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In the 1890s, pre-eminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. envisioned large community parks connected to the neighborhoods of Louisville via “ribbons of green.” His tree-lined parkways still exist today and will serve as spokes to the 100-miles-plus Louisville Loop, once complete.
The planned Loop will take trail users through five parts of Jefferson County, giving them a taste of each section’s unique heritage and character. All five segments have been planned out, with 48 miles completed and various sections in design or construction. The Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation Department designed each of the Loop’s five sections—Ohio River Valley, the Knobs, Shale Lowlands, Limestone Belt and Floyds Fork—to display their distinct charms, while a cohesive wayfinding and interpretive signage system funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010 ensures visual consistency throughout the network.
Mile 0 kicks off the Loop’s largest continuous section: the 25-mile Ohio River Valley segment. Heading west from the Big Four Bridge, visitors can soak up all that the downtown Louisville Riverwalk has to offer, from public art installations at Waterfront Park to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, and Olmsted’s Shawnee and Chickasaw Parks. The off-road Levee Trail picks up from the Riverwalk, providing users with a diverse mix of vistas. The Beargrass Creek Greenway in this section also connects two popular recreational assets: Waterfront Park and Cherokee Park.
Heading east from the river, the Knobs and Shale Lowlands will no doubt become a haven for adventurous hikers, geologists and nature enthusiasts. These segments will traverse one of the county’s most geographically diverse regions, featuring farmland, ancient lake beds and the 6,600-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest.
The Parklands of Floyds Fork segment—a 19-mile, off-road portion of the Loop—encompasses four parks. From Broad Run Park in the south (near mile 55 of the Loop’s planned 111 miles) all the way up to Beckley Creek Park (mile 74), the Parklands segment provides adventurers with everything from canoeing and kayaking along Floyds Fork to mountain biking at Turkey Run Park’s Silo Center Bike Park. At Trestle Point in Pope Lick Park, historians and rail enthusiasts will appreciate that the Loop passes directly under a late 1880s train trestle. At the Strand, nature lovers can observe wildlife at Catfish Bend, while archaeology buffs can search for fossils deposited on the gravel bars of Mussel Bend.
Completing the Loop will be the suburban Limestone Belt section, which will pick up from the northern tip of the Parklands and loop west to the city of Prospect and the Ohio River Valley Northeast.
In the Ohio River Valley segment, parking is available in many of the parks along the route, including (from north to south): Caperton Swamp, Carrie Gaulbert Cox, Eva Bandman, Waterfront, Lannan, Shawnee, Chickasaw, Riverside Gardens and Riverview.
In the Parklands of Floyds Fork segment, visitors can access numerous trailheads and parking lots throughout the Parklands' four parks. For more info, visit: theparklands.org/directions.html.
Parking along other developed parts of the Loop include the Lamborne Boulevard and West Manslick Road trailheads at Pond Creek, as well as the McNeely Lake Park trailhead at Cedar Creek Road.
We rode the Parklands section of this trail only. It is one of the most amazing trails I have ever ridden. While riding this part of the trail you don't feel like you are near the city. This is not a straight flat rail-trail. This is a purpose built trail that has sections with challenging hills, sharp curves, switchbacks and river bottoms. The scenery is beautiful and varied. There are rest stops and water at frequent intervals. The restrooms were clean and well kept. The trail links a series of parks. There is a little more congestion at the parks but people seemed courteous. The trail surface alternates between cement and asphalt sections. The cement parts are like giant sidewalks and are wide and smooth. The sections that go through hilly areas are mostly asphalt and also smooth and wide with the exception of a couple of small bridges that had large bumps at either end. The majority of road crossings are bridges or tunnels. A handful were on lightly traveled roads with part of those being at 4-way stops. All along the trail are separate hiking trails if you want to get off the bike for awhile. There are also areas to access the river for canoes and kayaks. Both the trail and river have mile markers. There are bike and boat rentals available at one of the parks. We ended up riding this trail end to end for several days straight because we enjoyed it so much. It is definitely a destination trail and worth a couple hours drive. When riding this trail you get the feeling that it is cared for by people who know they have a jewel and want to keep it that way.
