Pine Creek Gorge North – East Wall

By Jeremy Patton

2/3/17 – I arrived at Pine Creek Gorge North at about 9:30 a.m. then exited at 1:30 p.m. I could have stayed longer, but I made an appointment with an anonymous person from Craigslist inquiring about a car that I had for sale. At first, the guy said that he was sending his son to inspect it for a birthday present. Later, he changed his story…two men would meet me: Cesar Ramirez and Jesus Ramirez. I told him to inform the men not to be alarmed when we met; I would be dirty, wearing hiking gear and carrying a pistol on my hip. They never showed up.

I entered Pine Creek Gorge by descending from KY-80 via a drainage ditch, crossed Angel Hollow Branch then climbed up to the base of the cliffs. From the ditch, I found a faint trail that led to Angel Hollow Branch then terminated at the gas-line clearing. It was convenient because it circumvented most of the ankle-breaking rocks that filled the ditch. It is one of the few trails that I have found in the gorge.

Looking up the drainage ditch

A steel cable and rope were attached to trees on opposite sides of Angel Hollow Branch. I suspect that the Forest Service placed them there, but I have also found evidence of rock climbers who frequent the area. Their hardware can be seen attached to various rock faces.

Rope at the top, cable on the bottom

I followed the east wall, passing beneath bluffs visible from the highway. Looking up at them made me feel small. It was surreal to finally be near the cliffs that I wondered about as a child.


Looking back at KY-80 from the base of the bluffs on 2/3/17

I searched for waterfalls along the east wall. I found two before my turn-around point, indicated on the map below: Pine Creek Gorge Falls #1 and #2. It had not rained in a few weeks, so they were underwhelming. I plan to return after a storm to take photos worthy of my waterfalls page.

Waterfalls of Pine Creek Gorge as of 2/3/17. I cannot guarantee this map’s accuracy until I make more visits.

The second waterfall was intriguing. I counted six falls in the ravine, though I might have miscounted while battling rhododendron at every turn. The falls varied in height from several feet to perhaps 20 feet. Each boasted its own rock shelter with a slope leading up to the next tier.

One of the six drops of Pine Creek Gorge Falls #2 on 2/3/17

The bottom tier was the tallest, maybe 15-20 feet with a sizeable rock shelter. A second waterfall spewed through a crack in the roof, like a spring. This type of double waterfall was unique and I look forward to seeing it with more water.

I followed Pine Creek back to the KY-80. I was happy to view the bluffs from below and find new waterfalls, but vowed to return during wet-weather.

Must have been some strong wind 2/3/17

Pine Creek 2-3-17

A section of the east wall on 2/3/17


2/5/17 – I parked on the shoulder of KY-1956 then climbed down to Pine Creek, near its mouth and the northern terminus of the gorge.

Access was difficult, but far easier than from KY-80. The gorge was wider and flatter, like a valley. I also found a trail that paralleled Pine Creek for approximately half a mile. Rather than use the trail, I ascended to the base of the cliffs and followed the east wall south.

I soon arrived at a powerline clearing above me. This spot marked the farthest point north that I had examined the wall.

I rounded a corner then entered a ravine carved by Pine Creek Gorge Falls #4. Because it had not rained in weeks, its flow was weak, but I could tell that it would be impressive on a better-timed visit.

The next ravine to the south boasted the highest waterfall that I had found in Pine Creek Gorge, even exceeding Gas-Line Falls on the west wall. Like the previous waterfall, it was a strong trickle, but must be marvelous at flood stage.

Added 2/7/17 – Updated 4/7/17