Looking for trails near Lexington, Kentucky? Head to Berea and hike Kelly's Trail to Robe Mountain and Basin Mountain for a challenging adventure.
This week we visited one of my favorite local hiking spots, the Pinnacles in Berea, Kentucky.
Each time we go hiking at the Pinnacles, I wonder if the longest trail in the park-- Kelly's Trail to Basin Mountain and Robe Mountain-- is worth the effort.
This time we planned a weekday morning hike and finally made our way all the way to the overlook at the end of the trail! It was a fabulous hike.
Looking for more Kentucky trails? Check out Welch Mountain (in Berea), Natural Bridge and Raven Run (Lexington area), Bernheim Forest (south of Louisville), and the 4C's trail and Three Bridges Trail at Carter Caves.
Basin Mountain + Robe Mountain Trail Information
This difficult trail is 6.2 miles long, and it's a (relatively) tough six miles.
If you hike all the way to Robe Mountain, you'll face a 1,509-foot elevation change and a moderately challenging rock scramble.
If you're very afraid of heights, this trail may be challenging. Kelly's Trail includes sections with a narrow trail and steep drop-offs, and the rock scramble is steep.
I like using the REI women's Trail 25 pack and filling it with water and snacks.
Scenic Views on the Trail (Spurs)
Before you hike, you should know that the best scenic views are not directly on this trail.
For the best views, follow two quick trail spurs.
First, hike 0.1-miles extra (each way) to check out Indian Fort Lookout. You can see photos of this lookout in my guide for West Pinnacle.
Next, hike 0.2-miles extra (each way) to see Eagles' Nest Overlook. You can see photos of Eagles' Nest in my guide for East Pinnacle.
The overlooks directly along the trail (including the overlook points for both Robe Mountain and Basin Mountain) are obscured by leaves most of the year.
We hiked this trail in mid-November and did get to enjoy the views!
Getting to the Trailhead
The main trailhead is located at the Berea Forestry Outreach Center.
Walk past the entrance sign and along the paved path until you reach the main trail information board.
I recommend taking a photo of the trail map or simply screenshot the photo below.
You can also visit the Berea College website for a trail map.
Hiking on Indian Fort Mountain Trails
Start hiking along the main trail.
When you arrive at the first trail sign, go straight towards Indian Fort Lookout.
This section of the trail is steep.
Power on to reach the top!
When you reach the next trail sign, you might be out of breath. That's okay.
If you want, continue towards Indian Fort Lookout for a scenic overlook. We skipped the overlook this time.
When you're ready, turn towards Buzzards' Roost.
This section of the trail is pretty easy and is a nice chance to catch your breath!
You'll pass multiple trail junctions along this trail.
Continue hiking towards Buzzards' Roost.
If you like, check out the short spur trail to Eagles' Nest for some gorgeous views.
Then, continue hiking towards Buzzards' Roost.
Hiking on Robe Mountain
When you reach the trail sign for Kelly's Trail, turn left towards Robe Mountain and Basin Mountain.
Note that the trail sign reads "Required Fun." Remember that when you're climbing the extra-steep section.
This trail is clearly marked with purple and gold trail markers.
Most of the trail has metal hiker trail markers, but towards the end look for painted trail blazes.
Kelly's Trail starts off fairly easy, but quickly gets steep.
Step carefully as you go: the trail is along the edge of the ravine.
When you reach a large rock formation, you're getting close to the top of Robe Mountain!
Take some time to look for flowers on the rock. I didn't expect to see wildflowers in late fall, but found these succulents!
The peak of Robe Mountain isn't marked. Or if it is, we never saw the marker.
This section of the trail seemed to be the overlook.
The views were partially blocked by trees in November, so my guess is that in the spring, summer or early fall you'd walk right by the overlook and not realize it.
After you pass the Robe Mountain overlook, the trail will begin to descend steeply.
This section was tough, partially because the fallen leaves were deep and made the trail slippery. There are no photos of this downhill section because I was working too hard to control my footing!
Once you reach the bottom, the trail will quickly begin to ascend again on Basin Mountain.
Hiking Basin Mountain
Basin Mountain was my favorite part of the trail.
It starts off steep.
Climb, climb, climb!
Before you know it, you'll get a glimpse of a large white rock.
The trail goes through (and up!) the middle of the rock.
Follow the path into the rock crevice.
And get ready for the rock scramble.
Head up the center of the rock, but pause when you get to the platform area in the middle of the rock.
The trail makes a turn at that point.
When you reach the landing in the middle of the rock, look for the trail blaze on the rock wall.
There is a clear path to continue straight (going up and over the rock), but the actual trail makes a sharp turn to the left.
You can see the trail blaze on the rock in the photo below.
Turn to your left and continue scrambling up the rock.
From here onward the trail is much easier.
Keep walking along the trail, following the blue and gold trail blazes on the trees.
From this point on, there are no metal hiker signs, simply painted blazes.
You'll quickly reach the end of the trail, a rocky area that overlooks the valley below.
My guess is that this overlook is partially (or completely) obscured by foliage most of the year. In November, however, we had some gorgeous views.
When you're ready, turn around and make your way back the way you came!
If you still have energy and time to explore more trails, head to East Pinnacle for my favorite views in the whole park.