Trail Guides

Hike to Lick Creek Falls and Princess Falls

January 23, 2019

The hike to both Lick Creek Falls and Princess Falls is one of the best on-trail hikes in the entire state! It will take you to the impressive, 64-foot tall Lick Creek Falls and then to the lovely Princess Falls. Enough talking about it, let’s get to the hike!

Princess Falls as photographed by Adam Thompson.
Princess Falls. Photo from Adam Thompson.

The Hike at a Glance

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: Approximately 7 miles (round-trip)
Hazards: Steel stairs, creek crossings and slick rocks.
Rating: 5/5 – One of the top on trail hikes in the state.
Landform (Lick Creek Falls): View on the Kentucky Waterfall Database
Landform (Princess Falls): View on the Kentucky Waterfall Database
Photography (Lick Creek Falls): View on the Photographer’s Ephemeris
Photography: (Princess Falls): View on the Photographer’s Ephemeris

Getting There

Lick Creek Falls as photographed by Christopher Morris.
Lick Creek Falls. Photo from Christopher Morris.

The trailhead for this trip to the falls is located in Whitley City, just outside the main part of town on KY 1651, about 1 mile from the intersection of US 27 & KY 478.  The GPS coordinates for the spot you want to park at are: 36.715157, -84.481241.

The following Google Map should help you find it.

The Hike

Overview map of the lick creek trail.
Overview of the Lick Creek Falls Trail. Map produced by Christopher Morris.

Caution: This hike is uphill for the most of the way out!

At the trailhead, you will see the forest service gate, which is where your hike will begin.  Out the ridge you go on the Lick Creek Trail! The trail is fairly uneventful until you take the small set of steel stairs over the cliff line.  This is where I had a smile across my face the first time I got to go through the wonderland.

Lick Creek Falls to Princess Falls elevation profile.
Elevation profile for the hike (one-way). This is drawn to a 1:4 scale.

After you descend the stairs, you enter a cave like rockshelter.  My first time on this trail was a warm day and I could feel the cool air rushing to encapsulate me.  It was refreshing and mesmerizing. I saved my time to enjoy the rockshelter on the way out, as a great resting point.  I even ate a late lunch while laying down along the trail and enjoying the coolness.

Elevation profile from trailhead to Lick Creek Falls.
Elevation profile from the trailhead to Lick Creek Falls. Drawn at a 1:4 scale.

Not too long after the rockshelter, you come to Lick Creek.  You cross over a smaller stream as you take the trail along one breathtaking creek.  If you enjoy nice streams, this is one for you. The trail continues downstream until you reach a side trail that leads you to Lick Creek Falls.  The craziness is that the falls is not on the main creek but one of its tributaries. Trail 631A leads you up and to Lick Creek Falls. There is a nice rockshelter full of colors, especially orange from seepage through the sandstone.

Download a topo map with LiDAR for this hike!
Download a GPS track for this hike!

Once you are finished enjoying this 64’ falls, you just head back where you came to Lick Creek.  Then you take a left and head downstream. There is a creek crossing right there and a few more downstream as well, to reach Princess Falls.  Lick Creek just keeps amazing you with all its beauty as you head towards the falls. You come in on top of the falls, with a nice view downstream.  Stay on the trail as it goes around and over the top of the falls. There is a path off to your right that gets you to the base of the wonderful waterfall.  With a full drape it is a sight to see!

Lick Creek Falls to Princess Falls elevation profile.
Elevation profile from Lick Creek Falls to Princess Falls. Draw at a 1:4 scale.

From here I return back the way I came, heading upstream and to my vehicle.  Just downstream from Princess Falls are a couple of nice cascades that are worth checking out, as well as a bridge for the Sheltowee Trace.  This hike is well worth it in the colder months as well, since everything is still green and creates a winter wonderland along the trail and creek.

Lick Creek Falls. Photo by Christopher Morris.


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2 Comments

  • Reply Robby West February 4, 2019 at 10:54 am

    A big thank you for the Lick Creek Falls recommendation. We hiked the trail yesterday are were amazed throughout the entire trip.

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