If you're looking for a scenic drive in Eastern KY, the Little Shepard Trail might be the perfect adventure for you.
About the Trail
Kentucky Highway 1679, "Little Shepherd Trail," is a 38-mile narrow road on the crest of Pine Mountain from US 421 east of Harlan to US 119 south of Whitesburg. The trail passes through Kingdom Come State Park.
I did a pretty decent amount of research on this one before heading out. Once I returned safely, I did even more research believing that I had somehow took the wrong road. I anticipated something completely different than what was described in other peoples' videos and posts. I imagined a narrow road with sheer cliff drop offs, absolute terror, death, mayhem, explosions, bears and cougars running around crazy, wild mountain people, you name it.
Here is what I actually found:
Views - The views were limited/partial in most places. The best views on the trail occur in Kingdom Come State Park. You could skip the drive and just go directly to the park and get those epic views. See my link to Kingdom come state park below.
The Forest - The dense forest does play a role in the limited views, however the forest is beautiful all on it's own. A drive through here in fall, I bet, is absolutely wonderful.
Wild Life - I had read that the wildlife is abundant here. This included stories about bears, bobcats, cougars and various types of fowl. We saw nothing. (sucks)
Traffic - There was quite a bit of traffic, at least for a road that is considered dangerous and scary. The amount of traffic is what I contribute to the lack of wildlife.
The road - The road is a narrow, one lane road, sometimes paved, sometimes gravel. There are sharp turns and twists. Please use caution. While I don't agree with the narrative in regards to it being insanely treacherous, I will say, it is narrow and is similar to many of the old back roads you'll find around eastern KY and southwest VA.
What it does offer is a slow, casual drive through dense forest, under a canopy of green. Hogbacks, which are rocky out-crops, are seen petruding from the forest around them. If I had been hiking, I would have been tempted to investigate these further. They are pretty awesome in their own way and some appear above the tree line, likely granting a view you can't get elsewhere.
Overall, I give it a big eh and a shrug. It wasn't the worst adventure that my hubby and I have endured, but it just wasn't anything close to what we expected, and I honestly found myself very bored and frustrated with the whole trip. The road is narrow and it was immensely busy. This meant every other mile if that, we had to back up or wait for someone else to back up so we could pass. Which is was pretty annoying and about 20 minutes into this super duper snail pace ride, I was very much over it. The fact that we couldn't really see any good views and no wildlife seemed present didn't give much motivation for continuing on. This was not a trip I'm likely to repeat, though I have moments where I tell myself a drive through here in the fall would be worth a try.
We also passed a vehicle at one point where we were in a ditch, and they were on the very edge of the road. We were so close to one another that our vehicles only inched by a small bit at a time to make sure we weren't going to hit one another. Again, these things were less scary and more annoying to me. I will admit patience is not my best virtue. I really hate to sound negative about any place, because everything has something good to offer, but I'll be fair and say maybe we just hit it on really busy day. I would equate the slow speed we had to travel equal to like a drive thru a petting zoo but for 38 miles, lol. For my ADHD brain that was a big NO. I sat as patient as I could with what I call my "good camera" in hand ready for any epicness to no avail.
If you do take on the drive, they recommend smaller SUV type vehicles. While we did see a variety of cars, lots of motorcycles, and many larger vehicles, including pickup trucks. Large trucks are prohibited. I will note one bit of caution on the Harlan portion, there was previously a landslide. It is very obvious and impossible to miss. This area is the only area where I felt a small bit iffy about. It did look as if they had been working on it, and it is possible it has been improved since. In case it isn't, I'm just trying to give you a heads up.
As always, keep it safe, keep it cool, and stay curious.
Kingdom Come State Park Link below!