Backpack the North - South National Scenic Trail



59 miles

Elevation Gain

3362 ft

Route Type


Added by Lucas Bremer

Experience the grand tour of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

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.

Read More

Know for

Mountain Biking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Swimming Hole



Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

9 total saves

Rate this Adventure

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

Nearby Adventures

Hike Hematite Lake

2.4 mi / 111 ft gain

Kayak Energy Lake

Photograph Elk and Bison Prairie at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

Visit the Kincaid Mounds State Historic Site

More Nearby Adventures