, Illinois, indiana, kentucky, and tennessee

Pine Mountain Trail

About Pine Mountain Trail

The Pine Mountain Trail, can be accessed from several different points. This challenging trail follows the Kentucky/Virginia border, with many elevation changes. Some areas the trail is as steep as 30º. I will be describing only sections that I have hiked. 

The trail is divided into two sections. The Birch Knob Section from Breaks to US 23 (15 miles) and the Highland Section from US 23 to Ky 119 (14 miles), for a total of 29 miles.

Begin the Birch Knob section by accessing the Russell Fork Trailhead which begins at the end of Carson Island Road accessed off Route 80 near the Elkhorn City Hall.

Begin the Highland section by accessing the Birch Knob Trailhead

This discription starts at the railroad bridge. Note: This was written before the event on 9/11/01. Since then the bridge crossing is now considered trespassing and are subject to a fine. You will see the pull off after making a sharp left hand turn. The pull off is right above the railroad bridge at Potter Flats. A sign that says "River access picnic area .25 miles" is just past this pull off, so if you see that you have missed the pull off.


Birch Knob Section

Yellow trail blaze (2.7 miles partial hike) Difficult (full trail is 15 miles)

0.0 Begin by entering the trail at the end of the guard rail and descending down the hill to the railroad bridge.

0.26 Cross the railroad bridge and continue down the tracks.

0.76 Trail head on the right. The entrance to the trail is hard to spot so be looking for an old logging road with brayers growing over the entrance. If you come to the #3 mile marker on the tracks, you have gone to far.

0.8 Trail merge. Concrete foundation of old building is on your left. Continue to the left, a metal fence runs along your right.

0.89 Trail merge. Follow yellow trail marker to the right 100' to another trail merge, continue left.

0.95 Trail levels out.

1.03 Trail begins to ascend again.

1.05 To your right you can see the railroad bridge at potters flats, trail makes a sharp left turn following the contour of the mountain.

1.12 Trail merge, elevation 1,383', continue to the left.

1.18 Trail merge. Trail to the left leads to Chimney Rock. Continue to the right, you will eventually see a large boulder on the right and later an old rusted out car on the left

1.32 Trail levels out, on your right is a lookout that gives you an awesome view of the Russell Fork River and the bridge to Elkhorn City.

1.36 Trail merge. Continue to the right.

1.62 Trail begins to descend for a short time.

1.75 Trail crosses Power lines.

1.88 Trail turns left and begins to level off.

2.05 Trail descends past large rock through a grove of rhododendrons. A rock house is up to the left, large enough for one tent. At this point the trail can be easily lost. Look for the yellow blaze leading to your left.

2,15 After passing through the rhododendrons the trail switches back and forth a few times and then begins to ascend.

2.25 Trail merge. Trail to the left takes you down the mountain along an interesting set of rocks and merges with a logging road that if you turn left leads to some gas wells and to the right leads to Skeggs Gap. To the right above the Pine Mountain trail is a road that leads you to a great campsite with overlooks of Skeggs Gap and Pinnacle Rock.

2.28 Trail leaves logging road to the right and begins to descend at a steep angle.

2.37 Trail merge. Continue left.

2.70 Skeggs gap and Potter/Hall Cemetery. You can find water from a spring if you find the trail that leads to the left. This same trail merges with the spur trail from trail merge 2.25.

Highland Section

From Ky 119 to US 23 (14 miles) difficult

0.00 Park at parking lot. Cross road and climb steps to begin trail. Follow steep trail to access road. Sign post, Flamingo shelter ?, bad branch trail 8.5, High Rock 4.9, Mayking peak 5.9, Red Flock shelter 11.9, US 23 13.9

0.12 Access road, turn left, at split in the road continue left past radio tower. 

0.32 At intersection continue through gate with flamingo on it.

0.36 at intersection continue down and to the left following yellow blazes. There are many spur trails through here be sure to stay left.

0.40 Flamingo Shelter. Shelter is two tiered with room for 10-12. Picknic table under shelter with fire pit and food pole nearby.

