Red River Gorge In Kentucky

Here is everything you need to know about the Red River Gorge:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Kentucky
  • Length: 34 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: Rocky
  • Managed By: U.S. Forest Service
  • Permit Required?: Yes.
  • Website:

The Red River Gorge, located in the eastern part of Kentucky, has a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. The area was first inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Shawnee and Cherokee, who utilized the gorge for hunting, fishing, and gathering resources. Evidence of their presence can be found in the form of ancient rock shelters, burial mounds, and artifacts.

European settlers began to explore the Red River Gorge in the late 18th century. The first recorded exploration was conducted by a group of hunters led by Colonel John Bowman in 1775. However, it was not until the early 19th century that permanent settlements were established in the area. The rugged terrain and dense forests made it challenging for settlers to access the gorge, but its abundant natural resources, such as timber and minerals, attracted pioneers seeking new opportunities.

In the mid-19th century, the Red River Gorge became a hub for logging and mining activities. Timber companies exploited the vast forests, cutting down trees to supply the growing demand for lumber. Coal and iron ore were also discovered in the region, leading to the establishment of mining operations. The construction of railroads further facilitated the extraction and transportation of these resources.

Over time, the Red River Gorge gained recognition for its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. In the early 20th century, outdoor enthusiasts began to visit the area for hiking, camping, and rock climbing. Efforts to preserve the gorge’s unique ecosystem and geological formations led to the establishment of the Red River Gorge Geological Area in 1967, which later became part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Today, the Red River Gorge is a popular destination for nature lovers, offering a wide range of activities such as hiking, rock climbing, and birdwatching. Its stunning cliffs, towering arches, and lush forests continue to captivate visitors, while its historical significance as a site of Native American habitation and early European settlement adds to its allure.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Sky Bridge Trailhead
2. Natural Bridge State Resort Park
3. Chimney Top Trailhead
4. Auxier Ridge Trailhead
5. Gray’s Arch Trailhead
6. Indian Staircase Trailhead
7. Princess Arch Trailhead
8. Whittleton Campground Trailhead
9. Rock Bridge Trailhead
10. Koomer Ridge Campground Trailhead
11. Pinch-Em Tight Trailhead
12. Sheltowee Trace Trailhead
13. Grays Arch Picnic Area Trailhead
14. Gladie Creek Visitor Center Trailhead
15. Nada Tunnel Trailhead

Transportation Available

1. Red River Gorge Taxi – Local taxi service providing transportation in and around Red River Gorge.
2. Red River Gorge Shuttle – Shuttle service offering convenient transportation to various destinations within Red River Gorge.
3. Red River Gorge Adventure Bus – Bus service catering to outdoor enthusiasts, providing transportation to popular hiking and climbing spots in the area.
4. Red River Gorge Tourist Trolley – Trolley service offering guided tours and transportation to key attractions in Red River Gorge.
5. Red River Gorge Bike Rentals – Bike rental service allowing visitors to explore Red River Gorge on two wheels.
6. Red River Gorge ATV Rentals – ATV rental service providing off-road transportation options for exploring the rugged terrain of Red River Gorge.
7. Red River Gorge Horseback Riding – Horseback riding service offering guided tours and transportation on horseback through the scenic trails of Red River Gorge.
8. Red River Gorge Zip Line Tours – Zip line tour service providing thrilling transportation options while enjoying aerial views of Red River Gorge.
9. Red River Gorge Kayak Rentals – Kayak rental service allowing visitors to navigate the waterways of Red River Gorge.
10. Red River Gorge Helicopter Tours – Helicopter tour service offering breathtaking aerial transportation and sightseeing experiences in Red River Gorge.


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Nearby Services

1. Natural Bridge State Resort Park – Lodging and food services located within the park, offering cabins, camping, and a lodge with a restaurant.
2. Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals – Various cabin rentals available near the Gorge, providing comfortable accommodations.
3. Cliffview Resort – Resort offering lodging, dining, and outdoor activities such as ziplining and hiking.
4. Miguel’s Pizza – Popular pizza joint near the Gorge, known for its delicious food and outdoor seating.
5. Red River Rockhouse – Restaurant serving locally sourced food, including vegetarian and vegan options.
6. Sky Bridge Station – Casual eatery offering burgers, sandwiches, and craft beer, conveniently located near the Gorge.
7. Wolfe County Search and Rescue – Emergency services available for search and rescue operations in the Red River Gorge area.
8. Powell County Ambulance Service – Emergency medical services serving the Red River Gorge region.
9. Stanton Fire Department – Local fire department providing emergency services to the Red River Gorge area.
10. Kentucky State Police – Law enforcement agency responsible for maintaining public safety in the Red River Gorge vicinity.

