Big Limestone Loop - Mountain Biking

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About

Summary

The Big Limestone Loop lies in the scenic Daniel Boone National Forest in southern Kentucky. It’s part of the rugged 292-mile-long Sheltowee trail, that runs north/south along narrow ridges and dips into lush gorges surrounded by towering cliffs.

Written by

Shaine Smith

Distance

16.0 miles

The Limestone Loop is just one section of the longer Sheltowee trail and in the Cave Run Lake trail system. Plenty of options for extending the mileage, check out the trails on the south side of the lake.

Destination Distance From Downtown

51.0 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

The length and the 1,800 feet of climbing makes this a solid intermediate ride, as do the roots and mud that seems to hang around, even after prolonged periods of no rain.

Time To Complete

2 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

Spring is nice with wildflowers blooming, summer shows off Kentucky’s impossibly lush, greenery, but can be hot and humid, get an early start. Fall brings cooler temps and kaleidoscopic foliage that has to be seen to be believed. Winters are hit and miss, it is possible to ride year-round, but be prepared for snow and ice.

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

The Big Limestone Loop lies within the Cave Run Lake recreational area, which itself lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Army Corps of Engineers built the lake in 1974 for three purposes: flood control, water supply for neighboring communities, and recreation. It’s now the fourth largest lake in Kentucky and sees over a half million visitors each year, bringing in over $12 million to the local economy.

Big Limestome is one section of the much-larger Sheltowee Trace, a 320-mile-long National Recreation Trail that spans the Daniel Boone National Forest. Of those those 320 miles, about 290 of them are open to mountain bikers. The name "Sheltowee" is the Shawnee name of Daniel Boone, who was captured by Shawnee Indians while making salt in the area. The word Sheltowee means "Big Turtle," hence the turtle on the trail’s blazes.

What Makes It Great

Riders get treated to a little bit of everything on the Big Limestone: a short bit of pavement, gravel roads, doubletrack forest roads and sweet, sweet singletrack. The main part of Big Limestone winds along the spine of narrow, wooded ridges, up and over three good climbs and descends into steep gaps and canyons with a couple of cool exposed sections along the way. Most of the ride is shaded, cloaked by Kentucky’s famously green, lush hardwood forests, but there are several clearings that afford lovely sweeping views of the city of Morehead and the idyllic Cave Run Lake below.

Sure, the riding is interesting and varied, but Mother Nature will not be outdone, the flora and fauna stand on their own as well. Spring and summer means mountain laurel and rhododendron are blooming, as are tons of wildflowers such as lady slippers, firepinks, cardinal flower, trillium and partridgeberry. And the English language lacks the ability to describe the pleasure of riding through the true majesty of the vibrant fall foliage.

The Daniel Boone National Forest also plays host to diverse wildlife; elk, deer, black bear, and even eastern cougars roam the forests, and peregrine falcons and eagles soar overhead.

Who is Going to Love It

Riders with a sense of adventure will love this trail, and indeed, the whole area. The entire Cave Run Lake recreational area is an outdoor lover’s oasis. There are over 115 miles of trails here, many of them open to biking. And of course, there’s the rest of the Sheltowee trail to explore.

This 8,270-acre lake plays host to a myriad of outdoor fun from hiking and camping to horseback riding and four-wheeling. The lake itself has kayaking, sailing, jet skiing, swimming and serious fishing. It’s known as the muskie fishing capital of the south. The largest muskie caught in Kentucky was pulled from here, a 47-pound whopper. Much of the camping is adjacent to the trails too. It’s so nice to simply unzip the tent, cook up breakfast, and jump on the bike, no loading the car or driving needed. It makes for a convenient trip, and there enough riding and other activities to do for days.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The best place to park is at the Cumberland Ranger Station on Cave Run Lake. From I-64, take the Morehead/KY 801 exit, exit 133. Where KY 801 intersects with US 60 at a 4-way stop, continue straight for 2.4 miles and turn right into the Cumberland station.

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Location

Big Limestone Loop

38.122707, -83.525731

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