Shelltowee Trace Trail Bikepacking

This past weekend, the Troll got called into bikepacking duty for a journey along the Shelltowee Trace Trail. I emailed the director of the trail and got his tip on the best place to go bikecamping and riding. He sent me to London, Kentucky (about an hour drive from Lexington).
There was a total of four guys on this trip. Justin, Jeff and Dock joined in for some sweaty camping fun.
I wish I had a good photo of Justin's framepack he made the night before the trip. He stayed up late on the sewing machine making a custom bag for his GT. He did a great job. I will certainly commission him to make one for the Troll.
The heat was intense but we found a couple waterfalls to cool off under. It made all the difference in the world. Temps were in mid 90s. There was certainly a benefit from the thick tree coverage, though. The trade-off, on the other hand, was that there was zero air flow. The air was thick when the trail hugged those rock cliffs or dipped into deep valleys.
After a good bit of riding we were starting to get desperate for a place to set up camp. In a last ditch effort, we found this suspension bridge and thought it may lead to our oasis. We were correct.
The bridge opened up to a huge campsite with plenty of flat ground for the two guys sleeping on the ground and plenty of trees for the two of us in hammocks. It was perfect. We set up camp as the sun set around 9pm and were eating dinner in no time.
 The wood was a little damp for a fire, but we made it work.
Lots of sitting, joking, laughing and goofing off around the campfire. I love times like this.
The next morning wasn't something we were looking forward to. Our journey to the campsite was primarily downhill. It was a couple hours of riding the brakes and navigating our momentum through tough rocky terrain. That meant our return trip was a climbing.

It went much faster than I expected, though. We stopped a lot and drank lots of water. All of my weight on the bike was pretty much food and water. So the return trip was much lighter being that I had consumed most of my cargo. But it certainly wasn't easy.

This is my second trip riding the Shelltowee and we had a blast but it may be my last on this trail system. It's a great trail for hiking and camping. But the conditions for riding are less than desirable. Perhaps I'm not a skilled enough rider. But the climbs and descents are littered with huge rocks that make it almost impossible to stay upright. The photo above shows one of a few sections you could just ride outright. Sections like this may last for 20 yeards before you'd have to get off the bike for trail debris or rocks. For this trip, I barely had a load. I ran small panniers with food and hammock, so my load didn't really affect my riding ability at all. But there was still quite a bit of walking the bike. My last trip was about 100 miles away, too. So I probably got a pretty good look into how the trail varies. But I wouldn't recommend it for bikepacking. If anyone has a better spot on the STT, be sure to let me know.
Lots of bikes on my poor little Subaru. It struggled with all those men and bikes :)

Get out there.


  1. Sounds like fun. It also sounds like a Pugsley may have made the trail more rideable.

    By the way, I was looking at my maps for my cross country trip and it seems I pass through Kentucky about 40 miles south of Lexington....hint, hint?

  2. @ Doug - I was thinking I needed a Pug through the entire ride. I think it would make a HUGE difference. 4" tires would probably role over the stuff that stopped us in our tracks. I guess I have enough reason to buy one now :)

    And I sent you an email about a Lexington visit. I'm in!

  3. SO great! And more texluavull/familybikework correspondence. Aside from the new Troll that us hopefully up and running tmmrw, our crew will also be going on a touring trip this weekend. No bike packing, just standard road touring, but what fun.

    I'd love to know the exact portion you did, I've been looking at visiting BeeRock campground which is south of the London area, and connecting some of the Sheltowee would be fine.

    1. I don't think I realized you had a Troll on order. You'll love it. It's an awesome bike. We did a portion off of Route 1956 in London. Get off of I75 on Exit 41 and take a right (if you're coming from Louisville or Lexington). Take a right on 1956 and head 5ish miles or so.

  4. I'll take a look at that.

    As to Troll, I moved all the stuff off my LHT onto it (26"). I've had it out for a grand 13m, but early returns are good. This weekend's 4-day tour will tell more. Peace.

  5. Don't know if you will get this notification, but was looking at some online DBNF info related to bikepacking. Your portion just might be one I was looking at for a longer summer bikepacking route connecting Bee Rock (south of your trip), WildcatMT, S-Tree, and TurkeyFoot. Both good and bad to read your account of unrideable sections. The goal would be to link some singletrack with logging/oil/forest roads, of which there are many.Here is the route I was looking at from Bee Rock up towards 75. I assume this must include some of your route north of 1956.


    So much to explore down there.