Hiking Trails, Dawson Springs, Ky.

Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park Trail System

Trail Update 03/13/2014
All Trails Cleared, The Pennyrile Nature Trail is now open and may be shared by Mountain Bikers


Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park and the surrounding Pennyrile State Forest near Dawson Springs in Western Kentucky  offer over 23-miles of hiking opportunities. In addition, mountain biking routes have been established in the State Forest ranging from 2-19 miles in length and various levels of difficulty.  For more information, pick up a mountain biking guide book at the front desk of the lodge.

Print trail maps from the second attachment at the bottom of the page


Trail Length: 1.8 miles; Trail Rating: Difficult.


The Lake Trail is the most popular of Pennyrile's Trails. The trailhead descends from the lower parking area of the lodge lobby and skirts the water's edge to the beach and boat dock facilities. The trail makes a demanding ascent up hand-laid, stone steps to a secondary bluff line where the trail moderates in terrain. Impressive boulders cast down through geologic time are strewn along the lake's edge in this area. The trail descends to lake level and follows the shoreline to a remote shelter at the intersection of the Lake and Pennyroyal Trails. Immediately past the shelter, hikers will encounter a forestry access road (closed to the public). After walking a short distance along this old gravel road, the trail continues. A pumphouse is on the left side of the trail. Shortly after crossing a low wooden bridge, hikers bear right to the lake's edge. The Cane Trail intersects with the Lake Trail immediately prior to crossing a small creek. The trail winds to a ridgeline that leads to the trail outlet at the end of Cottage Road. Hikers must then walk the Cottage Road to Pennyrile Dam, and climb the hand-hewn steps, and return at the lodge pool and play area.


Trail Length: 1.3 miles; Trail Rating: Moderately Strenuous.

The trail is so named for the patches of wild cane that occur at streamside in its lower reaches. From the end of Cottage Loop, the trail makes a moderately steep ascent to an upland forest ridge and passes through a mixed hardwood section of the forest. After winding along the ridgetop for a short distance, the trail descends to lower elevations through a stand of loblolly pines. These trees are not native to Kentucky, but are part of a reforestation effort. The gentle decline eventually leads to lake level and meanders along a woodland creek until it intersects with the Lake Trail. Hikers should bear left at this merging to return to the Cottage Loop trailhead.


Trail Length: 1.4 miles; Trail Rating: Moderately Strenuous.

Pennyroyal Trail is often missed by many hikers because of its remote trailhead. The trail was named for the abundant occurance of a wild mint, the American Pennyroyal, for which the park is also named. Unfortunately, the plant is becoming increasingly rare.After crossing a portion of the Lake Trail from the beach/boat dock area, the trailhead of Pennyroyal Trail is found after climbing sandstone steps to a secondary bluffline overlooking the beach. Hikers pass a wooden shelter and it is at this point that they must bear right and move upstream into the deeper woodlands. As the trail meanders along the creek, the oak-hickory forest gives way to a mixed hardwood forest. Beautiful evergreen Christmas fern communities are scattered throughout this section. After cresting near the ridgetop, the trail quickly descends to intersect the Lake Trail at yet another remote wooden shelter. Hikers should bear right at this merging to return to the beach/boat dock area.


Trail Length: 0.25 mile; Trail Rating: Easy.

The trailhead is near the lodge parking area on the Cottage/Golf Course Road. A moderately steep climb at the beginning of the trail eventually levels off for comfortable walking. The trail is located in a section of native oak-hickory trees. Shortly after the trail levels-off, hikers pass the only natural arch within the park, appropriately called "Indian Window." Along this same section, the sandstone bluffs become apparent. Because of the tendency of sandstone to form shelters or "rockhouses," early Native Americans made use of them as seasonal dwellings. The trail passes through a natural shelter, the largest on the park, which was home to as many as 8-12 persons as recently as 300 years ago. It is at this point that the trail departs from the bluffline and descends to the valley floor, with the trail ending near the golf course entrance.



Trail Length: 0.1 mile; Trail Rating: Moderately Strenuous.

The trail is named for the first pioneer family to settle in this part of Western Kentucky. Their original homeplace was located in the head of the hollow adjacent to the beach. The trailhead begins in the campground picnic area. Hikers descend the steep grade of the sandstone bluff and to a series of steps constructed by the W.P.A. laborers in the 1930s. At the bottom of the trail, hikers can pick up the trailheads of either the Lake or Pennyroyal Trails in the beach vicinity.


Trail Length: 0.25 mile; Trail Rating: Easy.

The trailhead is across from the golf course entrance where shagbark hickory and tulip poplar trees tower overhead. The trail moves upstream through dense vegetation. Giant sycamore trees with trunk diameters ranging from 2–3 feet, abundant wildflowers in the spring and summer months, and a small waterfall are found along this trail. Common liverwort covers the moist sandstone rocks around the waterfall. A lush fern community is evident along the sandstone rock outcrop that skirts the path. Embedded in the masonry of Pennyrile Dam, hikers can see the mill stones that were used for many years in a mill that was located at the bottom of what is now Pennyrile Lake. The dam was constructed in 1937 by W.P.A. laborers who included the mill stones in the construction.After crossing the spillway bridge, the trail bears right and moves along the other side of Clifty Creek. A small rock shelter, formed by stream erosion, is found on the left side of the trail. The trail ascends to an outlet along Cottage Road. Hikers may bear right to return to the golf course entrance trailhead, or may bear left to cross Pennyrile Dam and ascend the steps to the lodge pool and play area.



Trail Length: 0.2 mile; Trail Rating: Easy.

This trail provides access to and from the lodge for campground guests. Campers have a safe and enjoyable trail to the lodge and can avoid walking the main road. The trailhead is across from the camp store and the outlet is near the park entrance. The trail follows an old roadbed.


Trail Length: 4.5 miles total; Trail Rating: Easy.

This trail was designed to be walked in a series of loops, to give hikers a choice of trail lengths, ranging from 1.4-miles to 4.5-miles. The trail is in the Pennyrile State Forest and passes through many pine stands maintained by forestry. The trailhead is located across from the Macedonia Cemetery.


Trail Length: 13.5 miles; Trail Rating: Moderately difficult.
Print Pennyrile Nature Trail Map from the first attachment at the bottom of the page

This trail stretches from Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park to the banks of the Tradewater River and Dawson Springs, KY. The trail begins in the middle of the Indian Bluff Trail and winds north along the top of several bluff lines with scenic overlooks. The trail can be hiked in sections by way of several parking areas accessed from KY 398 and KY 109. Obtain a trail brochure at the Lodge front desk.

Rebecca Clark,
Jan 10, 2009, 2:30 PM
Rebecca Clark,
Jan 10, 2009, 12:23 PM