A day after riding the Ohio River Valley segment, we rode the Parklands out and back, starting at the north end. What a contrast! The Parklands is all perfect concrete, wide enough in most places to ride 3 abreast. Signage is frequent and at all turns. The trail covers both flat meadows and has some climbs, including a few hairpin turns. We saw a muskrat, juvenile bald eagle, red-tailed hawk and woodcock. Bathrooms and drinking fountains are frequent. So are signs about the area’s history and plant life. The organizations that designed and maintain the Parklands do a great job. We really enjoyed the ride. The Circle K gas station about 4 miles south of the start was the only place we saw by the trail for snacks and beverages.
A friend and I rode most of the Ohio River Valley segment on a cool, sunny day in March. We parked by Eva Bardman and rode west and south, out and back. Pro’s: - historical signs downtown and in Shawnee and Chickasaw Parks - the parks themselves - riding past older houses in Shawnee and Chickasaw neighborhoods - great view up and down the River from the Big Four bridge Con’s: - lack of signage on the route, which goes from trail to road to trail .... Frequently you come to a turn or a T-intersection and have no idea which way to turn. Example: no sign to go north on Lee Lane. - downtown the trail winds around concrete pillars supporting the expressway. Hard to see (dim) and unmarked. - very few places to eat or get coffee close to the trail.
We split the Parklands of Floyds Fork trail section of the Loop into two days; arriving late Saturday we rode north from Pope Lick Park to Miles Garden, approx. 13 miles O&B. We unloaded at the park; a very safe & secure area with lots of cyclist. The north section of the trail starts out switching back uphill then meandering through a flat section to another uphill switchback section at the trailhead. We stayed the evening at an idyllically turreted B&B just east of the park and enjoyed a great meal at an upscale mussel & burger restaurant in Jeffersontown.
On Sunday, we rode south to Broad Run Park, approx. 28 miles O&B. This south section of the trail starts out relatively flat but does gradually leads to more challenging grades (incredibly fun downhills). Make sure you stop at the overlook to view where you rode, the B-F Silo. Post ride lunch was at a great mac & pizza joint in downtown Jeffersontown.
This is a beautiful, well maintained, multiple use (kayaking next) trail through park lands, creek sides and hilly woods. All of Louisville should be proud of this privately supported park and thanks for sharing with our family!
Rode from Turkey Run trailhead all the way north to Beckley Creek Park. Agree completely with previous review by davemarshall. It's just beautiful and on a hot day the numerous shelters and water fountains are very welcome.
To me, the only negative is that the trail is almost entirely concrete slabs, which means cracks between every slab. Every third or fourth one is wider than the others and so I really felt them as I rode over thousands of them. Many of those cracks have the remains of what looked to be a rubber-like padding, but they have deteriorated to the point of ineffectiveness now. Now, this may not even bother you and I did get used to it to some degree. And the faster you go, the less you'll feel them. But for me, it was the only drawback. Even if you think it might bother you somewhat, it shouldn't stop you from riding this beautiful, unique trail.
I ride some portion of this incredible park system of trails 3-5 times a week and it’s never the same ride twice. The actual “Louisville Loop” is a proposed 100 mile trail around the city, but right now it’s more like three disconnected segments , each great in its own right. I’d estimate you can ride about 60 miles of it now. You can ride along the Ohio River on the Louisville waterfront and take the very cool Big Four Bridge across the Ohio River into Indiana and ride for 15-20 miles there as well. It’s big city but you don’t share the road with cars and it’s a great ride. Amazing views of the river with restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream on the Indiana side. It’s cool to sit in the middle of the bridge with classical music being piped in! The next major portion open is along the west side along the Ohio River from the Farnsley Moreman House towards Louisville. The trail is flat, paved , with multiple rest areas along the way. It’s often called the levee trail as it runs along the top of the levee! Mike Linnings is a local favorite fish place and it even has its own “off ramp”. Great views of the Ohio River and very little traffic. But the absolute jewel of the system that is worth a drive from anywhere in on the east coast or mid America is the portion called The Parklands. It’s a system of five separate