazes.
Hemlock Garden Trail
The path descends down into a wooded ravine containing old-growth hemlock trees that are 3-4 feet in diameter and over 300 years old; the Hemlock Garden. Many large white oak and tulip poplar trees are also found here and several large sandstone boulders form Boulder Alley, where the trail meanders along a woodland stream among house-sized rocks. Other highlights include footbridges, cascading stream views and a charming native stone shelter house built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. An optional side-spur path leads to Inspiration Point, a large thicket of rhododendron nestled among towering hemlocks. Elevation change of 250 feet and marked with red blazes.
Honeymoon Falls Trail
Honeymoon falls, at 25 feet in height, is the largest waterfall in the park. The falls are visible throughout the year but may be reduced to a trickle during long periods of dry weather. The section of trail from the official trailhead to the falls is exceptionally intriguing as the trail ascends a mountain stream and passes through lush growths of rhododendron. You’ll also encounter old growth forest communities along this trail. Elevation change of 350 feet and marked with yellow blazes.
Laurel Cove Trail
This trail scales the mountain from top to bottom. The upper trailhead access is located along the lower section of Chained Rock Trail. Rich stands of rhododendron and mountain laurel are encountered along this route and at the trail’s midpoint is Powderhorn Arch, a small, natural arch of sandstone. The lower half of the trail descends through the thick upland woods typical of Pine Mountain’s southeastern slope. A little advanced planning makes this trail more pleasant to explore. Most hikers use two vehicles and elect to walk down this trail instead of up. Once at the trail’s lower outlet, they return in the second vehicle to retrieve the first. Elevation change of 1100 feet.
Living Stairway Trail
In the 1930’s, a large tulip poplar that stood in a deep ravine gorge was felled by a severe storm and came to rest against a sandstone bluff. It was eventually discovered by the park’s trail building crew who cut hand-hewn steps into the side of the tree and used it as a stairway. Though fallen, the tree’s root system was still intact and continued to live and produce leaves annually on its upper branches despite its use as a “living stairway.” Actual use of the old stairway was discontinued in the 1980’s when the metal stairway currently in use was installed alongside it. The tree declined in health over the years and finally died in 2002. Though the Living Stairway is gone, it was in use for over 40 years and was regarded as one of the most unusual and unique trails structures in all of Kentucky State Parks. Living Stairway trail is a loop trail bringing hikers back to the point of origin. Both entrances to Fern Garden Trail lie along this trail and a side spur access to the park’s log cabin area connects to this trail. Elevation change of 150 feet and marked with purple blazes.
This short loop trail is adjacent to the park's Upper Shelter Picnic Area. The trail has two entrances; one is located directly across the road from the Upper Shelter parking lot entrance, and the other at the bottom of a set of steps near the playground area. The principal feature along this path is a great natural sandstone rock shelter called Longhunter Cave. While not actually a cave, the site likely served as a temporary dwelling for Longhunters passing through the region in the 1700s. Visitors will discover an unusual window like formation called a "lighthouse". An intermittent stream flows through it during periods of prolonged rain. A small, concealed arch called Bear Rock Arch may be found near the back of the shelter. Local folklore maintains that the area is so named because longhunters tossed ropes up through the opening and hoisted bears and other large game animals up for cleaning and skinning. Also of interest on this trail is a view of a unique vaulted arch roadway bridge constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. Elevation change of 60 feet and marked with dark green blazes.
This ravine forest trail passes among the hemlocks through thickets of rhododendron, and showcases several lovely large-leaved magnolia trees. At the lowest point of the trail, hikers encounter massive sandstone outcroppings that form an overhanging mass called Turtlehead Rock. Pressing on, a large surface area of exposed rock called a “bald” is encountered in the upper reaches of the trail after a brief climb. Balds are regarded as unique habitat occurrences of mountain terrain. Many interesting and unusual plants and animals are adapted to live in just such a place. Chief among them are lichens and lizards. In traversing this area, hikers move directly up the backslope of Pine Mountain and, while not visible, this tilted rock strata points directly at the mountain’s crest. The trail soon merges with Living Stairway Trail that conducts hikers back to the main park road only a few hundred feet above from the official trailhead. Elevation change of 300 feet and marked with white blazes.
Narrows Overlook Trail
A determined effort up a series of switchbacks will take hardy adventurers to an overlook at the top of this prominence called Poff Hill. Once there, hikers are rewarded with a view of the Narrows, the locale where the Cumberland River breaches Pine Mountain and the site where pioneers traveling on the Wilderness Road crossed the river on their way to the Bluegrass. The Narrows was a second necessary gateway through the mountains for the follower's of Boone. Also seen from the observation area are glimpses of the surrounding mountain terrain, and a view of the park's championship golf course, Wasioto Winds. The official trailhead and parking area for this trail are located on Harbell Road, situated between the park's two entrances on the opposite side of Highway 25E. This trail is not completely depicted on the map. Elevation change of 150 feet and marked with fluorescent orange blazes.
This path primarily explores an upland forest ridge typical of the Southern Appalachians. The route descends from a small picnic shelter and skirts a woodland pond. Beyond, hikers soon emerge onto the shoulder of the park roadway for a few hundred yards before reentering the forest. A short distance after re-entering the forest, hikers will encounter a fork in the path at the beginning of the loop portion of the trail. Hikers should bear right at this point and continue on to the top of the ridge. A steep, side spur path descends into Devil's Gulch and intersects the other side of the trail loop. If a less strenuous hike is preferred, then stay the course as the trail continues across the ridge and eventually merges for a short distance with Honeymoon Falls Trail. Hikers should bear left where the trails intersect. After some distance, the paths part again and hikers should again bear left to continue the trail. The loop portion of the trail closes at the trail fork encountered earlier. At that point, hikers should bear right and retrace their steps along the road shoulder, beside the pond, and on to the picnic shelter. Elevation change of 250 feet and marked with fluorescent pink blazes.