Red River Gorge Difficulty Notes

The Red River Gorge, located in Kentucky, is renowned for its challenging and diverse terrain, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and rock climbers. With its steep cliffs, rugged trails, and dense forests, the difficulty level of the Red River Gorge can vary depending on the activity and experience level of the individual. Hiking trails range from easy to strenuous, offering options for both beginners and seasoned hikers. Rock climbing routes present a wide range of difficulty levels, from beginner-friendly routes to extremely challenging ones that require advanced skills and techniques. Overall, the Red River Gorge offers a thrilling and rewarding experience for those seeking a challenge in the great outdoors.

Features And Attractions

1. Natural Bridge State Resort Park: This iconic natural landmark features a massive sandstone arch that spans 78 feet and stands 65 feet high. It offers breathtaking views of the surrounding forest and is a popular spot for hiking and rock climbing.

2. Sky Bridge: Another impressive sandstone arch, Sky Bridge offers stunning views of the gorge and the surrounding cliffs. It can be accessed via a short hike from the trailhead.

3. Chimney Top Rock: This towering rock formation provides panoramic views of the Red River Gorge. It requires a moderate hike to reach the top, but the vistas are well worth the effort.

4. Gray’s Arch: A beautiful natural arch that stretches 79 feet wide and 51 feet high. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a picturesque setting for photography.

5. Natural Arch: Located in the Clifty Wilderness area, this natural arch is one of the largest in the Red River Gorge. It can be reached via a moderate hike and offers stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and forest.

6. Princess Arch: A smaller but equally charming natural arch, Princess Arch is located near the Red River and offers a peaceful and scenic spot for picnicking or simply enjoying the view.

7. Indian Staircase: This unique rock formation resembles a giant staircase and offers panoramic views of the gorge. It requires a challenging hike to reach the top, but the reward is a breathtaking vista.

8. Rock Bridge: A natural bridge formed by centuries of erosion, Rock Bridge offers a picturesque setting with a small waterfall and a tranquil stream. It is a popular spot for photography and picnicking.

9. Devil’s Canyon Overlook: Located on the western edge of the Red River Gorge, this overlook provides stunning views of the canyon and the winding Red River below. It is a great spot for sunset viewing.

10. Gladie Creek Historic Site: This site is home to the Gladie Cabin, a historic log cabin built in the 19th century. It offers a glimpse into the region’s pioneer history and is surrounded by beautiful scenery.

These are just a few of the many scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks that can be found along the Red River Gorge. The area is known for its stunning beauty and offers countless opportunities for outdoor exploration and appreciation of nature.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
3. Camping is only allowed in designated areas.
4. Campfires are permitted only in designated fire rings or grills.
5. Do not damage or remove any plants, trees, or natural features.
6. Hunting and trapping are strictly prohibited.
7. Fishing is allowed with a valid Kentucky fishing license.
8. Swimming is allowed in designated areas only.
9. Respect quiet hours from 10 PM to 6 AM.
10. Dispose of trash in designated receptacles or pack it out.
11. Alcohol consumption is allowed, but excessive drinking and disorderly behavior are not tolerated.
12. Respect seasonal restrictions, such as closures during bird nesting season.
13. Off-road vehicles are not permitted on trails or in non-designated areas.
14. Rock climbing and rappelling are allowed, but check for any specific restrictions or closures.
15. Respect private property boundaries and do not trespass.
16. Leave no trace: minimize your impact on the environment and leave the area as you found it.

Seasonal Information

The Red River Gorge, located in Kentucky, is a stunning natural wonder that attracts visitors from all over the world. The best times of the year to visit this beautiful destination are during the spring and fall seasons. In the spring, the gorge comes alive with vibrant colors as the wildflowers bloom and the trees regain their lush green foliage. The weather during this time is generally pleasant, with mild temperatures and occasional rainfall, making it perfect for hiking, camping, and exploring the numerous trails and rock formations.

Similarly, the fall season offers breathtaking views as the foliage transforms into a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold. The cooler temperatures make it an ideal time for outdoor activities such as rock climbing, zip-lining, and horseback riding. The Red River Gorge is particularly famous for its rock climbing opportunities, and the fall season provides the best conditions for climbers due to the cooler weather and less humidity.

It is important to note that the Red River Gorge experiences seasonal closures, primarily during the winter months. Some of the trails and roads may be closed due to snow and ice, making it difficult to access certain areas. Additionally, some campgrounds and facilities may have limited or no services during this time. It is advisable to check the official website or contact the local authorities for the most up-to-date information on closures and accessibility before planning your visit.

