Gladie Creek Loop - Bison Way, Lost Branch, Osborne Bend, Tower Rock, and Waterfall

Spring greens on Sheltowee Trace in Red River Gorge

Spring greens on Sheltowee Trace in Red River Gorge

Overview. This is a fantastic hike for anyone who LOVES hiking! The Gladie Creek Loop starts deep in the gorge and climbs out on Lost Branch Trail. You'll enjoy a long walk in the forest, two good-sized water crossings at Salt Fork and Gladie Creek, feel rocky terrain similar to the Appalachian Trail, see two waterfalls, and likely see climbers making their way up Tower Rock.

Route Type:  Loop
Total Distance:  10 miles
Overall Difficulty:  Moderate
USDA Forest Service Trail Map
USDA Forest Service Trail Map of Red River Gorge Area

Trailhead. The best starting point for this hike is at the Bison Way Trailhead located on the north side of KY-715 [map]. This is a small and very popular parking area - overflow parking is available just east at Gladie Creek Visitor's Center.

Trail navigation. Head north on Bison Way Trail until it intersects with Sheltowee Trace about 6/10th of a mile in. At the junction, turn right (east) and continue on Sheltowee Trace marked with both white diamond and turtle (sheltowee) blazes. About 3 miles into the hike, you'll come up to and cross Salt Fork - departing Sheltowee Trace and starting Lost Branch Trail by continuing straight (east). Another 4/10th of a mile later, you'll cross Gladie Creek and begin the ascent out of the gorge. At mile 5, you'll intersect with Osborne Bend that is a great place to stop for a snack. Turn right (south) and follow Osborne Bend until approximately mile 7 where you'll hear a waterfall on your right. You can scramble down to get a better view of the waterfall that is best seen during the wet season or after a heavy rain. Scramble back up and finish Osborne Bend at KY-715. Head west (turn right) and keep a lookout on the right for Tower Rock Trail that is easily missed at mile 8. Hike up to this geological oddity (a rock in the middle of the gorge that rises 200') and watch climbers do their thing. Continue back down to KY-715 and look to the right near mile 9.25. There is a waterfall with a couple parking spots in front of it. Walk down to view them and continue back on KY-715 to the Bison Way Trailhead to finish the hike.

CAUTION - WATER CROSSINGS. Most water crossings are small and easy in Red River Gorge. The crossings on this hike - especially Gladie Creek - can be dangerous in high water. As a rule, if it's greater than knee deep with a swift current, turn back. [tips]

Map of Gladie Creek Loop - Bison Way, Sheltowee Trace, Lost Branch, Osborne Bend, Tower Rock

Map of Gladie Creek Loop - Bison Way, Sheltowee Trace, Lost Branch, Osborne Bend, Tower Rock

Elevation Profile of Gladie Creek Loop - Bison Way, Sheltowee Trace, Lost Branch, Osborne Bend, Tower Rock

Elevation Profile of Gladie Creek Loop - Bison Way, Sheltowee Trace, Lost Branch, Osborne Bend, Tower Rock

Bison Way Trailhead parking sign

Bison Way Trailhead parking sign

Bison Way Trail sign

Bison Way Trail sign

Sign at the junction of Bison Way Trail and Sheltowee Trace - turn left for Indian Staircase or right for Gladie Creek Loop

Sign at the junction of Bison Way Trail and Sheltowee Trace - turn left for Indian Staircase or right for Gladie Creek Loop

 
Sheltowee Trace and Daniel Boone National Forest trail blazes

Sheltowee Trace and Daniel Boone National Forest trail blazes

 
A break in the forest canopy on Sheltowee Trace

A break in the forest canopy on Sheltowee Trace

Sign for Lost Branch Trail at junction with Sheltowee Trace

Sign for Lost Branch Trail at junction with Sheltowee Trace

Nearly knee high water crossing at Gladie Creek on Lost Branch Trail

Nearly knee high water crossing at Gladie Creek on Lost Branch Trail

Looking up Gladie Creek at Lost Branch Trail 

Looking up Gladie Creek at Lost Branch Trail 

 
A rocky uphill section on Lost Branch Trail - this is closer to terrain more commonly found on the Appalachian Trail

A rocky uphill section on Lost Branch Trail - this is closer to terrain more commonly found on the Appalachian Trail

 
Sign at junction of Osborne Bend Trail and Lost Branch Trail

Sign at junction of Osborne Bend Trail and Lost Branch Trail

 
Waterfall off Osborne Bend Trail - best viewed during the wet months

Waterfall off Osborne Bend Trail - best viewed during the wet months

 
Sign for Tower Rock Trail

Sign for Tower Rock Trail

 
A tight squeeze on Tower Rock Trail

A tight squeeze on Tower Rock Trail

 
Looking up Tower Rock where climbers frequently gather

Looking up Tower Rock where climbers frequently gather

 
Waterfall just off KY-715

Waterfall just off KY-715

 
 
There are a couple routes to the top of the waterfall to the left of this view, but take care not to get too close to the edge of the waterfall

There are a couple routes to the top of the waterfall to the left of this view, but take care not to get too close to the edge of the waterfall