“Powdermill Branch Trail is a less well-known trail in the Red River Gorge trail system.”
— Chris Chaney
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Swimming · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The beginning and end of the trail is steep and the lower end is muddy as well. There is a mandatory creek crossing if you run the trail from Indian Creek (FR 9a). There is more than average horse traffic for this area on the trail. It's very popular with local equestrians.
Park at the trailhead off of FR 9a. Run left along the creek until you have no choice but to cross (within sight of your car). Ford the creek and find a rugged steep old logging road going up the hill. There is a short thigh-busting pitch on this lower section until you escape the mud and can run (a few dozen yards) and reap the rewards of your persistence.
The rest of this trail is amazing, scenic, and enjoyable. Once the trail gains a natural bench after the initial climb up from Indian Creek it contours for a long time over a deep, narrow holler (Powder Mill Branch) and crosses a couple of smaller drainages coming in from the right (north). A short side run that is worthwhile at the first drainage will take you to a rare limestone arch.
Once back on the trail you continue the steady climb up Powder Mill Branch through a beautiful boulder garden and then an intimate little valley. There is a short steep scramble section, a reprieve, and then a final steep climb to exit the trail.
At the top end, you gain Hatton Ridge Road
which is a relatively unknown Forest Service Road. You can continue along the road and pick up another obscure gravel/dirt road and circumnavigate the entire Spaas Creek and Short Creek rims before returning and reversing the Powder Mill Trail back to the beginning for a long day out in the woods.