Climbing between deep hemlock gorges and piney, craggy summits, the Sheltowee Trace is a 319-mile National Recreation Trail (2015 alignment) that spans the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. The name "Sheltowee" honors the history of Daniel Boone, who was captured by Shawnee Indians while making salt in an area close to the present-day trail. Chief Blackfish, his adopted Shawnee father, renamed him Sheltowee, which meant "Big Turtle."
The Trace was started by a US Forest Service landscape architect Verne Orndorf in the mid-1970s (listen to a 2005 oral history). He envisioned the trail for foot travel only, gaining inspiration from local Sierra Club members who wanted a long-distance footpath in Kentucky. Today, the Trace has an active non-profit, the Sheltowe Trace Association (STA), that actively helps build new trail and maintain existing trail for the public good.
SheltoweeTrace.com was created in 2004 with the goal to help trail users find good information and maps and to promote the preservation of the trail as a long-distance path. With the evolution of the internet, the main attraction to this site, the forum, couldn't keep up with social media and has been archived. While currently registered forum users can post as normal, the forum will not accept new registrations unless you contact us direcly. Looking forward, this site will try to offer the best maps available for the Trace.
Note: The route is now (2020) officially 341 miles, and continues to expand. Earlier FKTs were done on shorter routes (307 miles in 2014, 319 miles in 2016, 323 miles in 2018, 333 miles in 2019). A planned future expansion will extend the trail to 354 miles.
I will be attempting to set the new mark starting Monday September 3 going unsupported. You can follow my progress via this spot link:
I will be attempting the self supported record going sobo starting on tuesday, you can follow my spot device here: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0gQKJCTYkHTJ3Qyae1aoWjqMqc2Czre6a This link should go active when I begin. Beyond that I will be documenting on instagram via @jupiterhikes and after write a trip report as well as upload any video I took during the attempt.
Also Rick's unsupported fkt from 2016 is really a self supported trip. In his trip report on facebook he mentions stopping at restaurants multiple times. It doesn't matter but I felt it was worth mentioning if this record becomes more popular in the future.
Nice man!!! Good Luck!
I failed my attempt, giving up about 5 days in after a run in with some nasty dogs that really messed with my already fragile mental state. After a couple half days to regain my stoke I wound up finishing in 11 days and 4 hours. I wrote this trip report in hopes of helping the next girl or guy who goes after the record. Including information from my hike, and about the trail from the perspective of someone traveling light and fast. http://jupiterhikes.com/2019/05/02/the-sheltowee-trace-recap/
Those dogs can be nasty man.
I just submitted files for the new self supported FKT for the Sheltowee Trace (new route 333 miles). 9 days, 6 hrs, 57 minutes.
Here are the five videos documenting my FKT on the Sheltowee Trace:
1. FKT announcement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmyNeXkyiPI&t=54s
2. FKT preview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55XuQODkIdo
3. FKT part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B1zaBYjQu0
4. FKT part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNzbarxlK-c
5. Things I learned and would do differently on my next FKT attempt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKm3G_cZ4Mg&t=23s
Hey friends I will be setting out for a self supported attempt on the Sheltowee Trace starting on Monday 9/7/2020.
I will update FB/Instagram as I can and provide a trip report afterwards. Message me if you would like the link to my inreach tracker.
Hello, I will attempt the self supported FKT on the Sheltowee Trace starting 10/31/20, or a fast thru-hike. I'll be SOBO and carrying a inreach tracker. I will post a report and pics if things go well.
Much respect to those who came before me...
Sandbag aka; Danny Bagwell
Anne that's great! I'm not the only insane one out there! Calm the dogs down for me. Good Luck, hope to see you out there!
Good luck to the both of you it's great how much love the Sheltowee is getting!
Thanks Richard !
Best of luck to both of you, I would enjoy following both of your attempts! I will be in the middle of an attempt myself on November 4 on the 85 mile Susquehannock Trail in Pennsylvania.
I couldn’t keep up with the mileage Richard laid down. I’m disappointed in the way my body reacted early on. I got off at London, having to be back at work on Monday. I think I will retire from FKT’s and just consult at this point... or just backpack! Good luck Anne!
Good effort Sandbag! I would love to talk to you about your attempt, what’s the best way to reach out?
Successfully finished my attempt on 11/9/20 in a time of 8 days, 9 hours, 47 mins. First female for this route! I will admit freely I was trying to beat John's time and just couldn't cut it with the 80 degree days towards the end. It was awesome seeing Sandbag in the middle. Sidenote: per latest 2020 OutrageGIS map I get a route length of 341 if doing Burnt Mill clockwise around to next intersection of Honey Creek Mill Road. Fun to think that the route will be up to 354 miles soon.
My name is Michael Stutzman and I plan to start tomorrow morning for a supported attempt going SOBO on the Sheltowee.
If my InReach mini works properly you can follow along at:
I will track with my watch and possibly Gaia if necessary, but I won’t have any live links to those.
I did set up a profile on Facebook as “Sheltowee Bound”. If you friend me and leave a message saying you found me on here I’ll try to add you as the week goes on (time allowing).
Thank you to John and Jason for spending some time talking with me over the past month. Much respect to those who have done this trail before me.
Peace to all!
Hey, thought I should let everyone know how my attempt shook out.
I decided to DNF my attempt after 322 official trail miles at the 6 day and 5 hour mark (very proud of the fact that I averaged over 50 miles per 24 hour period on trail). It may seem unfathomable that I would stop when so near the end and well within reach of lowering the supported time set by John. I’ll simply say that before I started my attempt I had given myself a few lines that I was not willing to cross in my attempt. When I made the decision to stop I felt that I had crossed one of them or was near crossing it and that fed into my decision.
