We hiked Scott’s Gap Trail on Saturday, November 4th, the last day of Daylight Savings Time. The temperature was 70 degrees, and the Fall colors, such that they were this year, blazed at their peak intensity. It was a perfect day to get out, and Jefferson Memorial Park, just 15 or 20 minutes from downtown Louisville, was perfect place for a short hike.
We parked at the Scott’s Gap parking lot and hiked a hundred yards or so to the trailhead, which led straight uphill to a junction. This is the real beginning and end of the Scott’s Gap Trail loop. Whether you go left or right, it makes no difference. We chose to hike clockwise, and turned to the left.
The trail is well marked, with abundant signs and red blazes painted on the trees. For the first mile, the trail follows a meandering path through the forest, going up and down hills marked by mature stands of hickory, beech, sweetgum and poplar trees nicely spaced, with grassy ground cover. At about the one mile mark, the trail makes a sharp right turn. This section of trail is more scrappy and overgrown, with briars and other ground cover, drawing a stark contrast to the hillier sections that are more park-like and not so recently logged over.
Just after the right-hand turn, the trail approaches one of many tiny stream crossings. At this one, you’ll find a 1940s-era automobile straddling the flowing stream, partly buried in the ground and slowly rusting away to nothing. Not long ago, you could climb inside, but the roof has caved-in and the rusted hulk is only identifiable as a car by the tires and chassis and a few parts strewn along the bank.
When my kids were young, we’d always stop here to take pictures and speculate about how and why the car ended up in this spot. My theory is that the car was stolen, then abandoned in the woods, which were out in the boondocks back in the 40s or 50s.
Continue on, and you’ll soon hike along a bigger stream. Be careful here because we lost the trail at a couple places and we had to slow down to hunt for red blazes. Because the trail parallels the stream, high water has washed out the path in places, making it tricky to follow. Once the trail leaves the stream bed, you’ll have no trouble following it the rest of the way back to Scott’s Gap. Stay to the right bank and you’ll be okay.
At the two-mile mark, you’ll climb to the literal and figurative high points of the Scott’s Gap Trail as it reaches one of the highest points in Jefferson County at 800 feet. This section of trail, between the second and third miles, is a beautiful return to a park-like environment reminiscent of the southern AT. In the winter, you can look off to the north and west and enjoy great views of south Louisville, downtown Louisville, the Ohio River and Indiana. At the three-mile mark, the trail turns south, where you’ll enjoy one final vista before descending back down the hill to the parking lot.
If you’ve hiked the Parklands of Floyds Fork, you’ll quickly notice that the hills are taller and steeper in Jefferson Memorial Forest, and like the south-end itself, where I grew up a few miles away, Scott’s Gap Trail is a wild-and-woolly place that may be a little rough-around the edges, but promises as much beauty and adventure that you could ask for in an urban forest.
Our biggest complaints about the trail have to do with the occasional junk found along the way and the frequent fly-overs by UPS jets, as they take-off and land from Louisville International Airport. But don’t let that deter you from exploring Scott’s Gap. The hills and valleys of this section of Jeff Memorial are gorgeous and link-up with the Siltstone Trail, which is just across Scott’s Gap Road.
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Getting there – from the Gene Snyder Freeway (I-265)
- To get to the trailhead, we took the Gene Snyder Freeway west, from I-65, to exit 3, Stonestreet Road
- At the bottom of the ramp, turn Left on Stonestreet Road.
- At 0.64 miles, go straight at the intersection with Blevins Gap Road. Stonestreet Road becomes Blevins Gap Road at this point.
- At 2.8 miles, turn Left on Scott’s Gap Road
- At 3.71 miles, turn Right into the Scott’s Gap parking lot. You’ll notice the trail heading past a kiosk and a few picnic tables.