Red River Gorge is one of my favorite places to hike in Kentucky.
The hiking options are endless and the views are incredible throughout its 29,000 acres within the Daniel Boone National Forest.
If you are visiting for the first time or just visiting for the day, I have some tips for you.
1. Visit Natural Bridge
If it’s your first visit, Natural Bridge is a great introduction to the area.
It’s also one of the hikes that I like to start with because of the views.
Natural Bridge is 65 feet in height and spans 78 feet in length with 360 views of the natural surrounding area.
There are a few options when it comes to getting to the top.
2. Ride the Skylift if You Can
If the chairlift is open, I recommend taking it for your way up, you can always hike back down.
The Skylift is not open year round so make sure that you double check their operation schedule.
There is a small fee but it’s worth it to save time and steps. You can opt for a round trip ride or one way.
The Best Trail to Take if the Skylift at Natural Bridge is Closed
If the chairlift is closed for the season, I recommend parking at Hemlock Lodge and then taking the Original trail because it is the shortest and has the least amount of stairs to get you to the top.
You will also want to bring a backpack with water and snacks because you will be burning a lot of calories!
The trails from the bottom give you view from under the arch and you can walk on top of Natural Bridge after to pass the narrow one-way trail between giant rocks.
Views from the top of Natural Bridge
There are plenty of areas to take pictures on top of Natural Bridge and most fellow hikers are will to take turns taking pictures for each other…or you could sneak in a family selfie like we did.
The rocks also form some natural seating if you just want to relax and admire the view for a while.
There are no guardrails so you will want to keep little kids super close and remind teenagers that the drop is not something that you come back from if you fall off the edge.
Once you are at the top of Natural Bridge take the Laurel’s Ridge Trail that connects to Lookout Point for another perspective of Natural Bridge.
The trail at the top is easy and relatively flat which makes it relatively quick to move between different vantage points.
If you continue on the trail it will take you to a view of Lover’s Leap.
The Best Scenic Hike Back Down From Natural Bridge
You can take Balanced Rock Trail park down to your vehicle at Hemlock Lodge.
There are a LOT of stairs but you are going down them so its a lot easier.
The trail will also take you by Balanced Rock ….and more stairs. Just remind yourself that you are glad that you are going down them instead of up.
3. Eat at Miguel’s
A favorite of rock climbers and out of towners, Miguel’s Pizza is located a short drive from Natural Bridge at 1890 Natural Bridge Rd.
Enjoy great pizza with a bottle of Ale-8-One (Kentucky’s soft drink that tastes like ginger ale)
Guests customize their menu selections by choosing from 50 toppings for a custom pizza, salad, pasta, or sandwich on an order slip.
There is plenty of seating between the indoor dining and the covered picnic table areas.
After you place your order you will get a number and have your food delivered to your table, don’t worry they will find you.
4. Drive Through Nada Tunnel
Nada Tunnel is a narrow one lane 900-foot historic former railroad tunnel located at 20 Nada Tunnel Rd in Stanton.
Make sure that you turn on your headlights and blow your horn before you enter because you do not want to have to back out of there if there are vehicles already coming your way.
After you drive through the tunnel you will find plenty of hiking trail options along the road as you go.
5. Try a New to You Trail
Depending on how many times you have visited Red River Gorge, it’s fun to blaze a “new to you” trail.
We stumbled upon the Sheltowee trace trail during our most recent visit.
It was an easy hike that included a suspension bridge.
We opted not to take it much further than the bridge because we were running out of daylight and we wanted to get back home.
If you are new to hiking at the Gorge I recommend stopping at the rest area off of the Slade exit (24 L&E Railroad Pl) and grabbing a map of the area.
You can find more information about Red River Gorge here.
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