Did you know Red River Gorge is home to over 100 natural arches? It’s second only to Arches National Park! Located in eastern Kentucky about an hour south of Lexington, Red River Gorge is comprised of thousands of acres of natural area, covering the Natural Bridge State Park, Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest and Clifty Wilderness. So let’s explore what to do in Red River Gorge, from natural arches to waterfalls and underground rivers!
Must See Natural Arches
The Red River Gorge has a unique landscape carved out of the surrounding mountains and hills. Natural arches and bridges abound, along with other unusual rock formations. You can’t drive far without a sight worth stopping for. The majority of the arches can be found in the Red River Gorge Geological Area, adjacent to the Natural Bridge State Park. Several are large enough to walk across, while others are only a few feet high.
The Natural Bridge is the largest and most iconic stone arch in the area, located within its namesake state park. At 65 feet high and 78 feet long, it’s huge! You can access the bridge via several trails, including the skylift, but the Original Trail is our pick. It’s the shortest but steepest way to acces the bridge, at just 3/4 mile with 420 feet elevation change.
Arrive at the bottom of the bridge, and then climb through Fat Man’s Squeeze alongside it. At the end of the narrow trail, there are a few more stairs before you reach the top of the bridge. What a view! And the bridge is wide enough to drive a car across so even if you’re afraid of heights, this should be a breeze!
Be sure to cross the bridge and continue on the Laurel Ridge Trail to Lookout Point for views of the bridge.
View this post on Instagram
Sky Bridge is almost as impressive as the Natural Bridge, and it located in the Red River Gorge Geological Area. The 0.75 mile loop crosses the bridge and then winds under it, before a steep stair climb back to the parking lot. Sky Bridge isn’t as wide as the Natural Bridge, but still isn’t fear inducing (and that’s coming from someone who dreds those steep trail drop offs!).
Rock Bridge Arch
Rock Bridge is technically the only bridge in the area, as it’s the only one to cross water. It’s one of the most unique, although you can’t walk across it. The trailhead begins from the Rock Bridge Picnic Area, for a 1.25 mile loop. It’s a must! More below, but you’ll also find Creation Falls on this trail.
Whistling Arch is just past Sky Bridge, along a short 0.25 mile trail. It’s a fairly small arch, best visited along with a stop at Sky Bridge and Angel Windows.
Angel Windows isn’t huge, but it’s a double arch. It’s a short and easy 0.25 mile trail, just past Whistling Arch. There isn’t much parking, so it’s best to visit on off hours or week days. Watch out for the sharp dropoff on the opposite side of the arches.
Another bridge you can walk across, Princess Arch is accessible from the Chimney Top parking lot. While the trail is only 0.25, there are divergent paths along the trail, so it can easily become longer. Be cautious, as there are multiple cliff edges!
Everything Else Outdoors
The Gorge Underground is one of the most unique kayak or boat trips you’ll ever find! Located in an old mine where they hit the water table, the space flooded and was abandoned. Years later, the Gorge Underground opened.
Kayak and clear kayak tours last about 1.5 hours, winding through the old mine shafts. Due to the type of mining, the space is huge, you definitey won’t feel claustrophobic. The water is crystal clear and filled with trout. They’re huge, and when they swim under the kayaks you’ll be hoping they don’t tip you! Be forewarned, the clear kayak rentals aren’t cheap, but they make the experience all the more memorable.
It’s chilly down there- wear layers and bring gloves. Also, shoes aren’t allowed in the clear kayaks, so bring or rent neoprene socks. I wore regular socks and they got soaked.
Natural Bridge Skylift
The Natural Bridge Skylift is located within the state park, providing transportation up to the Natural Bridge. Tickets are available roundtrip, or one way, a great option to experience both the chairlift views and the trail.
The top of the chairlift is only a short walk from the Natural Bridge, providing easy access it if you’re short on time or unable to hike.
If you’re an RVer, don’t bring the rig through this route! The Nada Tunnel was built in the early 1900s for the railroad, but today it’s the gateway to the Red River Gorge area. A one lane tunnel measuring 13” high, 12” wide and 900” long allows KY 77 to enter the national forest. It then winds through beautiful scenery and passes the many highlights of the gorge, from the Gladie Visitor Center, to Sky Bridge, Chimney Top Rock and numerous other natural arches.
Chimney Top Rock
Located down a gravel road off KY 715, , Chimney Top Rock is one the best viewpoints in the gorge, offering a view in all directions for miles. It’s a short walk from the parking lot, which is also the starting point for the Princess Arch trail.
Creation Falls is located along the Rock Bridge Trailhead, a two-for-one hike where you’ll find both the falls and Rock Bridge Arch. The 1.5 mile loop has some relatively steep sections, passes unique rock formations and follows the creek before it cascades into the falls. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a quiet moment or picnic lunch.
Henson’s Arch (aka Sinkhole)
This trail is easily overlooked if you’re not staying in the Whittington Campground. The trailhead begins behind the campground, so you’ll need to park by the gatehouse. At 0.6 miles roundtrip, it’s a short hike to a unique cave and small waterfall. Stairs descend to the bottom of the sinkhole, making it a pretty unique hike.
RV & Camping Options
The Red River Gorge is full of campsites, both modern and rustic. Be sure to obtain a permit, then enjoy some beautiful sites in the Daniel Boone National Forest, like the one pictured below in the Indian Creek Area.
There are also several RV parks outside the national forest. We stayed at Callie’s Lake and Campground, a nice park a few minutes from of Slade. While it’s about a 15 minute drive to the state park, it’s only 10 minutes from the Kroger in Stanton!
Looking for more outdoor adventures? You might like these!
Save It For Later!