Hiking Trails

Rules of Use for Hiking Trails at the Salato Wildlife Education Center

  • Open dawn to dusk (may be closed periodically for special events, or for safety)
  • Hike at your own risk
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult
  • Stay on marked trails
  • No pets
  • If you pack it in, pack it out!
  • No camping or campfires
  • No hunting, trapping, or fishing
  • No collecting of plants, animals, artifacts, or other materials

Trail Closures

Though hunting is not allowed on the Pea Ridge property, it borders land that is actively hunted. For safety, the Pea Ridge Loop Trail will be closed during the opening weekends (Zone 1) of Modern Gun Season. The Pea Ridge and HabiTrek Trails may also be closed if deemed unsafe due to severe weather or storm damage. Call 502-858-1579 or 502-564-7863 for more information.

Accessibility

Thanks to Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Georgetown, a 200-foot, wheelchair accessible boardwalk has been added to the exhibit-side entrance to the HabiTrek Trail. We regret that the topography of the hiking trails does not allow for greater ADA access. The Pea Ridge and HabiTrek Trails are primitive trails with all of the obstacles expected of "the woods."

Pea Ridge Loop Trail

Pea Ridge Loop Trail Map

Trail Description

The Pea Ridge Loop Trail, from the beginning of the trail where it branches off of HabiTrek back to this same point is a 2.41 mile hike. If you start your hike at the Picnic Shelter Access, it is a 3.17 mile hike.

Pea Ridge begins with an easy walk through successional cedar forest, crosses a ridgetop, then descends among mature oak-maple-hickory forest to a small pond. At this point you may choose to go left or right on the "loop". For new hikers unfamiliar with the terminology, a "loop trail" is really a large circle. If you choose to go left, you will eventually come back out on the right, and vice-versa. If you choose the trail to the right, the trail follows the bank of the pond, then ascends a steep hill, crossing a wagon road to the left, and climbing to another ridgetop and a junction with the Warbler Ridge Trail The Pea Ridge Trail proceeds straight ahead and descends steeply along several switchbacks, then ascends again past a number of large rock piles to an old wagon road. We think these rock piles were created to prevent the rushing torrents of flood waters from eroding the agricultural fields that were once here. The trail turns left at the top of the hill and follows the wagon trail for several yards, then crosses an old rock fence and descends gradually through a mossy-floored cedar forest and follows another rock wall. As the forest changes back to mature hardwoods, keep your eyes open for owls! We've spotted several in this area. The trail now turns sharply to the right along a rocky old wagon road, then turns left and gradually cuts across a steep incline toward an ephemeral stream below. It crosses the stream, then climbs back up the hill to rejoin the opposite side of the Warbler Ridge Trail. Turn right to continue on the Pea Ridge Trail and follow it through mixed oak-hickorybuckeye forest with a view of a rocky streambed below. Keep your eyes open for deer and turkey! They love this section! Very soon the trail will come out on the dam at the pond where you chose to take the right-hand trail of the loop. Turn right, cross the dam, and follow the trail back up the hill and along the ridgetop back to rejoin HabiTrek. You've done it!

You may shorten your hike by cutting across the Warbler Ridge Trail (0.32 miles) and returning to Salato that way, or you may do a "crazy-8" to lengthen the hike by crossing Warbler Ridge before continuing on the back section of Pea Ridge, then crossing it again to return. In this way you can cover the entire trail without missing any of it! The Warbler Ridge Trail is a short, easy hike that intersects the Pea Ridge Loop. It follows an old rock wall past a few remaining old growth oaks, a small mineral lick, and an old chimney estimated to pre-date the Civil War. Two "ephemeral pools" may be found near the chimney, providing temporary habitat to insects and amphibians following rainfall and snowmelt. Remember: look, but don't harass or try to collect the creatures you may find there!

Mileage using Warbler Ridge to shorten the hike: 1.74 miles from HabiTrek or 2.44 miles from Picnic Area. Mileage using Warbler Ridge to lengthen the hike: 3.05 miles from HabiTrek or 3.75 miles from Picnic Area.