parks, all connected with a wide, paved bike and pedestrian path. No cars to deal with. It covers every kind of terrain you could want, from very challenging hills, to pristine meadows, rolling hills, cool forests, river views, winding paths through cornfields and wildflowers everywhere. There are numerous access points but the trail runs from Shelbyville Road in the north (Beckley Creek Park) to Bardstown Road in the south (Broad Run Park). It’s a little over 40 miles round trip but quite a workout with some big hills near Broad Run. There are five segments, each with a trailhead, water, restrooms, picnic area and bike repair stations at most parking areas. From Beckley Creek it’s very scenic with rolling hills, meadows and a few decent hills. As you descend into Pope Lick Park, there are all the facilities you need. Heading out from Pope Lick is easily the most pristine and enjoyable part of the trail system. It’s called the Strand and is almost all flat following the river. Numerous bridges cross back and forth over Floyd’s Fork. It’s worth the drive alone. That part ends at Seatonville Road in Turkey Run Park. Restrooms and shade and water available. Leaving Seatonville you head up some challenging hills through the hills and woods of Kentucky and it’s absolutely gorgeous. More cool bridges await! You will come to the silo and another rest area in Turkey Run Park as well and if you have a hybrid or mountain bike they’ve just opened a mountain bike park right near the silo. You can climb the silo and get a birds eye view of it all. It’s great for the adventurer. There are several side trails, well marked for mountain or hybrid bikes to add some variety! The last portion goes from the silo to Broad Run Park, another hilly ride that flattens out at Broad Run Park with lots of bike options, including dirt paths along the river, paved paths through the meadow and a huge pavilion, spray park, picnic area and restrooms. If you combine this with the levee trail and Ohio River portion it makes a great biking weekend! I’ve ridden the Silver Comet, Great Allegheny Passage, Monon Trail, Katy Rail Trail and The Little Miami trail and would put this up against any of them. Not nearly as long as those iconic rail trails but a GREAT bike experience!
We stopped off for a 10 mile out and back (20 miles total) starting from Beckely Creek Park and heading south/southwest. The trail was a nice wide concrete trail that follows the creek and winds it's way through a lot of different areas (housing, farm, parks,...). Given the many average reviews on this trail we almost skipped it, but are really happy we stopped. It was a cooler late October day on our way back to Minnesota and it turned out to be our last ride of the year. Not sure what the trail is like further along but this section is world class and worth a ride.
This is a scenic trail through 4 beautiful parks and a 5 mile connecting section (all off road) all along Floyd's Fork in easy reach of Louisville Metro. The trail is nicely paved the entire way with access to water fountains, restrooms, and bicycle repair stations strategically placed along the way. The trail provides a nice mix of terrain ranging from flat to rolling to hilly. This is a family friendly destination with canoe / kayak and bike rentals along with shuttle service in the park. There are even play and spraygrounds in a couple of the parks.
it has potential, under heavy construction as i write this; some new construction, some resurfacing the existing. interesting that the old part has been around long enough to need resurfacing before these new parts have been laid. the equipment on this sunday was parked trailside. on the west side of town beyond milemarker 14-25 in either direction, the trail presently doesn't appear to be rideable or perhaps even existing.
Entered this trail at Shelbyville road and completed a 30 mile round trip. The hills can be a real challenge if you are not accustomed to them. The surface is great and is a mix of asphalt and concrete. If you ride a recumbent where you sit back so far that you use a neck rest the expansion joints in the concrete can become annoying. The trail is very scenic with plenty of trail access points and several restrooms available along the way. When the whole Louisville Loop Trail is completed and circles all of Louisville (100 miles of trails I believe) this will be a real jewel for Kentucky.
Great easy riding trail with wonderful food at Mike Linings of Louisville on one end and Pearls Yogurt of Jeffersontown IN on the other. Lots of interesting sights to see in between. Got in 44 miles in one day which is good for us.
The trail was clean and clear the day I took it. The views are nice and stopped at the riverboats to talk with some other bikers. I ended up going just short of Shawnee park as the trail had a detour.
