Key At-A-Glance Information
Length: 6 miles
Configuration: Series of loops
Scenery: Woods and valley vistas
Exposure: Shade and full sun
Trail Surface: Soil and mowed paths
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Driving Distance: 1 hour south of Cincinnati
Maps: USGS Carrolton; General Butler State Resort Park map
Wheelchair Accessible: No
Facilities: Water and restrooms at lodge
For More Information: General Butler State Resort Park, (800) 462-8853
Special Comments: The view of the Kentucky and Ohio rivers from the Stone Overlook is incredible, and the restaurant at the resort lodge is very good. Plus you can burn off dessert along the 6-mile hike's up-and-down hills.
The park was named as a tribute to General William Orlando Butler (1791–1880) and the military history of the Butler lineage. Like his family, General William Orlando Butler was a dedicated public servant who was well known and admired throughout the nation.
He began studying law and then served in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 against the British and Native Americans. His history includes being captured by Native Americans, imprisoned by the British at Fort Niagara, and serving as a congressman from 1839 to 1843. In 1844, he received the unanimous nomination from the Democratic Party for governor of Kentucky but lost. He then fought for the United States in the Mexican War. In 1848, he ran for vice president of the United States but suffered another loss. Later, in 1861, Butler served as a member of the Washington Peace Conference, which tried to prevent civil war in America.
General Butler State Resort Park encompasses 791 acres, including a 33-acre lake. The Stone Overlook, built in the early 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), offers incredible views of the confluence of the Kentucky and Ohio rivers. Be sure to take advantage of one of the several opportunities to exit the trail and enjoy the breeze at the Stone Overlook.
Enter the park from KY 227 and follow General Butler Road through the park until you reach the left turn leading to the General Butler Mansion. Park and walk toward the mansion. This home now serves as the Butler-Turpin State Historic House. Built in Greek revival style in 1859, this antebellum eightroom home is open to the public. Original furniture pieces, military history, and family heirlooms are on display. Call (866) 462–8853 for hours of operation. Outside are the Butler Cemetery and several gardens.
The Boy Scout Trail, a connector to the Fossil Trail, begins directly behind Butler-Turpin State Historic House. Immediately upon entering the woods, cross a small footbridge and begin walking uphill over exposed roots, parallel to a small creek. This area is full of white oaks, hackberries, boxelders, and several large grapevines.
At 0.28 miles, the Boy Scout Trail crosses General Butler Road and continues uphill.
At the trail intersection 470 feet ahead, turn north (left) onto the Fossil Trail and continue downhill into the open woods of sugar maple and white oak trees. Numerous songbirds make their homes in this forest.
Cross the dry streambed at 0.54 miles. The sounds of the busy roadway echo through the forest, which includes boxelders, sugar maples, oaks, and Ohio buckeyes. The trail, which goes down a steep hill, is slick during rain.
The forest changes into a dense collection of shagbark hickories and an understory of sugar maples and dogwoods. The bark of dogwoods (no pun intended) appears dry and cracked, like the earth during a drought. This contrasts sharply with the dogwood’s delicate white and pink four-petal blossoms that appear in early spring.
This park was constructed by the CCC in the 1930s. The men working for the CCC built cottages and shelter houses, created trails through the dense forest, and planted trees and shrubs. One impressive accomplishment was creating 33-acre Butler Lake back when labor was predominately done by hand, not machine.
Near 1 mile, the forest is open and dominated by shagbark hickories, red and white oaks, and sugar maples. Amid basswoods and dogwoods on the right, three sycamore trees grow together to create a unique woodland structure. Cross the dry streambed, and the trail soon flattens as it passes through stinging nettle, ash trees, and sugar maples with grapevine growing into the canopies.
At 1.3 miles, the trail goes around a hairpin curve to the left and then heads downhill at a steep angle over the top of exposed rocks before opening into a wet meadow. The defunct ski lodge’s old cable system is visible at 1.5 miles.
The trail ducks in and out of the woods for the next 0.2 miles before entering a forest of spicebush, honeysuckle, sugar maples, and red oaks at 1.9 miles. At 2.2 miles, the trail leads downhill to a beautiful open forest. Be wary of exposed roots.
The valley area is lined with ginger and has plenty of white oak, hackberry, and sugar maple trees. A vernal pool at 2.3 miles is full of frogs and tadpoles. At the trail junction 0.1 mile after the vernal pool, leave Fossil Trail on the right and continue straight ahead on the connector trail to the Recreation Building.
Several old stone structures stand near the 2.5-mile point, before the trail intersection. Take the trail to the right and enter an open area near the Recreation Building and Conference Center.
Follow the road south (left) to the lodge. If you started hiking in the morning, this is a great place to grab lunch. Two Rivers Restaurant on the lodge’s bottom floor offers a filling buffet and dessert bar. Upstairs near the main desk, take the steps up to the large open area where enormous windows provide a panoramic view of the forest. Take advantage of one of the many seating areas to catch up on your journaling.
Step back outside and walk to the south around the corner of the lodge to the Woodland Trailhead. Turn north (left) and walk behind the lodge and pool. The trail is a narrow footpath with strategically placed flat stones over the mucky sections. At 3.1 miles, the path veers to the right.
At the intersection at 3.2 miles, continue on Woodland Trail to the right. When the trail splits in 0.1 mile, follow the trail to the left and cross the dry streambed. Cross the service road at 3.4 miles and continue on the Fossil Trail straight ahead.
Enter a forest dominated by shagbark hickories, sugar maples, white oaks, and plenty of honeysuckle. Near 3.5 miles, to the right of the trail is a hillside and valley below. The eroded trail heads back uphill over exposed rocks and roots. Pass the side trails leading to the Recreation Center and continue on the Fossil Trail to the right. Soon, near 3.7 miles, you’ll pass several old concrete steps and a building foundation.
The trail comes out on what appears to be an old service road and continues downhill. Pass behind the area where the ski lodge used to sit and, at 4.3 miles, continue following the Fossil Trail by taking the trail to the right.
Ohio buckeyes, white oaks, and sugar maples dominate. Exit the woods at 4.6 miles into an open grassy area. Continue following the mowed trail through the grass while watching for birds of prey overhead.
The trail reenters the woods at 5 miles. Aromatic spicebush lines both sides of the trail, which leads uphill into a sugar maple–dominated forest. At 5.3 miles, when the trail splits, take the path to the right. It edges along a very narrow hillside shelf.
The hillside to the right is nearly straight down, so watch your step. Pass large storage tanks and cross the footbridge at 5.5 miles. At the next trail intersection at 5.6 miles, take the trail to the right and cross General Butler Road at 5.7 miles. Follow the Boy Scout Trail down the hill, past the Butler-Turpin house, and to your vehicle.
GPS Trailhead Coordinates
Need to stretch your legs some more to work off those tasty desserts? Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana and John A. Kleber Wildlife Management Area in Kentucky offer more hills to climb and vistas to view.