Built by The Parklands trail team, the Leatherwood Trail offers hikers a new, challenging route to extend their trek using a variety of trail combinations. This natural surface, more difficult, 0.5-mile hike-only trail connects to existing trails, including Limestone Gorge and the Louisville Loop.
Named for a woodland shrub, this trail has several notable features and promises glorious views across the seasons. In early spring, the Leatherwood shrub displays small yellow flowers just before the leaves emerge. Come summer, birds love to eat its tiny fruit. Take heed, the fruit and bark of this long-lived and slow-growing shrub can cause skin irritation. Admire the woolly-hairy undersides of its bright green oval shaped leaves from afar.
Your first step on the trail gives you the feeling this walk in the woods is going to be special. As you descend the rock staircase at the trailhead, look to the left to see several Leatherwoods standing ready to greet you. A few more steps in, again look left for a patch of pawpaw trees – which bear fruit in late summer/early fall. In the spring, wildflowers—like Spring Beauty, Dutchman’s breeches, American pachysandras, waterleaf, and sessile trillium—will grace the forest floor.
The sounds of the city seem to melt away. On a recent after work hike, I had the privilege of hearing a Pileated Woodpecker drum on a tree looking for dinner. I liked the tune so much I sat down on an inviting rock and admired the vibrant green moss and the limestone shelf that hugs the trail. This rock will be an excellent perch in winter, after the tree canopy is at rest to catch a view of Floyds Fork and the rolling landscape. Word in the woods is you can see for miles and this view inspired The Parklands team to build this trail.
This is rugged terrain; the trail team worked hard to install features to enhance the flow of the trail and prevent erosion. Look for spots on the trail where rocks were placed to give you better footing, especially on water crossings, inclines, and declines – this trail-building technique is called armoring. Also, look for a stone crib wall built to reinforce the hillside.
The trail ends at an intersection with Limestone Gorge trail in a small clearing. You catch a glimpse of the open sky and the farm fields seem to melt into the distance. If you choose to continue your trek, be sure to turn around and pay homage to the mighty Beech Tree and Red Oak that guard the southern gateway of the Leatherwood Trail.
Photos by Ted Wathen/Quadrant
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