If you do this, you most certainly need to link in the Big four bridge which allows bikes and spans the Ohio river. Jeffersonville Indiana has some great places to eat and yet another trail , the "Levee" trail can be caught there
When you include the nearby trails this can become an afternoon affair
Not too long ago, I hiked the Riverwalk from east of the Big Four bridge to Shawnee Park. The Riverwalk was pretty and seemingly well-kept east of about 31st Street. But from west of there, the path became terribly overgrown with tall weeds and was covered along most of the path with inches of mud and many logs and other driftwood. Sadly, the artistic and attractive bricks which spelled out history were mostly covered by debris. Even the caged-in area along the back nine at Shawnee Golf Course was in terrible shape and closed off. There was a very short section of pavement from Market Street to Broadway that was in pretty clean shape where the Riverwalk ended at its western terminus. It is too bad the city of Louisville, which touts itself as the 16th largest city in the US (certainly laughable statistics) will not keep the Riverwalk, which could be a real city treasure, clean and secure. I understand that occasional flooding will bring some mud and driftwood. But apparently this large section (miles) of the Riverwalk has been closed to bicycles and in progressive disrepair since 2011. I would expect much more from a city which aspires to be great and loves to tout its accomplishments. Louisville certainly has a LONG WAY to go to equal river cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Memphis. In the meantime, bicyclists are unable to enjoy the western half of Louisville's Riverwalk, which I consider to have been its most enchanting section in former years.
My girlfriend and I began our ride just to the eastern side of the Big Four Bridge with the goal of riding along the Riverwalk to Shawnee Park (about 8 miles) and back. The short ride to Waterfront Park seemed to be well-maintained (but not very clearly marked for the bikers). It all went downhill from there. After reading the reviews from a couple of years ago, most of the same problems persist. As we left the downtown area, the pavement became uneven and dangerously narrow, and we passed a few homeless tent camps and intoxicated people alongside the trail. The trail was mowed but the tall weeds, brush, and trees left us feeling quite unsafe even at noon! We pressed on to the portion of the trail that had been closed due to flooding/erosion back in 2011/2012. In July of 2014, the people of Louisville are STILL waiting for the necessary repairs. Instead, we took the detour on the highway, which was STILL poorly marked (as mentioned by another reviewer). I would not recommend this trail to a small group or family until the city of Louisville ramps up its bike patrols of the area and makes much needed repairs and upgrades to the trail. As a local resident, I felt ashamed that a trail with such potential for bringing in tourism and local dollars to the more impoverished areas of Louisville had been forlorn over just a few years. To top the trip off, we rode into downtown for lunch and were panhandled no fewer than three times on 4th St.
We ride this trail, sometimes, but not on a regular basis anymore. We started out on River Road way up east and ride through downtown Louisville and up to Shawnee Park. Going through with train cars, trash everywhere, beer bottles galore, along with liquor bottles, there were plenty. We get pass that and into a scary area where pit bulls are the norm. Seems everyone in this area, Portland and along the way, everyone has a pit bull. Seems that way anyway. Some would jump at us, even though they were contained, they are scary. It is not an area you want to get caught with no protection. The area is poor and the people are, well, the area is not good to ride through. Not sure what can be done, but it should be maintained by security. That would help.
On 11/25/12 my daughter and I took our tandem out for a spin to break up the long drive home from Thanksgiving. We started from the Shawnee Park end, heading in toward downtown, and found that a large section of the trail through the park was closed due to the flooding damage (much) earlier in the year. We diverted onto the golf course paths (not many golfers that time of the year!) and accessed the trail again further upstream. A mountain bike could probably handle the trail in this closed section, but with a tandem it was a no-go, even with wide tires. The asphalt trail was covered by several inches of river silt, and even deeper in spots (in addition to the logs, leaves, and litter one would expect). Alas, the good folk of Louisville have a lot of work to do to bring this trail back to life. The posted detour is apparently onto city streets, and was difficult to determine or follow (why we wound up on the golf course). Hopefully someone will post an updated review when the path is reopened, as I think it would make a nice stop.
On March 30, 2012 my wife and I road our bikes from Lannan Park to Eva Bandam Park and are pleased to say that the trail was free of debris. Based on previous reviews good clean up job Louisville!
This ride has its beauty and its lesser moments. The river is always an eye catcher, and especially at certain times of the day, but there are places on this trail that one might not want to have a flat tire or be a stranded target. When we went over this trail, we encountered a lot of glass (beer bottle type glass), and we were very glad we had purchased a very high grade of tire that was less susceptible to puncture than regular tires. In the past we have ridden some high end bikes along this trail before it was finished, and racing tires are not a good idea along this trail. Even with the greatest care and slowest of speeds, it is hard to keep from getting something bad punturing your tire. We carry little brooms and try to contribute to the safe pathway that we all desire, but it really does seem to be a losing battle. That said, and knowing the city budget is what it is, we should pitch in order to keep all of our inner city trails passable and less hazardous. Our most wonderful ride was in Bethpage Park on Long Island. Don't know how they keep this thing so beautiful and well lit and swept, but it was a real wonderful experience we ought to try and mimic NYC here in Louisville.
