The design of the 1.6-mile Limestone Gorge Trail provides adventurous and fit hikers with the most rugged and difficult hike-only trail in The Parklands. This is not a genteel, city park trail as the Limestone Gorge feels like a section of the Appalachian Trail was magically relocated to Louisville.
Limestone’s difficulty rating is earned because of the steep grades encountered (some with steps), the numerous stream crossings, and short sight lines around bends. This is not a biking trail, nor is it a trail for someone with concerns about their health and physical fitness for hiking. When you hike this trail, I strongly advise you to wear sturdy hiking boots and if you have a trekking pole, bring it.
Beginning at an intersection with the Louisville Loop directly below the Limestone Gorge parking lot, you have a choice of heading right or left on the trail. Having walked both directions, I prefer to go to the left, moving clockwise around the trail. You will first be confronted with a series of rolling dips that pass through the deeply incised drainage channels – indicative of the karst formation underlying the trail. A number of these rolls require crossing of ephemeral streams, so be alert for your footing here.
After this section, you’ll come up on the first long sight line, a power line corridor. Looking north, the sweep of the Broad Run Valley will be visible. To your west will be seasonal views of the cliffs that define the course of Floyds Fork. Be on the lookout here for great horned owls.
Continuing northeast, you will descend into a side-slope area typified by paw paw groves, an oak and hickory climax forest, and more stream crossings. See if you can detect the difference in plants species on the northern facing slopes from those on the southern facing slopes.
At the bottom of the small valley, you’ll cross two major streams. The second stream crossing is the unnamed tributary that forms the Limestone Gorge itself. Take time at these crossings to look for fossils embedded in the rocks. This is a great place for your pooches to get some water, too, during most of the year. I recommend pausing here to simply look up. The forest setting here may, for a second, make you think you are in the Central Appalachians.
The trail will now climb up the Highland Crossing hillside toward your starting point. While climbing, you will cross an abandoned pathway that runs straight down the hill. We’ll be working on this rehab over the next coming years as part of our ongoing habitat improvement program. Please follow the blazes to stay on the new trail here and allow this old path to heal.
So, that’s a quick snapshot of the Limestone Gorge Hiking trail. This is a short, but rugged hike that will get your heart rate pumping much like a sprint. A payoff in terms of views, waterfalls, and wildlife is there for those willing to put on the boots and take a tough walk into the woods.
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