Carter Caves Cross Country Trail is a 7.6 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Olive Hill, Kentucky that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

7.6 miles
1,177 feet

dogs on leash





nature trips

trail running







wild flowers




Carter Caves Cross Country (4Cs) Trail is a 8.3 mile loop trail located in Olive Hill, Kentucky. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking. It starts at the Carter Caves Welcome Center and joins the Three Bridges trail for the last mile before completing the 4-hour loop. The 4-C's Trail, miles, begins at Welcome Center, passes through the Shangra La arch, runs parrallel to smokey valley lake before crossing Smokey Creek and ascending hill leading to Johnson Homeplace Backcountry Primitive Campground, permit required to camp and may be acquired from welcome center, trail crosses lake spillway and joins Three Bridges trail for return to welcome center

3 months ago

Great trail. Mostly easy, with some moderate uphill sections. A few places were not marked very well, and there were a few places where unmarked trails branch off of the main trail. My advice- stay the course and don't make a turn if you're not sure. Although I did walk some of these trails for a bit to see where they went, then doubled back. You might be able to get lost if you go too far. Of course a good walking stick is recommended for the spider webs that you will encounter. Markers say to allow 6 hours for this trail, but it's easily done in much less if you're a frequent hiker. Also, Shangri-la arch is collapsing so be careful in this area. There are arrows painted on the rocks to help guide you, just beware if you travel this area especially after heavy rain, there may be falling or loose rocks.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Good trail. Lots of hills and rocks. Challenging but overly so.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's our favorite trail at Carter Caves. It's beautiful and a great work out!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Super fun for my husband and I. We even brought our two dogs and explored the caves that you can get into without guides. Super wet but great time

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Great trail with lots of scenery and challenging terrain, well worth the 3 hour drive I made.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Completed this trail in the fall. It has a perfect blend of scenery and variety of terrain to keep it interesting throughout the duration of the trail.

I recommend hitting the trail early and bringing a lunch, and not rushing through this one. It is so much better to really appreciate the scenery on this one and take your time.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Another great hike at Carter Caves. Beautiful scenery. I really enjoyed Shangra La arch. It was a lot nicer than what I'd seen in pictures. A good half way spot to sit and rest for a bit. A nice peaceful hike.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Nice trail. Second half is the most scenic part. Hiking through creeks and seeing waterfalls.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

This trail captures the full essence of CC's.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Great trail. Lots of beautiful things to see along the way. Swing bridges, the lake, beautiful creeks, falls, and sandstone cliffs.

Monday, February 01, 2016

I hiked this trail a few years back. It was obviously more of a horse trail. Nothing to really see. I will soon be hiking the other trails Carter Caves has to offer. Hope they're more appealing.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Did the trail about a month ago. 8.5 for the whole thing (marked there as 7.2 but most reviews also said 8.5). Beautiful trail, well marked, lots to see. Very nice campsite midway too. We only saw 4 people all day on the trail. Definitely want to do this again.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Most people either dont know or just don't mention that there is a back country camp site on this trail it's a great hike and a great place to do a shake down run of your backpacking gear

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Great trail well maintained but not commercialized. Really awesome place to hike tons of stuff to see!

trail running
Thursday, June 20, 2013

I've hiked this trail in its entirety once, and hiked portions of it combined with sections of the Three Bridges trail (making up 4.5 and 6 mile loops that way, where the trails intersect or nearly cross each other). This trail features a little bit of everything! You get to cross a couple of suspension bridges (which I don't recommend sprinting across.. yikes!). You'll get the opportunity to go through two different natural arches, The Shangri-La Arch, which is very cave-like, and Fern Bridge, which is a larger natural bridge (and the more impressive rock formation of the two), named after the many ferns that grow along and around the archway. The fern bridge is also a part of the Three Bridges trail, which makes up the last nearly two miles of the 4Cs.

Other challenges and sights along the trail: Just before the second suspension bridge, the trail seems to pretty much disappear. Due to storm damage surrounding a dried-up creek bed, A few of the marked trees are down, and the orange blazes will disappear for a while. Instead of continuing forward after the trail seems to stop, you will need to cross the rocky creek bed with several trees down, and go back the direction you were coming from until you can climb where there is a not-so-obvious orange blaze. Once you reach this point, if you turn around, you will be able to see where a couple of the marked trees are bent in half. From here on, the trail is clearly marked again. But before you get to this point, about midway along the trail is a freshly bulldozed area that is extremely muddy in the day or two following a downpour, and going uphill in that muck is extremely challenging, especially if you are attempting to run the trail. You will also go through a very muddy patch (uphill, again, argh) during the second mile of this trail.

For obvious reasons, KY state parks has posted signs asking for volunteers for cleanup along this trail. But aside from the challenges of muddy sections and the section where one can easily get lost, this is a very interesting trail. As far as wildlife goes, I've come across many deer and a few lizards and snakes. If you run trails, be prepared for a challenge, because this trail is very rocky in some places and very muddy in others. It's also broken up in a few places with stairways and bridges. If you need to shorten it due to time constraints as I have before, it is easily broken up into shorter loops combining it with the three bridges trail at different places.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Not much activity on the trail today. Great hike, but kinda muddy in places .

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Carter Caves Cross Country trail is a very nice day hike. The trail itself can become a little rough at times, since this trail shares much of it's length with horseback and ATV trails. Flooding within the park causes some occasional issues with trails washing out, but they do a good job of offering a lot of orange trail markers. The trail offers a fair amount of wildlife, I counted at least five white-tail deer during my trip. The highlights of the trail are the pair of suspension bridges and the Shangra-La Arch, which isn't so much an arch as the remnants of what used to be a cave.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Just finished this trail yesterday. Was a bit tough at times, but one of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on! Looking forward to visiting again soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is a fantastic trail. It is in KENTUCKY at Carter Caves State Park... hence the name. I've hiked this trail in every season and it is always challenging and beautiful. There is hardly every any traffic on the trail until you reach its convergence with the Three Bridges Trail. (We typically start at the trailhead at the end of the parking lot from the visitor's center, not the one behind Salt Peter Cave). Be careful after you cross the swinging bridge over Tygarts Creek as you go up the hill not to get off the trail - it takes a right turn down what looks like an overgrown weedy trail during the summer. (I've done this before, chugging along) Also beware during periods of heavy rain there is no bridge to cross the stream near the lake across the dam from the spillway. This crossing can be dangerous in really high-water as a lot of debris (i.e. tree limbs) accumulates in this bottom. If it has been raining a lot start the trail out going this direction (using the Three Bridges Trail) so you don't have to backtrack if it is uncrossable. Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The GPS location of this trail head is no where near the actual trail. The actual trail is in Kentucky. Do not waste your time!!!

2 months ago

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Monday, September 04, 2017

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