Hiking to Tioga Falls in West Point, Kentucky is the perfect outdoorsy day trip from Louisville. At 130 feet, the falls are one of the tallest in the state and their multi-tiered formation makes them stunningly beautiful. Before going to the trailhead, I researched what to generally expect, such as that it was a 2.5-mile there-and-back trail and that it was of moderate difficulty, but nothing prepared us for the total oasis we found.
And a much-needed oasis it was. After a morning of hanging out in Old Louisville, my friend Megan and I were slowly shriveling from the intense heat and humidity and were craving an activity that would get us out of the downtown core and into some shade. That southern heat y’all! Some might think hiking in the July Louisville humidity isn’t the smartest move, but with tree coverage on the way and water at the end of the trek, it was perfect.
So, with the AC on full blast, 90’s nostalgia blasting from the speakers, and water bottles at the ready, Megan and I were off on our waterfall adventure.
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Hiking to Tioga Falls in Fort Knox, Kentucky
Finding Fort Knox
The Tioga Falls Trailhead is about a 40-minute drive from Lousiville, and the first thing I noticed about the trail was how incredibly lush it was. The trees were full and green, there were fresh flowing streams, and birds sang throughout. Bliss.
The second thing I noticed was that we were definitely on Fort Knox military property. Like THE Fort Knox. A little less bliss but a little more intrigue.
When I first researched things to do in the Louisville area, the idea of Fort Knox didn’t come up and thus never crossed my mind. So, when we ran into a few signs saying we were in Knox territory and that if we were to go off-trail SERIOUS things would happen, well, Megan and I took to the trusty old Google to figure out what was up (yes, we googled on a hike, whatever man.)
Turns out that much of the area surrounding Tioga Falls is military land, and the infamous Fort Knox Gold Depository was only a few short miles from us. Curiosity activated by this information, Megan searched what it would take for us to visit said site if they allowed visitors. Turns out that although you can’t visit the depository itself, there are some options for getting onsite elsewhere… depending on who you are.
It turned out that Megan would have no problem getting there as long as she brought proper documentation, as she is an American-born citizen and personally knows members of the military. Me, on the other hand, not so much. Turns out if you’re a foreigner you generally have to be either pre-screened or escorted by someone on the property (if they don’t just turn you away at the gate, that is.)
Given that we didn’t care to go through any potential rigmarole to visit a place we just learned was nearby, we decided to stick with our hiking experience and let that experience pass us by.
However, on that note, because Tioga Falls is technically on military property, it is subjected to temporary closures. Do a little research before you head out to make sure the trail is open for business.
The Hike Itself
A 2.5-mile trek, Tioga Falls Trail is a great option for those who enjoy moderate hikes. While there were a couple of moments on the trail that had us huffing and puffing as we gained elevation, for the most part, it was fine. I will say though that while it’s a medium-level hike, the trail isn’t the smoothest. You’ll find a lot of roots growing in the path, rocks jutting out, and muddy rivets to conquer. For this reason, don’t do as I did and wear sandals, definitely bring a pair of runners with some grip.
You’ll also find a couple of roadblocks to get through, the first of which is the signage. As mentioned above, because this is military property, sometimes parts of the trail are closed and you’ll have to find alternate routes, and this was proven true on our hike. While we started at the designated trail marker, we soon found ourselves back on the paved road we came in on — detoured from the original route. If you find yourself in the same position, know that you are still going the right way.
Keep walking away from the parking area and you’ll eventually come to a gate that says something like “Do not enter.” I’d take that advice and then continue to the trail to the left of said gate.
The second roadblock you’ll come to is some still-in-use, yet signal-less, railroad tracks that you’ll have to hike over. These tracks date from the original Lousiville / Nashville Turnpike and offer one of the most incredible views of the nearby forest. You’re going to get total Stand By Me vibes from this place, minus the dead body by the river (hopefully…).
I probably don’t need to educate you on railroad safety but, like, just know that the tracks are still in use and proceed with caution.
Reaching Tioga Falls
After hiking for a bit, almost being given a heart-attack by a scurrying lizard, and marveling at the greenery all around us, we made it to Tioga Falls. The area surrounding the falls was total perfection with smooth rocks, fresh air, the sound of rushing water in our ears, and beautiful views. Not to mention, other than a couple of other groups hanging out, we pretty much had this area to ourselves.
We stayed at the falls for around an hour and had the best time walking in the water, taking photos, and soaking it all up.
The Road Back and… Chickens
Did you know that chickens like to dig in the ground to find bugs and give themselves dirt baths? If you’re more farm-educated than I, maybe you did, but it’s true — they’ll form a line and go to town. But just because this is a common chicken activity doesn’t mean it wasn’t super weird to stumble upon on our way back from the falls.
After walking for a while and getting close to our car, I suddenly heard something rustling in the bushes, got a little closer, and saw that it was indeed about 5-6 full-sized chickens. Cue the “why aren’t the chickens crossing the road” jokes. But, as two people who, again, have little farm experience, we proceeded with caution. Was it okay to cross these chickens? Would they notice us and squawk? DO CHICKENS ATTACK?
Apparently not… even in the land of KFC.
Have you ever hiked to Tioga Falls? Let me know in the comments!