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Saturday, December 4, 2021
Outdoors Hike of the Week: Dog Slaughter Falls

Hike of the Week: Dog Slaughter Falls

Distance: 2.4 miles Elevation Gain: 249 ft. Difficulty: Moderate Trailhead: Dog Slaughter Features: Waterfall Located just over a mile from the nearest trailhead, Dog Slaughter Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Daniel Boone National Forest. That’s actually a high honor, because there are a lot of waterfalls to choose from within […]

Dog Slaughter Falls, located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, is one of the finest waterfalls in southeastern Kentucky | Photo: Alexey Stoop

Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 249 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Dog Slaughter
Features: Waterfall

Located just over a mile from the nearest trailhead, Dog Slaughter Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

That’s actually a high honor, because there are a lot of waterfalls to choose from within the national forest. But it’s not an exaggerated honor. Dog Slaughter Falls is stunning, despite its morbid name.

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The fourth hike of the Twenty Week Hiking Challenge visits Dog Slaughter Falls, and the greatest thing about this hike is that — unlike some trails that offer a mundane hike to reach a picturesque feature at the end — getting to the waterfall is half the fun.

The trail to Dog Slaughter Falls travels along Dog Slaughter Creek, an absolutely stunning mountain stream that empties into the Cumberland River just beyond the waterfall. The hike is a gorgeous stroll through nature, the trail meandering through a hemlock and rhododendron forest for the entirety of its route.

No one is exactly sure how Dog Slaughter Falls got its name. One theory suggests that unwanted pets were once killed there. A less morbid legend says that hunting dogs were once slain by a beast unknown at this site — maybe a wolf, maybe a bear … some even say Bigfoot.

Regardless of how the waterfall got its name, the name belies the beauty of both the waterfall and the trail leading to it. With the stream flowing relatively gently through the hemlocks and rhododendron that shroud it, this hike is both peaceful and breathtaking.

Dog Slaughter Falls earns a moderate rating because the trail leads up some short inclines and over plenty of roots and boulders. Step for step, it’s the toughest hike of the hiking challenge thus far. However, its relatively short length — just 2.4 miles total — make it a trail that is suitable for most hikers, regardless of age or ability. Because the trail hugs the stream all the way in and out, there isn’t much elevation change, with the exception of a short scramble down to the falls at the end.

The trail isn’t blazed very well, but it’s well-maintained and easy to follow simply because it is so heavily-trafficked. Dog Slaughter Falls gets more visitors than just about any trail in the neighboring Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, particularly during this time of the year, which is peak waterfall season. Despite the amount of foot traffic on the trail, it is remarkably clean and free of trash.

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The drive to Dog Slaughter Falls is admittedly a bit of a trip; it’s a little under an hour from the Four Lane section of Alberta Street in Oneida. It’s the longest drive of the entire hiking challenge. But the trip along Ky. Hwy. 90 is a scenic one. And, as an added bonus, Cumberland Falls is nearby. Hikers will drive over the Cumberland River and past the “Niagara of the South” on the way in. Getting to stop and explore Cumberland Falls — whether it’s simply to take a picture of the roaring waterfall or spending some time on the easy hiking trails around it — is an added bonus for this week’s hike.

Getting There: From Oneida, take U.S. Hwy. 27 north into Kentucky and through Whitley City. At Wilborg, turn right onto Ky. Hwy. 1045 and continue 8.3 miles through the Beulah Heights community. At the intersection of Ky. 1045 and Ky. 90, turn right and travel Hwy. 90 another 8.3 miles across the Cumberland River to Forest Service Road 195. The trailhead is located approximately three miles along the two-lane, gravel road.

There are two important things to note: Neither the forest service road or the trailhead are signed. Pay close attention so that you don’t miss the turnoff, and that you don’t wind up at the wrong trailhead. You will want to plug the destination into your GPS or maps app on your mobile phone before you lose cellular service. (iPhone users beware: Asking Siri to lead you to Dog Slaughter Falls will take you to the wrong trailhead, which requires a longer hike to the waterfall.)

As you’re driving Ky. 90, the forest service road turns left (north) off the highway about 5.5 miles past Cumberland Falls. If you come to Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort, you’ve gone too far and need to backtrack.

Once you’ve turned onto the forest service road, there are actually two separate trailheads for Dog Slaughter Falls, as mentioned above. The first — the one Siri will attempt to lead you to — is located less than a mile off Hwy. 90, and the other (the right one) is located about three miles off the highway. It is easy enough to find because the forest service road dips down a hill and crosses a creek. The trail departs the road at the stream crossing. Parking is along either side of the roadway.

Fun Fact: The Dog Slaughter Falls Trail ties in to the Sheltowee Trace, the long-distance trail that eventually travels through much of the Big South Fork before ending at the Honey Creek Trailhead near Robbins. By making use of the Sheltowee Trace, you can actually hike to Dog Slaughter Falls from Cumberland Falls. In case you’re wondering, it would be a 6.3-mile out-and-back hike with 614 ft. of elevation gain.

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Make It Better: The directions for accessing the trailhead mentions that there are two separate trailheads for Dog Slaughter Falls — one is located less than a mile off the highway; the other about three miles off the highway. If you’re looking to cover more ground than just the 2.4 miles, you can stop at the first trailhead and begin your hike from there. The total distance is 6.5 miles with 453 ft. of elevation gain. The upper Dog Slaughter Falls trail is slightly more difficult than the lower trail, but there’s a bonus: It’s lightly trafficked, so you’re much less likely to meet hikers until you reach the intersection with the lower trail at Dog Slaughter Creek.

Look For: The Cumberland River is less than a quarter of a mile from Dog Slaughter Falls. If you want to see the river, it’ll add less than half a mile to your trip to hike down to the river and back again.

Be Careful For: An overlook of the waterfall just before the trail begins its descent to the base of the falls is not protected, and segments of the trail hug the edge of a bank above the stream, making for a long fall if you trip or stumble off the trail.

Share the Adventure: Tag your photos on Facebook and Instagram, #20WeekHikingChallenge, for an opportunity to win prizes (please be sure your post privacy is set to public in order to be eligible for a drawing; otherwise, we may not be able to see the pictures). 

Remember To: Please remember to take your trash with you when you leave the trail, and consider packing out anyone else’s trash you might come across. Remember the adventurer’s creed: “Leave only footprints; take only memories.”

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Independent Herald
Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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