Habitrek Trail

Habitrek Trail Map

Trail Description

The HabiTrek Trail is an easy hike well suited to children. Although it is an easy hike for most, it is not accessible by strollers or wheelchairs. The HabiTrek Trail itself is 0.5 miles, and connects with the Prairie Trail (0.21 miles) to form an easy 0.71 mile loop. The trail is open from dawn to dusk and may be accessed via the Salato Center during normal operating hours, or via the picnic areas. The access point from inside the Salato Center is a one-way gate. Upon returning, you must exit to the right of the gate. This will take you out by the picnic shelters. Hikers should never hike alone, should wear good hiking shoes or boots, and should always carry water to drink. Cell phone signals may be picked up on hilltops, but will be lost in the "hollows". Allow a minimum of 45 minutes to complete the hike.

A warning: stay on trails to avoid ticks and chiggers. Also, be aware that poison ivy exists along certain areas of the trail. If you access this trail by using the gated enclosure, be sure the gate is latched closed when you leave the fenced area of Salato. When you finish the trail and return to the gated fence, continue up the trail outside the fence to the picnic area and the parking lot. At some point along the trail, stop and listen to the sounds of nature.

The trailhead begins approximately 50 yards right of the exit gate. The trail winds through a wooded area with several varieties of trees. Some are marked for identification. Common trees are:

  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Walnut
  • Cedar
  • Hackberry
  • Mulberry
sugar maple tree
Sugar Maple Trees, like this one, are found all throughout Salato’s hiking trails. Kentucky is home to two native species of maple trees. The Sugar Maple and the Red Maple.

brown eyed susan
Brown-eyed Susan Rudbeckia triloba's: Blooming from late summer until hard frost, the Brown-eyed Susan is abundant along the Habitrek and Prairie Trail.

Depending on the time of the year, the forest floor is home to numerous species of native wildflowers. You may see:

  • Mayapple
  • Purple Larkspur
  • Trillium
  • Blue Phlox
  • Brown-eyed Susan
  • Goldenrod
  • Frostweed

There are a number of understory trees (trees growing under the forest canopy) along the trail. These include:

  • Redbud
  • Dogwood
  • Pawpaw
  • Blackhaw

Also look for these vines and shrubs.

  • Spicebush
  • Grapevine
  • Buttonbush
papaw tree
Pawpaw Asimina triloba: Though often an understory tree, the pawpaw produces the largest edible native fruit in North America. The custard-like pawpaw fruit is consumed by wildlife as well as humans. However, its shelf life is short so don’t expect to find one at a grocery store!

red oak tree
Red Oak Tree

As you proceed up the trail note the remnants of a stone wall on the left. This provides an excellent habitat for small mammals and reptiles. Note the numerous “snags” which are nothing more than dead trees that are left upright to decay naturally. They provide host to a diversity of insect life and fungal growth. Also, many wildlife are cavity dwellers (chipmunks, owls, woodpeckers) so snags provide a shelter and a place to raise their young. Fallen trees also open the canopy of the forest allowing sunlight to bring light for other new plant life. This may be used to teach children about the "FBI" (Fungus, Bacteria, and Insects) which decompose dead organic matter, converting it into useable energy at the bottom of the food chain. On the ground where trees have fallen you may see the feeding areas of squirrels or the droppings of raccoons. Look closely as there may be acorns, hickory huts, or walnuts from the trees along the trail. Nuts are a valuable source of food for forest fauna.

You will pass the entrance to the 2.41-mile Pea Ridge Loop Trail. There is a Red Oak on the left with 3 trunks. Soon after you will pass over an “ephemeral stream.” Ephemeral streams only hold water during periods of heavy rainfall or after a snowmelt providing temporary egg-laying habitats for insects and amphibians.

After the stream you will see a large Red Oak tree on your right. This unusual tree is the result of 5 sprouts that survived after the original tree fell many years ago. You may see other examples of oak trees with 2 or 3 sprouts. Just past the Oak there is a crumbled rock wall on the left. Rock walls were constructed to contain domestic animals or to indicate property boundaries long ago when the area was used for farming. As you walk up a small slope look you will see other fallen trees with cavities which serve as refuge for animals including raccoons, opossums, fox, chipmunks, and coyotes.