0.46 from shelter trail descends with several switch backs passing a large rock before crossing a drainage and beginning to climb.

0.75 Signing box. Climb steps and continue along ridge into Bad Branch Nature preserve (Red markers). Trail begins to descend through some switch backs.

0.85 Eagle Arch. Trail begins to ascend moving up a rock escarpment covered with moss.

1.27 Climb up a rock, about 4' high continuing up before leveling off and then descending toward Lemon Squeeze.

2.34 Lemon Squeeze must remove pack or lift pack high enough to get through. From Lemon Squeeze trail descends before climbing steeply.

3.18 Merge with High Rock Loop Trail. Sigh post, parking area and Bad Branch Falls Right, High Rock left. Trail descends to Rand Gap

3.40 Arrive Rand Gap 1st Camp site under big rock.

3.62 Trail descends past camp through rocks.. Water in stream next to trail. Continue left up logging road a short distance before Pine Mountain trail turns left away from road climbing a steeply up a rock escarpment. High Rock Loop continues straight.

4.12 High Rock(2,950'). Nice vista of Pine Mountain valley.

4.37 Trail continues along Mar's Rock escarpment before descending a bit and intersecting with Loop Trail. Continue left moving along the ridge before entering a stand of Rhodadendrums.

4.97 Skirt past rock face climb to 3000'. Drop down a bit and then follow ridge climbing at a steady pace.

5.60 Logging road. continue right. After a short distance follow the trail up and across the rock face. The trail moves between the vegetation and the lower part of the rock surface.

5.82 Slip Rock(3175'). Continue across the lower part of the rock surface. just past Slip Rock is a ladder on your left that leads to a campsite below the rocks. Sign post Lost Jones Gap.

6.26 Scramble up rock face. Would be difficult with packs going the other direction. At top proceed left pass radio tower at Mayking knob (3248'). Trail continues along the ridge.

7.02 Stateline Knob. Beautiful view of about 300° around at this point. Trail begins to descend and continues to move up and down before reaching a water source.

7.67 Drainage with water. Search below the trail for water access. Trail continues up to Adena Springs Shelter

7.80 Adena Springs shelter. Shelter is two tiered with room for 10-12. Picknic table under shelter with fire pit and food pole nearby.

8.10 From shelter continue up on Green Blaze to logging road. Turn left. Pass another logging road, continue left following gas line.

8.55 Road turns sharp right and begins to ascend with a couple of switch backs.

9.90 Sign post Indian Grave Campsite. Indicates water and campsite, but it was not evident from trail. Continue as trail switches back and begins to descend. Trail is very narrow here.

10.53 Indian Grave Gap. trail begins 300' climb through Poplar Hollow, at logging road continue around to right of knob where it returns to logging road. 

11.14 At Gate leave logging road and continue to right. Trail continues right around knob and joins logging road. At logging road junction, sign post Rose Gap (2774') continue up and to right.

11.30 After topping out trail descends to Cold Springs Gap before ascending again.

12.52 Twin Cliffs overlook Trail head. It is a short easy 0.20 of a mile to the overlook. The overlook has some of the best vistas of this area.

12.90 Jack Sautter Campsite has 4 nice campsites right off the trail. After a few switch backs trail merges with logging road before it begins it's long descent.

14.23 Switch gate at Red Fox Trail, continue ahead as trail begins to climb towards Pound Gap.

14.53 Pound Gap sign in post.

14.71 Parking area. (park vehicles in south east parking area)

Kentucky Contacts

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
PO Box 1848
Middlesboro, KY 40965
(606) 248-2817

Breaks Interstate Park
PO Box 100
Breaks, VA 24607
(540) 865-4413


Getting There

You can gain access to the Birch Knob section of Pine Mountain Trail from its north end at Elkhorn City, at US 23 and south end at KY 119. 

Begin the Birch Knob section by parking at the Police Station (on the right) just before the bridge, or at a pull off just past the rail yard that you pass after crossing the Russell Fork River leaving Elkhorn City. 

Begin the Highland section by parking in the south east parking area of the local gas/food mart.

End the Highland section at the designated parking area at KY 119.

More Pine Mountain Links

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