Overall, the Red River Gorge is a year-round destination with its own unique charm in each season. Whether you prefer the vibrant colors of spring or the stunning foliage of fall, there is always something to appreciate in this natural paradise. Just be sure to plan your visit accordingly, considering the seasonal closures and weather conditions, to make the most of your experience in the Red River Gorge.


1. Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces are available near the main attractions and trailheads for easy access.
2. Accessible Restrooms: Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are provided at various locations throughout the Red River Gorge.
3. Paved Trails: Some trails within the Red River Gorge are paved, allowing wheelchair users to explore the natural beauty of the area.
4. Boardwalks: Certain areas feature boardwalks that provide accessible pathways for wheelchair users to enjoy scenic views.
5. Viewing Platforms: Elevated platforms are available at specific viewpoints, offering wheelchair users an opportunity to enjoy panoramic vistas.
6. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and facilities are provided for visitors with disabilities.
7. Assistance Animals: Service animals are permitted within the Red River Gorge to assist individuals with disabilities.
8. Accessible Visitor Center: The visitor center is equipped with ramps, wide doorways, and accessible exhibits to accommodate wheelchair users.
9. Accessible Campsites: Some campsites are designed to be wheelchair accessible, featuring level ground and accessible facilities.
10. Accessible Lodging: Certain accommodations within the Red River Gorge offer accessible rooms with features like roll-in showers and grab bars for guests with disabilities.

Safety Information

When visiting the Red River Gorge, it is important to be aware of the following safety information:

1. Weather Conditions: Check the weather forecast before your visit and be prepared for sudden changes. Thunderstorms, heavy rain, and flash floods can occur, so always be cautious and seek shelter if necessary.

2. Hiking Safety: Stay on marked trails and follow all posted signs. Inform someone about your hiking plans and estimated return time. Carry a map, compass, or GPS device, and be familiar with how to use them. Wear appropriate footwear and clothing, and bring enough water, food, and necessary supplies for your hike.

3. Rock Climbing Safety: If you plan to rock climb, ensure you have the necessary skills, experience, and equipment. Always climb with a partner and use proper safety gear, including helmets, harnesses, and ropes. Be cautious of loose rocks and potential hazards.

4. Wildlife Awareness: The Red River Gorge is home to various wildlife, including snakes, bears, and insects. Be aware of your surroundings and respect their natural habitat. Keep a safe distance and do not approach or feed any wildlife.

5. Water Safety: If swimming or engaging in water activities, be cautious of strong currents, deep pools, and submerged hazards. Always swim with a buddy and never dive into unfamiliar water. Pay attention to any posted warnings or advisories.

6. Campfire Safety: If camping, follow all fire regulations and guidelines. Use designated fire rings or pits and never leave a fire unattended. Ensure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving the area.

7. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and leaving the natural environment as you found it. Respect the flora and fauna, and avoid damaging or disturbing any natural features.

8. Emergency Preparedness: Familiarize yourself with the location of emergency services, including the nearest hospital or medical facility. Carry a first aid kit and know basic first aid procedures. In case of an emergency, call 911 or the appropriate emergency number.

Remember, safety is paramount when visiting any outdoor area. Always use common sense, be prepared, and respect the natural environment to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience at the Red River Gorge.

Conservation Notes

The Red River Gorge, located in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, is a unique and ecologically diverse area that is of significant conservation importance. The conservation status of the Red River Gorge can be described as relatively stable, but with ongoing threats that require continued attention and management.

One of the primary conservation concerns in the Red River Gorge is the protection of its diverse plant and animal species. The area is home to a wide range of rare and endemic species, including several federally listed threatened and endangered species. Efforts have been made to protect and restore the habitat of these species, such as the Cumberland arrow darter and the Indiana bat, through habitat restoration projects and the establishment of protected areas.

Another key conservation issue in the Red River Gorge is the management of recreational activities. The area is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, climbers, and campers. While these activities contribute to the local economy, they can also have negative impacts on the natural environment. Erosion, trampling of sensitive vegetation, and disturbance to wildlife are some of the challenges associated with managing recreational use in the Red River Gorge.

To address these conservation concerns, various organizations and agencies are actively involved in monitoring and managing the Red River Gorge. The U.S. Forest Service, in collaboration with local conservation groups, implements measures to protect and restore the area’s biodiversity. This includes the enforcement of regulations, such as limiting camping and climbing in sensitive areas, and educating visitors about responsible outdoor practices.

In conclusion, the conservation status of the Red River Gorge is relatively stable, but ongoing efforts are required to protect its unique biodiversity and manage recreational activities sustainably. Continued monitoring, research, and collaboration among stakeholders will be crucial in ensuring the long-term conservation of this ecologically significant area.

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