This is the first state forest in Kentucky and was dedicated in 1919 when Kentenia-Cantron Corporation donated the land to the state. The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund purchased 762 acres of a total of 4,277 acres in four tracts. Sitting on top and the south face of Pine Mountain, this forest is mostly dry Appalachian forest with mixed hemlock stands in the ravines and drainages. It is mostly flat on top with numerous large rock outcroppings and some cliffline and rockhouse habitat but then drops into steep slopes dominated by Chestnut, scarlet, southern red, and white oaks, red maple, black gum, sweet birch and Virginia and pitch pines. As you move down the slopes the forest changes in composition with red and sugar maple, northern red and chestnut oak, tuliptree, black gum, black locust, Fraser’s magnolia, cucumber tree, eastern hemlock and pines dominating. The lower slopes are dominated by the same species except white oak becomes a significant component of the canopy. The ravines and drainages are mixed hemlock stands with eastern hemlock, tuliptree, and sugar maple in the canopy and large stands of great rhododendron. The cliffline and rockhouses are dominated by various lichens, mosses, ferns, round-leaf catchfly, pink lady slipper, and rockhouse alumroot. More than 250 species of plants have been documented in the forest and include the following rare species: state threatened yellow wild indigo, small yellow lady slipper, Steele’s joe-pye-weed, Curtis’ goldenrod; state endangered American chestnut and state special concern small enchanter’s nightshade, spinulose wood fern, showy gentian and white walnut.
Open to the public for hiking, nature study, hunting, fishing, horseback riding and primitive camping. Off-road vehicles are not permitted. Parking is limited to various locations at pull outs along the Little Shepherd Trail. From Harlan take US 119 east to the junction of US 421 and turn north proceeding up the mountain until you reach the Little Shepherd Trail; this section of the Little Shepard is part of the Pine Mountain Scenic Trail. Turn right onto the gravel road and the state forest is located along the road on the south side.