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shakertown hiking
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Shakertown ("Pleasant Hill") is famous all over Kentucky and the Ohio Valley as the finest example of Shaker architecture in the world. It is a perfectly preserved 34 building utopian community. People go there to admire the craftmanship, simple lifestyle, environmentally sound farms, handmade arts and crafts, music, and the feel of an early 1800s village. Shakertown is located high on a plateau over the Kentucky River and its property extends out across the plateau and all the way down to water's edge, where of course they had passenger and freight docks. The village includes one of the state's great restaurants and a fine inn with overnight accommodations. Year round there are special events, guest speakers, and other attractions. What no one ever talks about is the Shaker backcountry. The vast property includes streams, waterfalls, cliffs, springs, ponds bottomland Sycamore forests and the Kentucky River Palisades. Winding through these forests plus the meadows and fencerows is a trail system of more than 40 miles. Some of them wind along mostly level or gently rolling land, but some dive into more challenging areas and one descends 400 feet into the Kentucky River Gorge.

shakertown hiking
Quail Hollow Tunnel We have problems with Quail Hollow Trail which cause us to recommend against it unless you just want the exercise or have hiked all the others and want to complete the whole network. The trail meanders for about a mile through Sycamore bottomland, crosses through a tunnel under Route 68, then follows the fence lines for five miles around the easternmost part of the Shaker property. The tunnel shown at left is our first problem. You have to wade Quail Creek, which in dry spells extends from one wall to the other and is 2-3 inches deep all the way across. Throughout the Spring and after rains all year it ranges from impassable to dangerous. If the trail were spectacular the tunnel might be worth it. But there's not much over there. Our second problem is the trail is heavily used by horses, so you're dodging droppings and badly churned stream crossings. Our third problem is that since you're hiking along the boundaries, you're passing churches, playgrounds, roads, houses and other signs of civilization. At one point you're hiking right along Route 68. Certainly, you're almost guaranteed to see Quail, Deer, Rabbit and Coyote. But whoever designed the trail knows little about hiking. The trail east of the tunnel skirts the forest all along but never actually goes into it. It parallels Quail Creek and its tributaries partway up the hill but only drops down to it occasionally to cross and climb the other hill.
The Heritage Trail is not as long but is much nicer. This photo, taken in mid November, shows it winding through the young forest. The trail follows Lower Quail Creek from The Wooden Bridge to The Concrete Bridge, in woods all the way, then changes name and becomes Towering Sycamore Trail, still following the creek as the trees become much larger. In May and October this is a beautiful hike. You're very likely to see Deer and a host of birds. In April and May you'll also see many kinds of wildflowers and all year you'll see stands of Cane. Near the trailhead are the Bird Blind (below left) and Observation Deck. The Bird Blind allows you to sit inside in comfortable chairs and look through one way glass at several feeding stations. You'll see Chickadees, Blue Jays, Cardinals, White Breasted Nuthatches, Warblers, Woodpeckers, Tanagers, Orioles and Buntings. From the Observation Deck you can look down into the ravine and see Deer, Raccoon, Woodcocks, Sandhill Cranes, Fox and other wildlife. Shakertown Heritage Trail
Shakertown Bird Blind Shakertown Observation Deck
The Shawnee Run Trail may be the best all round hiking experience at Shakertown. It's a six mile loop of moderate difficulty. You'll climb and drop along pastures and cultivated fields, walk past historic buildings, see great panoramic views of the Kentucky River Palisades, and pass a beautiful waterfall. There are three picnic tables spaced out along the trail where you can stop for breaks. You can stop at the Old Fulling Mill, see a five acre stand of Native Cane, and scare up lots of wildlife. You'll be hiking along Shawnee Run Creek on the way out, under towering Chinquapin Oaks. Shawnee Run Trail begins at Trailhead #2, which is at the Stable, where equestrians can board their horses or park horse trailers. This does mean you'll be joined on the trail by riders, but we still like this trail. We really recommend adding the one mile round trip Chinn Poe Trail, a spur going down past the old Calcite Mines. With the spur and Chinn Poe your total mileage will be eight miles. You park at Trailhead #2 and hike out a connector trail to hit Shawnee Run. Shakertown Shawnee Run Trail
shakertown hiking


The Tanyard Loop begins and ends at Trailhead #3. It's six miles through field and meadows, along stone walls, past the brick ovens and leather tanning yard. There's a picnic table at the lunch stop. Beautiful in May and October. Hot in Summer. Popular with horse riders but they don't detract from the hiking experience. The outer part of the Tanyard Trail swings in along Shawnee Run and the edge of the Chinquapin Oak Forest. A picnic table is located at the three mile mark at the edge of the forest.


5. River Road follows the old Shaker roadbed as it descends 400 feet to Shaker Landing on the Kentucky River. At the bottom you should take the Palisades Trail along the river, where you'll see High Bridge, a waterfall, restored stables and Shaker building foundations. Your mileage including the walk through the village to the road will be five miles. The Dixie Bell river boat departs hourly from Shaker Landing. You can also rent canoes and kayaks or bring your own and put in at The Landing. Hiking down, riding the boat and hiking back up makes a nice afternoon.

shakertown hiking
Shakertown ruins Every building in the village and within about a mile radius has been preserved or meticulously restored. But as you go further out toward the perimeter of the plantation, there are many ruins which were allowed to deteriorate and have not yet been restored. Several of these, like the one at left, were grist mills and linseed oil mills.

To reach Shakertown from Lexington follow Harrodsburg Road south out of town. It becomes US 68 West. Drive 25 miles. It will take longer than you think, because you have to wind down into the Kentucky River Gorge and then climb back up and it's a narrow two lane road. But the Shaker Village entrance is on the right. As you pass the check in station, turn left for Trailheads #1 and #2, right for Trailhead #3. There are parking lots adjacent to the trail heads.

There are shorter hiking trails and connector spurs. In all, you could probably spend three days here hiking all the trails.

And there's more here than hiking. Horseback riding, mountain biking, carriage riding, fishing, bird watching and browsing in the Shaker stores can make for a whole weekend. There's no camping. The Inn at Shaker Village contains 70 rooms for overnight stays. The Trustees Office Dining Room is one of Kentucky's finest restaurants.

shakertown hiking
Shakertown carriage If you're coming to Shakertown for the first time, you really need to spend the $15 and take the historic tour of the village. There is much to see and learn here. The meticulous attention to detail the Shakers applied to every aspect of their lives is still worth studying. Their farming methods were cutting edge way back in 1805 and for over 100 years they continued to evolve and perfect them. They practiced Sustainable Agriculture before anyone else in Kentucky had ever heard of it.
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