Western Traveler

McCoy Hollow Trail-Three Springs Spur, Kentucky

Returning from an autumn trip to Utah I found that I still had the hiking “bug” and needed to get out for more trail time. I decided to avail myself of the opportunity to hike one of my favorite short trails at Mammoth Cave National Park, the Three Springs spur on the McCoy Hollow Trail. The end of the spur is a beautiful backcountry campsite, perfect for anyone wanting to settle in for a night of peace and quiet.

The weather was amazing for November, temperatures in the low 70’s with gusty winds and puffy cumulus clouds racing across a brilliant blue sky. The fall colors were at “peak”, making for perfect hiking and photography conditions. The drive to the trail was fantastic with leaves blowing across the roadway in waves of purple, red and yellow.

The trailhead is located off the Houchins Ferry road on the north side of the Green River, east of the Temple Hill Cemetery. This is one of the most scenic drives in Mammoth Cave National Park, well worth the trip by itself. The road can be accessed from the south by crossing the ferry in Brownsville. BE ADVISED, the ferry is closed during the winter months due to low traffic flow. If you’re visiting the park at that time of the year, you’ll need to either cross the Green River Ferry near the Visitor Center, or drive around to the north side, which is an adventure unto itself. Minimum drive-time from the Visitor Center to the trailhead is roughly 30 minutes, plan accordingly.

Once you’ve parked at the trailhead, prepare yourself for great fun. The trail meanders through a dense forest of: oak, maple, cedar, poplar, beech and pine. The variety of other plants is much too numerous to mention, though I was surprised to find Mountain Laurel along the trail, something I’d never seen in 20+ years of hiking at Mammoth Cave.

The trail winds under massive bluffs of Big Clifty sandstone along a terrace above the Green River. When you get near the campsite, you’ll cross a stream branch which exits from a small cave in the Girkin Limestone, near the trail.

Even though your total hike to and from the backcountry campsite is only 2.4 miles, you’ll find the rocky and uneven trail conditions somewhat challenging. This is one trail where you really need to watch where you put your feet. One of the nice things about this hike is how different it looks from season to season.

If you plan to frequent Mammoth Cave, I suggest you pick up a copy of “Guide to the Surface Trails of Mammoth Cave National Park” by Stanley Sides. I have found this particular book to be the best available on the trail system in the park. Each trail description does come with a decent map, but I still suggest you pick up a copy of the Trails Illustrated park map. With both of these in hand, you’ll be ready to hit the trail. Both publications can be purchased at the Eastern National book sales area at the park’s visitor center.

Last modified on: June 15th 2013.
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