We believe in giving everything a second chance so tried this trail again. Started at the riverfront near Joe's Crab Shack and rode west. Much of the graffiti we had seen in the spring had been cleaned up. Less trash along path but could be better. Please, Louisvillians, stop throwing your garbage down where ever you happen to be, this makes our city look terrible. The tent camp of homeless people had moved elsewhere. Vegetation had grown up alot and covered up some of the areas of abandoned and run down buildings. In all, some improvement was noted. I believe our mayor gets this cleaned up right about the time of the Kentucky Derby. The trail itself was in mostly acceptable condition with only a few areas of pavement fractures and holes. The views of the river and the bridges was very nice. Also there are a few areas of tree canopy providing some shady relief from the sun.
We did this trail on a quiet Saturday morning. The surrounding area was full of trash, debris, graffiti etc. One person had sprayed "ugly" on the concrete posts under the interstate overpass. This area was often dark, and went by many abandoned and run down buildings. I kept thinking we had to be in the wrong place but was assured by other riders that this was the right place. The whole area had a very unpleasant smell as well as garbage and trash everywhere. We turned around after about 3 miles when we came upon tents and a "camp" of homeless people. We rode in the other direction from Joe's Crab Shack and to the east around the park, river, and ballfield area. This area was much cleaner and out in the open. While there is no defined trail, there is plenty of room to ride here.
A beautiful ride through the tree canopy. For a extravagant time follow up with dinner in old Louisville.
"This is a wonderful trail along the river. As an out-of-towner, I found no signage pointing to the trail, but it’s easy to follow once you find it. To get to Shawnee or Chickasaw Parks, take exit 3 off I-264, and head west on Hale Avenue. I started at Shawnee Park. Signage on the trail shows the trail starts further south in Chickasaw Park. Find any paved trail in one of the parks heading toward the river, and you’ll (probably) easily find the trail. I found it very, very lightly used, except within a mile or so of the city center. From the Crab Shack east to Litterle Rd it’s a collection of sidewalks and paths without markings. Check out the “Flock of Finns”, 32 colorful sculptures of birds, in the park southwest of the Crab Shack."
Nice ride along the Ohio River and Park.
"We stayed at the Gault House in downtown Louisville on our way south in order to skate the riverwalk trail.
The hotel was great.
We should have brought our bikes.
We have thousands of miles on our skates and found this trail to be difficult.
The trail is narrow with railroad crossings, ramps, rocks, long stretches of slippery mud, speed bumps, hills and rough pavement.
We only found about one half mile stretch where we could get going on our skates watching carefully for rocks from parallel railroad tracks.
It was wonderful to be on the trail early on Sunday with the river boats following along close to the shore.
Inline skating should be removed from the trail description. Unload your bikes for an interesting ride."
"We started in Shawnee park, with no directions to get there, and biked almost 11 miles until we dead ended at Letterle Ave. Floodwall/Butchertown Greenway. When you reach the crab shack, go uphill about 50 yds and get on walkway/sidewalk/kids parkway and go down river road about 3 miles then into a park area to trail under the highway. Paved all the way."
"This trail, however nice, does not run all the way to Chickasaw Park. It ends in Shawnee Park. The last section, which is approximately 0.6 miles, has yet to be opened. I ran the first last 3.2 miles of this trail and found it to be a good run. "
"The Louisville Riverwalk is an interesting, scenic path. It starts downtown at the Ohio River and then heads west along the river through the Portland, Shawnee and Chickasaw neighborhoods and parks. Parts of trail will flood if the river is high."
There is some beautiful scenery along the trail. We rode to the park and back -- a 14 mile ride that was fun for whole family. We'll be glad when the trail is done the other way too.
"The trail is fairly lightly used, in my experience, but weekends bring out a lot of walkers and bikers. The Ohio River is usually fairly busy, with barge and recreational traffic. The trail passes along the side of the Portland Canal, which takes river traffic away from the Ohio River falls. The trail goes along the edge of the river in several places, and Shawnee and Chickasaw Parks provide additional recreational activities. The eastern end of the trail is in downtown Louisville, and one can ride from there to Cherokee Park, about 3 miles away."
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