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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 and Muzzleloader seasons. 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.


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. Additionally, a section of the trail following the boardwalk has been widened and levelled as much as possible to allow wheelchair and stroller access as far as the Eon-US Outdoor Classroom. 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 is marked by white blazes. From the beginning of the trail where it branches off of HabiTrek back to this same point, it 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. Warbler Ridge is marked with blue blazes. 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-hickory-buckeye 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. It is marked by red blazes. 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. 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 30 minutes to complete the hike.

The following description is written with parents and teachers in mind. An outdoor classroom, located near the beginning of the trail and constructed by employees of E.ON US, is available for instruction free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Following the red blazes, the trail takes you into a wooded area with several large oak trees interspersed among a successional forest of ash, oak, hickory, cedar, and maple. In the spring the forest floor is home to numerous species of native wildflowers such as Mayapple, purple larkspur, blue phlox, and trillium. Coral berry, dogwood, and redbud make up the majority of the shrubs. The remains of an old rock wall provide excellent habitat for small mammals and reptiles, while both standing and fallen deadwood "snags" host a diversity of insect life and fungal growth, as well as nesting space for cavity-dwelling animals such as chipmunks, owls, and woodpeckers. These 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. Look along the tops of fallen trees for the feeding areas of squirrels or the droppings of raccoons. Who's been here...?

You will pass the entrance to the 2.41 mile Pea Ridge Loop Trail on your left. Keep following the red blazes and the trail will head down a hill and across an "ephemeral stream". These streams only hold water during periods of heavy rainfall or after a snowmelt and provide temporary egg-laying habitat for insects and amphibians, as well as a good place for a drink for a thirsty animal.

Just after the stream crossing you will see a large oak tree on your right. This unusual tree is the result of 5 sprouts that survived after the original tree fell many years ago. Look closely near the roots and you can see the remains of the original, which became engulfed as the shoots grew larger.

As the trail goes back up a small slope, look for a large fallen sycamore on your left. Close inspection will reveal several cavities created by woodpeckers, and at the root may be found the entrance to a small den used by different animals from year to year. The "sharing" of dens is common among several mammals in Kentucky, including raccoons, opossums, fox, chipmunks, groundhogs, and coyotes.

At the top of the hill you will enter a cedar thicket, then descend briefly to a side trail to a small sinkhole. Grasses and Wildflowers overhanging the edge of the sinkhole provide hidden nesting space for phoebes, wrens, and sparrows. Some may be nesting now. Can you identify them? At the base of the sinkhole is a small opening through which you can see water running after a heavy rain. Encourage students to look around them at the flat "bottom" they're standing in. After a heavy rain, most of the water soaks right down into the ground, through cracks in the limestone, and eventually ends up in our water table. Along with it, it takes silt and environmental pollutants. Only a small amount of water that falls in these woods evaporates or is consumed by animals. As you leave the sinkhole, look for several depressions on the left and right of the trail. These are new sinkholes in the making!

Just past the sinkhole the trail will veer right to become the Prairie Trail, which is marked by yellow blazes. The Prairie Trail first cuts through a small section of hardwood forest. Look to your right for a dead cherry tree full of woodpecker holes. Woodpeckers sense the movements of insects under the bark and dead wood of snags and use their hard, sharp beaks to hammer away a hole to get to them. On the left is a limestone, or karst outcropping which can be used to reinforce the lesson of the sinkhole. Point out the fracturing of the stone, which allows water to travel directly to the water table without filtering, and remind the students that what is on the ground eventually ends up in our water. This area is also a sinkhole in formation.

Just past the karst outcrop, the trail opens onto the prairie itself. Signs placed here explain that the prairie is part of a grassland restoration project which improves the habitat for wildlife. Year round this is an excellent wildlife viewing area. Look for cottontail rabbits, ground-nesting birds, insects, and reptiles. It's also a hunting ground for hawks and other raptors. Look above for these high-flying predators. During the summer the prairie is alive with wildflowers which attract insects and hummingbirds, as well as people! As a part of the management of the prairie, we will be buring it in the fall every 3-years to control invasive species and encourage germination of some desireable ones. Call to find out whether the next burn will impact your visit.

The Prairie Trail re-connects with HabiTrek at the E.ON Outdoor Classroom. Turn left on HabiTrek and follow the red blazes to return to the picnic area.

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 artheritis, 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, but the last time you hiked was to the corner grocery a block from your home, and you celebrated surviving the ordeal with pizza and an extra scoop of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. For lunch. You seem to be able to get from the couch to the 'fridge without too many aches and pains despite a life-long aversion to excercize and clean living. You tend not to drink fluids after your morning coffee, skip lunch, and consider flip-flops acceptable hiking gear. You have a pretty good sense of direction in the city, so you don't worry if you forget your map. 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, excercise regularly, enjoy getting your heart rate up, and refuse to become dragged into your family and friends' Law and Order and CSI addictions (every night, four channels, overlapping, over and over and...). 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, current devotee of the "Oprah Boot Camp Diet", 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. This trail is also easy if you can demonstrate your age to admiring elders by holding up seven fingers.