Highland Section - Pine Mountain Trail

 A panoramic view from Pine Mountain Trail

A panoramic view from Pine Mountain Trail

Overview. Pine Mountain Trail is an ideal place for anyone new to backpacking. It's a lightly traveled trail with outstanding shelters every 8 to 12 miles. It's also among the best places in Kentucky to warm-up for Appalachian Trail section hiking with plenty of elevation change to challenge your legs.

Beyond the backpacking experience, the trail offers a series of spectacular views thanks to rock outcroppings that are clear of trees. This is a ridge-top hike, so be sure to carry extra water during hot days. We hiked this during a heat advisory and were fortunate that Adena Spring was still flowing.

Route Type:  Point-to-point with shuttle
Total Distance:  17.5 miles
Overall Difficulty:  Moderate to Strenuous
Pine Mountain Trail - Highland Section Map
Pine Mountain Trail Conference

Trailhead. There are very few roads that cross Pine Mountain and US-23 is a big one. You'll find the trailhead located southwest of the Marathon gas station at Pound Gap. Please park away from regular customer parking in the out lots to the side and rear of the building. AND, checkout their pimento cheese sandwich - my favorite lunch when in the area.

Trail navigation. Of all the trails I've hiked in Kentucky, this is the best marked of them all. It's difficult to imagine getting lost on this trail because blazes are plentiful, directional blazes appear at intersections, and point of interest signs abound. Plus, the Pine Mountain Trail Conference provides an excellent map linked above. Once at the trailhead, follow along Pine Mountain's ridge line southwest until you reach the southern terminus.

CAUTION - CLIFFS. There are many cliffs along this trail and while they're not the shear drops that are commonly found in Red River Gorge, for example, they are just as dangerous. In particular, the rock outcroppings that provide spectacular views can be very slippery when wet. Take care with your steps and stay away from cliffs' edges.

CAUTION - BEARS. We came across five black bears while on this hike. Be sure to take all bear safety precautions to protect yourself and these beautiful animals. Shelters have bear poles for food storage - use them.

 Map of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 1 - US 23 to Adena Spring Shelter

Map of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 1 - US 23 to Adena Spring Shelter

 Elevation profile of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 1 - US 23 to Adena Spring Shelter

Elevation profile of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 1 - US 23 to Adena Spring Shelter

 Map of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 2 - Adena Spring Shelter to US 119.

Map of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 2 - Adena Spring Shelter to US 119.

 Elevation profile of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 2 - Adena Spring Shelter to US 119.

Elevation profile of Pine Mountain Trail - Highlands Section Day 2 - Adena Spring Shelter to US 119.

 Heading out to Pine Mountain Trail from the Marathon gas station at Pound Gap

Heading out to Pine Mountain Trail from the Marathon gas station at Pound Gap

 Bork signing in at Pound Gap on Pine Mountain Trail

Bork signing in at Pound Gap on Pine Mountain Trail

 Directional blazes on Pine Mountain Trail - this one says keep right

Directional blazes on Pine Mountain Trail - this one says keep right

 
 Three blazes mark the Pine Mountain Trail - old yellow blazes, new PMT blazes, and GET blazes

Three blazes mark the Pine Mountain Trail - old yellow blazes, new PMT blazes, and GET blazes

 
 A box turtle sunning on Pine Mountain Trail

A box turtle sunning on Pine Mountain Trail

 Adena Springs Shelter on Pine Mountain Trail

Adena Springs Shelter on Pine Mountain Trail

 Bork and Red Belly filtering water at Adena Springs on Pine Mountain Trail

Bork and Red Belly filtering water at Adena Springs on Pine Mountain Trail

 
 A common rat snake on Pine Mountain Trail

A common rat snake on Pine Mountain Trail

 
 
 Steel steps on Pine Mountain Trail

Steel steps on Pine Mountain Trail

 
 One of many slanted rock slabs along Pine Mountain Trail

One of many slanted rock slabs along Pine Mountain Trail

 A particularly slick rock outcropping - avoid crossing this during wet or snowy weather

A particularly slick rock outcropping - avoid crossing this during wet or snowy weather

 Eagle Arch on Pine Mountain Trail

Eagle Arch on Pine Mountain Trail

 Red Belly and Dave taking a break on Pine Mountain Trail

Red Belly and Dave taking a break on Pine Mountain Trail

 Unwinding at Flamingo Shelter after two days of extreme heat and humidity on Pine Mountain Trail

Unwinding at Flamingo Shelter after two days of extreme heat and humidity on Pine Mountain Trail

 Steps to trailhead parking at the junction of Pine Mountain Trail and Little Shepherd Trail - both of which are part of the Great Eastern Trail

Steps to trailhead parking at the junction of Pine Mountain Trail and Little Shepherd Trail - both of which are part of the Great Eastern Trail