By Jeremy Patton
Alcorn Branch Falls is located near the community of Arvel in Jackson County, Kentucky.
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.
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.
Sheltowee Trace meandered west on a dirt road then passed some abandoned farmhouses and a broken monument:
1929 – 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.