Red River Gorge
About Red River Gorge
The Red River Gorge is one of Kentuckys unique places to backpackpack. Some of the features you will encounter include sandstone arches, natural bridges, rock houses and ridge top overlooks. Visitors can hike, camp, canoe, and climb the area.
The Red River Gorge is designated a Geological Area, National Natural Landmark and National Archaeological District and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A portion of the gorge is also designated as Clifty Wilderness.
Tunnel Ridge Road
Tunnel Ridge road has several trail heads where you can start your backpacking adventure. To reach Tunnel Ridge Road, turn right on KY 15 and proceed about 2.5 miles up a long incline till the road levels out. On the left is Tunnel Ridge Road, this gravel road has many good camping sites with lots of turn outs. Grays Arch, parking area is about 1.5 miles on the left. Go another 2.5 miles takes you to Auxier Ridge/Courthouse Rock parking area. The road is gated here, but you can hike the additional mile to the end where Double Arch trail head begins.
Koomer Ridge Campground is about 2 miles past Tunnel Ridge Road on KY 15. This facility has several "Car camping" trailer/tent sites. Outhouses, drinking water and picnic tables are available. Sites are first-come, first-served. Drinking water is available only during the summer season mid-April through October. The 3.0 mile Koomer Ridge trail begins at the Koomer ridge parking lot and leads to Hidden Arch Loop trail and Buck trail before ending at Rough trail/Sheltowee.
Chimney Top Road
Chimney Top is another area that has some great overlooks and arches you can visit. To reach Chimney Top/Sky Bridge Area continue about 2.5 miles to Pine Ridge. Just past the Sky Bridge Motel, KY 715 intersects Ky 15 on the left. Turn left, a short distance on the right is a gravel road that leads to Rock Bridge. Continuing on Ky 715 about 2 miles, you will come to Chimney Top Road. Turn left to reach Chimney Top, Princess Arch and Half Moon Rock. Continue on Ky 715 about 2 more miles, turn left at Sky Bridge Road. Follow this road to Sky Bridge Picnic area. From the picnic area it is a small walk to Sky Bridge.
The Clifty Wilderness is 12,646-acre of rugged terrain. It has more than 20 miles of trails that include Swift Camp Creek trail, Wild Cat trail and Osbourne trail. The trails pass through thick vegitation over creeks and up to high overlooks. To reach the Clifty Wilderness area, continue on Ky 15 about 2.5 miles to Pine Ridge. Just past the Sky Bridge Motel, KY 715 intersects Ky 15 on the left. Turn left, a short distance on the right is a gravel road that leads to Rock Bridge. This is the southern boarder of the Wilderness area. Continuing on Ky 715 to find several access pull offs. The Clifty Wilderness area extends to the right of the road all the way to Gladie Center.
The Gladie Learning Center provides resources on the cultural heritage, resources and geology found in the Red River Gorge Geological Area. The Sheltowee Trace pass near the center with Bison Way as an access trail to the Trace. Indian Staircase is also found in this area. To reach the Gladie Learning Center, continue on Ky 15 about 2.5 miles to Pine Ridge. Just past the Sky Bridge Motel, KY 715 intersects Ky 15 on the left. Turn left, Continuing on Ky 715 past Chimney Top Road traveling down toward the bridge at Red River. About 1 mile past the bridge you will see the Center on your left.
Indian Creek Area
The Indian Creek area has stream side camping and is great if you have small children you don't want up on a ridge. To reach the Indian Creek area, turn left on KY 15 to Stanton, KY. At Stanton turn right on KY 77. Proceed through the hand dug Nada Tunnel continuing untill you reach the Iron Bridge. Turn left on Service Rd. 23. The road comes to a "T" gravel road. There is good primitive camping on this road, the best is to the right. Some sites are along a small stream.
In reponse to the increase use of the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Natural Park Service has insituted a new fee structure that was effective 4/1/00. If you are planning to camp in the Gorge and not use a campground, there will be an overnight parking fee. This fee depends on the number of nights you will be camping and will be enforced. The fee schedule is:
1 Day - $3.00
3 Day - $5.00
Yearly - $30.00
The fees generated by this pass will be used in the National Forest for a mulitude of purposes. And there are several places to get the passes. More information on passes.
It is illegal to camp within 100 feet of the base of any cliff, or the back of any rockshelter. This does not mean along the ridges. Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire within 100 feet of the base of any cliff, or the back of any rockshelter is also illegal. You must camp at least 300 feet from any trail or parking area. Do not camp in any area's that have been marked for reclamation.
There are many more arches and interesting sites at Red River Gorge. A great book to get is, "Kentucky's Land of the Arches" by R. H. Ruchhoft. This book has detailed descriptions of the entire Red River Gorge area.
The Red River Gorge is located in Kentucky inside the Daniel Boone National Forest. To get there, take the Mountain Parkway to the Slade, KY exit. At the bottom of the exit ramp turn left to proceed to Red River Gorge. (then right for camping at Tunnel Ridge Road.) Turning right at the bottom of the exit ramp takes you to the Natural Bridge Information Center.
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