Maybe you are looking for a less challenging yet nature absorbing experience? Looking for something family and kid friendly that takes 1-2 hours, yet submerges you in beauty? We got it!
One of our favorite short trails in Carter County Kentucky is “The Box Canyon Trail” located on Carter Caves State Park property. It truly offers a wonderful experience in nature, giving you up close and personal encounters with limestone Cliffline, boulders, and yes, an actual Box Canyon! Many folks, even locals, have not ventured onto this trail yet and we scratch our heads with A “Why?” In this article we spotlight our favorite aspects of this trail.
Start your day hike adventure at the Cascade Cave parking area on Cascade Rd off of Rt 182 in Olive Hill. This is the same parking area used for the gorgeous Cascade Cave tour which we also highly recommend if you have never visited before.
If facing the gravel path you will walk off to the left and then take the next path on the left as well. You should encounter a sign that reads “Box Canyon Trail .75 Hilly”. Now you know you are on track. This is a short looped trail, and you have an option of taking it in either direction, our favorite though is straight instead of turning right (we come back that way).
You will feel “tucked in” with the trees towering on both sides of the path, and you will soon begin to ascend, crossing a few large root systems, and eventually very large boulders that make for a fabulous photo shoot! When you reach the top you will be facing a large rock grouping, and what looks to be the makings of an eventual natural bridge within a rock house. When you walk into the rock house and look up you should be able to see the thin opening separating the rocks and starting to create a “bridge”. If you venture in top of this rock house be careful, as leaves may cover openings that could be dangerous.
We always love standing in a cave or rock house and looking out into the forest... the darkness of the opening always outlines nature in divine lighting. There you will find the first of a few “fat man squeezes”. Adults and kids alike love to explore a squeeze! More great photo opportunities!
As you meander around the rock house, you will see what we call a “wall of faces”... the unique grooves carved out in the rock could give us an hour of entertainment just staring, and looking for how many faces we can see. Very fascinating!
As you move further along this trail you will find another exciting grouping of rocks and squeezes to explore. Kids love it! Eventually, you will find yourself at the back walk of the Box Canyon, and if it has rained recently, you may be lucky enough to see the waterfall cascading from above. A Box Canyon is basically a Canyon “boxed in” by rock walls on 3 sides. This is not the only Box Canyon in Carter County, others exist on private property which are amazing to see with permission.
You will cross over rocks and locate a railed footpath to begin your climb out and away from the canyon and waterfall area. This trail is accessible year round. It is considered moderate because of tricky footing in places and steep inclines. So many who have discovered this trail are pleasantly surprised. You can spend a perfect afternoon exploring this trail and taking a picnic.
The superb Staff at Carter Caves State Park can offer more detail on the geological formations here and the Box Canyon itself. Seek them out at the Welcome Center or Lodge. We have a nostalgic relationship with this park and the people who work here and run it. We are happy to help promote them and the adventures to be had there. Watch for more “trail spotlights” soon. If you have a particular trail you’d like to see us do a spotlight article on just let us know. We have visited every state park in Kentucky and we can still say that Carter Caves is our personal FAVORITE!
Grigsby Outdoor Adventures & Wellness
Until next time...