Key At-A-Glance Information
Length: 3.1 miles
Scenery: Woods, prairie, historic sites, and rive
Exposure: Shaded and full sun
Trail Surface: Soil, gravel, and exposed stone
Hiking Time: 3 hours
Driving Distance: 2 hours south of Cincinnati
Maps: USGS Cowan; Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park map
Wheelchair Accessible: No
Facilities: Restrooms and drinking water at the lodge and near the Nature Center
For More Information: Blue Licks State Resort Park, (859) 289-5507 or www.parks.ky.gov
Special Comments: Plan to spend at least 3 hours enjoying the many historical features along the hike. Budget enough time to enjoy a meal at the lodge and explore the Pioneer Museum. Includes: Licking River, Savanna Loop, and Heritage Loop hikes.
Kentucky’s fifth state park, Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, began in 1927 when local citizens donated 32 acres. This ground has seen many battles, including an August 19, 1782, conflict referred to as the “Last Battle of the American Revolution,” in which an estimated 70 Kentuckians died. This is also the site of many frontier wars between Native Americans and early settlers. More detailed information about the battles waged on this ground are found in the Pioneer Museum and at kiosks along the trails.
After multiple expansions through the Kentucky General Assembly, the park now includes more than 1,000 acres. After you enter the park, follow the signs to the Nature Center and Pioneer Museum and Gift Shop. Park in the area directly in front of the Pioneer Museum. Walk west toward the restrooms and concrete staircase and head down the hill to the William J. Curtis shelter.
Directly behind the shelter house to the south is the trailhead for Licking River Trail. Daniel Boone used this area as an escape route after the Battle of Blue Licks. The trail enters a forest of red and white oaks and sugar maple trees. Be careful of your footing over the stone steps prior to the bridge at 0.14 miles, which crosses a flowing creek.
The trail leads downhill and opens onto a road at 0.23 miles. Turn left and walk along the road. The Licking River is to the right. Pass through the parking lot at 0.4 miles and continue on the Licking River Trail. Cross the bridge over a small creek and continue on the trail uphill through the dedicated nature preserve by following the trail to the left. A meadow is to your right.
At the trail intersection at 0.75 miles, near the campground, follow the Savanna Loop Trail to the right. The nature preserve forest is open hardwoods with sugar maples, oaks, and a few red cedar trees.
Turn left onto the Heritage Trail and out of the nature preserve at the trail intersection at 0.87 miles
The boardwalk begins at 1.1 miles near Blue Licks Springs. The springs attracted mastodons, ground sloths, bison, and other animals in search of salts.
As they did on the acreage that is now Big Bone Lick State Park in northwestern Kentucky (see previous profile), Native Americans and early settlers who lived in this area collected salt by boiling off the water. In the mid 19th century, the water was bottled and used for medicinal purposes. This area was also the home of the Arlington Hotel, where wealthy Southern aristocrats visited during the summer months. By the 20th century, the spring dried up, as did the businesses and tourism that revolved around it.
At 1.3 miles a bench and kiosk await near the location of the historic “last Battle of the American Revolution.” Here, Kentucky pioneers unsuccessfully fought an overwhelming force of Native Americans and British soldiers. The battle was one of the greatest defeats in pioneer history. Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park hosts an annual reenactment of the historic “Battle of Blue Licks,” as well as demonstrations of Native American and pioneer life.
Continue on the trail, passing under US 68 and following the gravel path downhill through the red cedars and grasses. Cross the footbridge at 1.5 miles and continue on the path to the right as it turns into a service road.
The reproduction of the Tanner Station pioneer outpost is impressive. Its fortlike fence was created by sinking six-inch thick cedar trees into the ground. Inside the fence structure is a two-story building created with poplar that is open for you to explore. Be sure to check out the second floor, reached by climbing a narrow ladder on the exterior of the building.
This building is representative of trading posts typically found throughout the Licking River Valley. Tanner Station was built over the top of a spring and used to make and store salt. At the time, salt was a much-needed commodity that people would readily kill over; the station was therefore heavily guarded, and the second floor has many vantage points to shoot from.
After Tanner Station, the Heritage Trail tracks along the edge of the Licking River to the east. The river is easily seen and heard at various locations along the trail.
Continue on the trail into the meadow area with relatively little shade. Cross the footbridge at 1.9 miles, and in 0.1 mile, you’ll find a bench to enjoy the view of the meadow and woods. Watch out for the abundant poison ivy growing under the canopy of boxelders.
At 2.3 miles, the valley stretches out to the left of the trail. The area near where US 68 crosses over the Licking River is where people and animals have been crossing the river for thousands of years.
The trail leads out of the meadow area and into the woodlands at 2.4 miles. Ohio buckeye, hackberry, and basswood trees shade the path. This is a welcome relief, especially in the summer, from the full sun in the open meadow.
At 2.6 miles is a bench and trailhead sign near the parking area. Continue on the trail on the north side of the parking area. This is an asphalt path between US 68 and the woods. Cross the footbridge at 2.8 miles.
Head uphill to the stone bridge that allows you to safely cross over US 68. The area to the right is a nature preserve. The endangered Short’s Goldenrod is located in the park. This rare plant was named after Dr. Charles W. Short, an amateur botanist. It is also the first plant in Kentucky to be placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife endangered species list.
At the trail intersection, turn right onto the Buffalo Trace Trail. This trail is the remains of an ancient buffalo path or trace. In fact, most of US 68 in Kentucky and Ohio closely follows the well-worn path of the buffalo.
Follow the stone path under the redbuds. The trail exits the woods near the backside of the Nature Center. Continue around to the front of the building to the parking area and your vehicle.
GPS Trailhead Coordinates
Quiet Trails State Nature Preserve is indeed quiet and just a few miles north of Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park. Blue Licks’ Pioneer Museum provides a glimpse into the life and times of the area, including mastodon bones and Native American and pioneer artifacts. The park also provides an active schedule of events throughout the year.