Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,362.00 ft (1,024.74 m)
Trail type
59.00 mi (94.95 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

For 59 miles, the North-South National Scenic Trail winds up and down wooded hollows as you make your way along the length of Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. A National Recreational Trail, the North-South has a great mix of coastal views of Kentucky Lake (one of the largest artificial lakes east of the Mississippi River). This is a great introductory trail to overnight backpacking or getting in shape for a bigger trail in the future, with highlights including old pre-dam-era cemeteries, remnants of large communities that once called this area home, beautiful lake campsites and views, and springs with well-fed creeks. Bring a fishing pole with you.

The trail is well blazed with white markers. Potable water sources are almost nonexistent, so reliable filtration systems are a must on this trail. A few road walks are also needed, which follow barely used forestry roads.

Starting from the north, pick up a backpacker's permit at the Welcome Station. You can leave your car here and begin the trail at the southeast corner of the parking lot. The trail eases down to Nickell Cove and on to a section that runs along the main channel of the lake. Continuing south and away from the lake, you will turn toward Brown Spring and a couple miles of up and down through wooded areas. Most climbs are gentle and ascend rolling hills, but it can add up over the course of the day for those with poor conditioning. Camp at or near Pisgah Bay, or continue another 2 miles and find a wooded bridge over a creek to camp.

Beyond Pisgah Bay is a mixture of woodland hills, springs, water crossings (all walkable with waterproof boots), and lakeshore views. This section is very remote with very few facilities. The trail leaves Kentucky Lake for several miles and follows near the Woodland Trace Road or the major highway through the recreational area. You will pop out of the forest near the Elk and Bison Prarie, and hopefully you will see two of our nation's largest mammals. Also nearby is the Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium. The south section of the trail follows a ridge in the wooded hills another 28 miles to the South Welcome Center. Be careful on this stretch as it has much lighter usage and is not nearly as well marked.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round





Creeks. Vistas. Backpacking. Wildlife. Well blazed. Historical areas.


Rough trail in areas due to recent flooding. Venomous snakes. Tick and mosquitos in spring and summer.

Trailhead Elevation

450.00 ft (137.16 m)

Highest point

688.00 ft (209.70 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Old-growth forest
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Bird watching
Horseback riding

Typically multi-day


Suitable for


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site



Nearby Adventures

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail


Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.