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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


Claytonia virginica Claytonia virginica, Virginia spring beauty, in rich, mesic forest, early spring. Photo by David Taylor.

Trillium erectum Trillium erectum, red trillium or wake robin, in rich mesic forest, spring. Photo by David Taylor.

Viola rostrata Viola rostrata, spurred violet, in rich mesic forest, spring. Photo by David Taylor.

Uvularia perfoliata Uvularia perfoliata, perfoliate bellwort, in rich mesic forest, spring. Photo © 2011 by David Taylor.

Cawood Branch Day Use Area

Forest: Daniel Boone National Forest

District: Redbird Ranger District

Description: Cawood Branch Day Use Area is a picnic area set at the base of a long steep slope. It is about 2.6 air miles northwest of Pine Mountain. There is no developed trail at this location; however, hiking around Cawood Branch and the lower portions of the surrounding slopes is relatively easy. The forest here is mixed mesophytic including such species as sugar maple, American basswood, American beech, tulip tree, yellow buckeye, black birch, umbrella magnolia, and even Fraser’s magnolia. Spicebush and witch hazel are common shrubs in the area. Oaks dominate the upper slopes and ridges, approximately 800 feet higher elevation than the picnic area.

Most of Cawood Branch and the lower slopes around it are National Forest. A small part of the creek and lower slopes, as well as most of the ridge on the south side of the creek is private land. Do respect property boundaries.

Wildflower viewing: While you can find wildflowers along this trail any time during the growing season (late March/early April to frost in mid-October, the most spectacular show is in spring. This rich forest supports a variety of spring wildflowers including purple phacelia, wild larkspur, yellow trout lily, white and red trilliums, Canada violet, striate violet, wild blue phlox, meehania, spring beauty, bellwort, and foamflower. Those that venture the steep 800’ elevation climb to the top might be rewarded with the flowers of mountain laurel, and trailing arbutus in spring, and pink lady’s-slipper, Cumberland azalea, teaberry, and spotted wintergreen in May to June. Blueberries (Vaccinium pallidum, V. stamineum, V. corymbosum) and huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) are also present on the upper slopes and ridges.

During summer and early fall, several hawkweeds (Hieracium venosum, H. paniculatum, H. gronovii), greater tickseed (Coreopsis major), false dandelion and native lespedezas (Lespedeza virginica, L. repens) can be found in the drier upland areas.

Safety First: The first concern is that there is no defined trail. At the bottom, walking is relatively easy, but the climb up slope is very steep in places and footing may not be secure. Watch for downed limbs buried under leaves that can cause a fall. Black bears are known to wander in the area. A good practice is to keep food safely locked in a car when you are not eating. Both timber rattlesnakes (uncommon) and copperheads are poisonous snakes found in the area. Mosquitoes and black flies maybe encountered during summer. Poison ivy is present in some areas. We recommend you wear long pants. Even though the areas along the creek are cool, summers tend to be warm and humid and the climb out can be strenuous for some people. Anyone climbing to the ridge is encouraged to take water.

Directions: From Lexington, Kentucky, take I-75 south to Exit 41 at London. Turn left at the top of the exit ramp and follow signs for KY 80/Hal Rogers Parkway (may also be labeled the Daniel Boone Parkway) east. Follow this about 44 miles from to the Thousand Sticks exit. Take US 421 South towards Hyden for about 29 miles. Watch for the signs for the Cawood Branch Day Use Area. The picnic area and parking are located off Forest Service road 1624. If you enter the community of Helton, Kentucky, you went too far on US 421 and should turn around.

Ownership and Management: Daniel Boone National Forest, Redbird Ranger District.

Nearest Town: Hyden, Kentucky to the north and Harlan, Kentucky to the south.