Alcorn Branch Falls

By Jeremy Patton

Alcorn Branch Falls is located near the community of Arvel in Jackson County, Kentucky.

Alcorn Branch Falls 4/6/17

From Hal Rogers Parkway in London (formerly Daniel Boone Parkway, thanks to a humble politician), turn north onto KY-30. Turn left onto US-421 in Tyner. Turn right onto KY-1071. Continue straight onto KY-3445. Continue straight onto KY-587. Turn left onto KY-1209. Watch for a faded sign for Sheltowee Trace on your left.

Intersection of KY-527 and KY-1209 in Arvel on 4/6/17

Sheltowee Trace trailhead across from Arvel Post Office Road, 4/6/17

Arvel Post Office Road is located across from the Sheltowee Trace trailhead. On 4/6/17, I suspected that the post office was no longer in use, but might be a good place to park. Instead, it appeared to a be a private residence. I did not see anyone outside on that dreary day, so I decided to look for parking elsewhere.

I found Forest Service Road 3175 about half a mile east on KY-587. I parked near the gate then walked back to the Sheltowee Trace trailhead. It was out of the way, but I felt reasonably comfortable leaving my car there.

FR 3175

Sheltowee Trace meandered west on a dirt road then passed some abandoned farmhouses and a broken monument:

Embry Curry
1929 – 2008
“Listen up!”

Trail Boss Sheltowee Ride 25 Years
Avid Horseman and Outdoorsman
Korean War Veteran
Richmond Masonic Lodge #25 F & AM
Madison County Coroner

A Real “Character” Who Never Met a Stranger


The Trace is flanked by private property for at least the first quarter-mile. Bear left at FR-3022 (gravel), walk briefly then turn right into the woods at the vandalized signs.


Sheltowee Trace parallels a deepening ravine, joins Alcorn Branch then Alcorn Branch Falls. The trail skirts a bowl-shaped basin where it is possible to reach the base of the 30-foot waterfall. However, it is safer to hike further down-trail, desend into the ravine then walk back upstream.

The entire journey from trailhead to waterfall is less than a mile, one-way. It is an easy hike.

A smaller stream crosses the Trace then leaps into the same basin as Alcorn Branch Falls: Alcorn Tributary Falls #1.

Two falls in the basin

Alcorn Tributary Falls #1

I timed the trip perfectly because the falls were flowing well; they probably dry up without recent precipitation. The rockhouses provided ample room to pass behind the falls and enjoy their cool spray. It was a long drive to Arvel from London, but worth it.

Quadruple Tree of Alcorn Branch Falls

Continuing west on the Trace, I noticed an outcrop just off-trail with muck-water standing below it. Numerous rusty barrels were scattered about with a posted sign that said “Water Not Safe For Drinking Without Treatment.” Perplexed, I later surmised that the spot must have been an elaborate gag set up by the Forest Service.

Toxic dump

Not far beyond the dump, the sound of crashing water led me up a short ravine to Alcorn Tributary Falls #2. It was stronger than the first and had its own rockhouse. Like the previous falls, I am sure that it dries up regularly.

Alcorn Tributary Falls #2

I proceeded along Sheltowee Trace to Alcorn Branch’s confluence with War Fork then continued for about a mile. The mountains soared over War Fork; a few clearings provided views of the rocky bluffs pinching the powerful waterway. They looked more intriguing than the sights on the ridge, so an off-trail excursion might happen next winter.

Some folks might deem Alcorn Branch Falls unworthy of a long drive. I found it lovely, but I also liked the surrounding area, which clearly did not receive much traffic. Surprisingly, the Trace was in relatively good condition.

I look forward to returning, even if I have to walk an extra mile out of my way for parking.

Added 4/10/17