At the top of the hill is a cedar thicket and then the trail descends. After a heavy rainfall water may run through the bowl shaped depression on the left, wearing away the soil and rock, eventually forming a sinkhole which then flows through cracks in the limestone, adding to our water table. Only a small amount of the rain that falls in these woods evaporates or is consumed by animals. There are several depressions on both sides of the trail. These are new sinkholes in the making. Grasses and wildflowers around sinkholes provide cover for many varieties of birds, toads and other small creatures. Just past the sinkhole the trail will veer right to enter the Prairie Trail. On the left is a limestone, or karst outcropping which can be used to reinforce the lesson of the sinkhole.

Past the karst outcrop is a trail through the prairie itself. The prairie is part of a grassland restoration project which improves the habitat for many varieties of wildlife. Look for:

  • Cottontail Rabbits
  • Butterflies
  • Goldfinches
  • Insects
  • Indigo Buntings
  • Meadowlark
  • Snakes
  • White-tailed Deer
  • Field Sparrows
  • Bobwhite Quails
  • Toads
white tail deer
This young White-tailed Deer was spotted along the Habitrek Trail, just before the start of the Prairie Trail.
thistle
Tall Thistle Cirsium altissimum: Notice the bumble bee collecting pollen on the wildflower.

During the summer the prairie is alive with wildflowers including Goldenrod and native Tall Thistle which attract insects and hummingbirds.

Grasses you will see include:

  • Little Bluestem
  • Big Bluestem
  • Switchgrass
  • Indian Grass
  • Eastern Gamagrass
  • Sideoats Grama
  • Virginia Wild Rye

The HabiTrek trail also shows the damage done by invasive species of plants. Invasive species are plants not native to the United States and they can take over and prevent native plants from thriving. You may see:

  • Amur Bush Honeysuckle
  • Garlic Mustard
  • Privet
  • Johnson Grass
  • Multiflora Rose
  • Japanese Vining Honeysuckle

A map of the Salato hiking trails can be found here.

Are You the Average Hiker?

The Pea Ridge Loop Trail has been rated "moderately strenuous" to the average hiker. Many visitors to Salato and the Game Farm, however, are not used to day hiking on primitive trails. We want every visitor to have a positive experience and return many times to view the many species of wildflowers, birds, and mammals that utilize this 100-acre stretch of woods. Please use the chart below to determine how YOU should best prepare for this hike!

This hike will be EXTREMELY STRENUOUS if you are suffering from asthma or a heart condition, bad knees, severe arthritis, or other condition which limits physical ability. It will also be extremely difficult if you do not dress for the weather, carry enough water, wear good, comfortable walking shoes, or are prone to panic in unfamiliar circumstances. You should not attempt to hike this trail if your doctor has advised you to avoid strenuous activities, or if you are unprepared for negotiating the loose rocks, steep climbs, insect bites, heat, or weather conditions common to any backwoods experience.

This hike will be STRENUOUS if you do not suffer from any major physical conditions. It will also be more strenuous if you have a squirmy baby in a backpack or an unhappy 3-year old.

This hike will be MODERATELY STRENUOUS if you are relatively physically fit, well rested, and in good health. You take enough water to drink, a snack for energy, and allow yourself at least two hours to complete the trail. You enjoy nature and find it worthwhile to climb that steep hill, just to see what's on the other side... You never hike alone, carry plenty of water, and always follow a map.

This hike will be MODERATE if you are in good shape, eat well, exercise regularly, enjoy getting your heart rate up, you own good quality hiking boots and pack, never hike alone, carry plenty of water, and always follow a map.

This hike will be EASY if you are a hard-core workout junkie, aerobics instructor, or just returned from a casual stroll to view the sunrise atop Mt. Everest. You are always well hydrated and own the best hiking boots and hip packs available. You never hike alone and always follow a map.


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