Lick Creek Falls and Princess Falls

 Lick Creek Falls in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Lick Creek Falls in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Overview. This is among my favorite Spring hikes on a trail with plenty of water crossings, stunning rock shelters, and a pair of impressive waterfalls - Lick Creek and Princess Falls. I did this hike after seeing Dick Gap Falls and Big Spring Falls earlier in the day - making for a glorious day of waterfalls.

Route Type | Out and Back
Total Distance | 8 miles
Overall Difficulty | Easy to Moderate
Lick Creek and Lick Creek Falls Trail Map | USDA Forest Service

Trailhead. Parking for this hike is available at the Lick Creek Trailhead parking lot at the corner of Ranger Road and KY-1651. [map]

Trail navigation. Very soon after heading out from the trailhead, you'll see a fork in the road with no blazes to guide you. Stay to the right to continue on Lick Creek Trail with an easy descent for the first mile and a steeper descent for the second mile. Along the way, the trail includes a pair of metal staircases and a walk under one of my favorite rock shelters. When it's very rainy, you'll see a small waterfall from above.

Eventually, the trail will come alongside Lick Creek, and you'll continue to the intersection with Lick Creek Falls Trail at mile 2.2. From here, it's a half mile hike to Lick Creek Falls with about 100' of elevation gain. Take your time at the falls and enjoy the sights, sounds, and feel.

From the falls, retrace your steps until you reach the next trail intersection that offers an alternative route back to Lick Creek Trail. Make a sharp turn here toward Sheltowee Trace and walk another three-quarters of a mile to Princess Falls while crisscrossing Lick Creek a number of times along the way.

Note that you can cross above Princess Falls to get a better view from the other side, but the flat bedrock can be very slippery. It's safest to cross well above the falls and to have someone with you in case you fall.

After you've had your fill of Princess Falls, head back on Lick Creek Trail staying left (north) at all trail intersections to return to the trailhead.

GEAR TIP - Footwear. During rainy season or after a soaking rain, leave your hiking boots and waterproof hiking shoes at home in favor of quick-draining trail shoes. When Lick Creek is high, you will get wet. While you could take your boots or waterproof shoes off to cross, the creek crossings are frequent - making this a pain the butt. Also, if it's cold, wool socks are the way to go.

CAUTION - Bears. Black bears are growing in number throughout Daniel Boone National Forest. Be sure to follow bear safety precautions. [Be Bear Aware by US Forest Service]

CAUTION - Water crossings. While Lick Creek isn't the most imposing stream, it pays to take your time when making these crossings. Footing can be very slippery, and you may be better served walking on the flatter creek bed rather than submerged, uneven crossing rocks.

 Map of Lick Creek and Princess Falls hike

Map of Lick Creek and Princess Falls hike

 Elevation Profile of Lick Creek and Princess Falls hike

Elevation Profile of Lick Creek and Princess Falls hike

 Trail sign at Lick Creek trailhead

Trail sign at Lick Creek trailhead

 Looking up at one of the best rock shelters in Kentucky

Looking up at one of the best rock shelters in Kentucky

 
 A Springtime waterfall above Lick Creek Trail

A Springtime waterfall above Lick Creek Trail

 
 A small cascade above Lick Creek

A small cascade above Lick Creek

 Trail sign pointing to Lick Creek Falls Trail

Trail sign pointing to Lick Creek Falls Trail

 
 Lick Creek Falls

Lick Creek Falls

 
 Pool beneath Lick Creek Falls

Pool beneath Lick Creek Falls

 
 Rock face above Lick Creek Falls Trail

Rock face above Lick Creek Falls Trail

 
 Trail sign coming out of west side of Lick Creek Falls Trail - take a sharp left toward Sheltowee Trace to get to Princess Falls

Trail sign coming out of west side of Lick Creek Falls Trail - take a sharp left toward Sheltowee Trace to get to Princess Falls

 Princess Falls along Lick Creek Trail in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Princess Falls along Lick Creek Trail in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area