Much respect to John and his time that still stands and a word of encouragement to those considering an attempt—go for it. John himself will say that his record leaves decent room to be lowered.
I’m not sure whether I’ll post an official account of my attempt or not. If anyone has questions for me, I’d be more than happy to speak with you as long as you’re patient with me.
My cell # is 330-231-6242. I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize, but if you text me and explain where you got my number, I’ll get back to you.
Go in peace.
Hello everyone, on Monday, September 13 I will begin a supported FKT attempt heading southbound. I will be recording gps data from multiple sources as well as posting updates in the facebook group Beth and the Big Turtle linked below. I have seen a lot of this beautiful trail, and am excited to do it all at once. A big thank you to everyone who makes this trail possible, and happy trails to everyone!
Hello everyone, on October 24th I set out to establish the first ever Unsupported FKT on the 343 mile Sheltowee Trace traveling Sobo with intentions of also setting the overall fastest time in the process. I did successfully complete the trail on October 31 fully unsupported in a time of 7 days, 16 hours and 46 min, and currently waiting verification. I tracked my progress with a Coros Apex watch, Gaia on my iphone and with a Garmin InReach mini.
I fell short of the overall fastest time by approximately 5 hours, however, the trail is over 20 miles longer currently than what it was when the fastest time was established. At the 323 mile mark, which is the length of the trail when the overall fastest time was set, I was approximately 5 hours ahead of the overall fastest known time, all while carrying a full pack that started at 39 lbs and ended at 21 lbs. I’m happy with my results but just a little frustrated that no matter how long this trail becomes in the future, soon to be 354 miles, every FKT participant is going to have to add on the extra mileage.
It is beautiful trail and rugged trail and much respect to all who have subjected themselves to a week of torture attempting to set an FKT on the Sheltowee!
Upon verification I will include a more detailed write up on my experience as well as a daily video log that I filmed for my YouTube channel.
I will be starting my third FKT on the Sheltowee November 10th at 4am heading SOBO. This time around I will be going supported with intentions of going sub 6 days and getting the overall. My goal is to have held an FKT in all three catagories on this trail. I will post my trip report and YouTube videos here upon completion if successful.
DNF on my third attempt of the Sheltowee Trace. Started strong with a 65 mile day and perfect weather conditions but on day 2 a weather front moved in from hurricane Nicole bringing several inches of rain making the trail conditions absolutely misserable. I was still able to muster a 47 mile day but this was about 15 miles off from where I wanted to be and with numerous water crossings coming on day 3-5 and plummeting temps I decided to call it rather than risk our safety.
I’ll be trying for the supported FKT going northbound starting this afternoon from Burnt Mill Bridge. Trail distance 343 miles.
Sorry, meant to include that I’ll be tracking my progress with just my Garmin watch and uploading to Strava. I’ll also take pictures along the way.
Well that was fun. I ended my attempt three days in. Big hats off to anyone who can pull consistent 40+ mile days on this trail. In very good conditions I can manage mid-high 30's but not mid 40's and still enjoy it. A few takeaways from my 110 mile effort:
-This is a wet trail, even in a dry season. The forest was incredibly dry this spring but the streams were still flowing and the trail has many numerous wet water crossings - there's no way to avoid wet feet so plan for that. At one point, a full mile of trail is directly in a stream taking you towards a waterfall. The good news is that you'll have lots of water to drink. After losing my bite valve on day 2, I only had two half liter flasks. This was perfect for this trail. One was a Katydyn flask with filter. The other without a filter I used to mix Hammer powder with water during the day.
-Leaves are an issue. I thought that since it was spring all of last season's fallen leaves would have decomposed through the winter and spring but most of the time I was in ankle deep leaves. It's fun percussion, but root and rock bombs lurk in there. I never saw any snakes in this season though, fortunately.
-There's no one out there. In 3.5 days I only saw one family on an afternoon hike and one other small group on an overnight. It's great for solitude.
-Cell coverage is good. Most everywhere I was able to get a cell signal when needed.
-Infrastructure is hobbled. Due to recent major storms, many footbridges are washed away, damaged, or partially repaired. I know there is a small dedicated group of volunteers with a limited budget to maintain this trail but they have their work cut out for them after the storms of the past year. Use care when crossing damaged structures. Several places also have caution tape stretched across the trail, without info of what that means. Sometimes it means the footbridge is gone, other times, it isn't clear why caution tape was there.
-Signage is mostly for southbounders. For anyone going northbound, be aware that the trail appears to have been mostly marked for southbounders, particularly at junctions. At most trail junctions, there was a trail marker indicating the way for southbound hikers only. If traveling north, there often was not a marker showing which way to go at a junction. This caused me to make several wrong turns - some of which were my own fault. At junctions be vigilant with checking your maps. The Far Out app works great and seemed to be almost always accurate, even in areas without cell signal.
-Resupply points are limited. Unless being met by a crew, or if you can pull 40-50 mile days, plan to need to carry 2-3 days worth of food at a time. I thought I could just carry snacks and 2 dinners at a time. I ran out of food by Blue Heron (which is not a bird sanctuary). The map shows there are concessions there but only between Labor Day and Memorial Day. It was closed when I got there. But the free wifi by the closed cafe works in the off-season!
Thanks to all who built this trail and those who continue to work to maintain it - it's a gem and I hope more get to experience it. I'd love to return more properly prepared and do it again sometime.