14 Unique Things to Do at Red River Gorge in Kentucky

There are so many fun outdoor activities and unique things to do at Red River Gorge in East-Central Kentucky.

Red River Gorge Geological Area is a destination known by outdoor enthusiasts for its beautiful scenery, natural arches, sandstone cliffs, and incredible rock formations surrounded by forest.

I’m sharing more about the unique experiences and outdoor adventures to add to your list during your next family vacation to Red River Gorge.

Southeast Mountain Guides in Kentucky

Some of these adventures were hosted and others were not, as always, all opinions are my own.

1. Try Via Ferrata Climbing With Southeast Mountain Guides

1617 KY-11, Campton, KY

*Southeast Mountain Guides is open daily rain or shine from March 1st – to December 1st.

Southeast Mountain Guides is the site of the first Via Ferrata in the United States. This is a great option to challenge yourself and experience rock climbing differently.

woman climbing via ferrata at Southeast Mountain Guides

What is Via Ferrata?

Via Ferrata is a type of climbing with steel cables along a route with hand and foot rungs.

woman climbing Via ferrata with Southeast Mountain Guides in Kentucky

Climbers are equipped with cables to clip into and have iron hand and foot rungs to hold and step onto as they travel horizontally across the mountain.

Participants are provided a helmet, harness, and clips to use during their climb. You just need to wear hiking shoes or gym shoes.

Guests ages 10 and up can challenge themselves and try Via Ferrata on a climbing path that spans ¾ of a mile of the rugged sandstone cliff line.

woman climbing Via ferrata with Southeast Mountain Guides in Kentucky

During the climb, you can reach heights up to 120 feet, and patrons can climb rain or shine. If you climb in the rain like we did you won’t be as muddy as you would have been on hiking trails.

The rock formation also has an overhang that can help shelter you from the rain in some sections.

woman climbing Via ferrata with Southeast Mountain Guides in Kentucky

I tried the intermediate section of the course. The beginning was more challenging than I anticipated but the end was rewarding because that section goes behind a waterfall.

two women Southeast Mountain Guides in Kentucky

You can choose a full or half-day for your climbing adventure. There are sections of the canyon that range in skill level for participants. This is a one-of-a-kind experience to try while visiting Red River Gorge.

Before you start Via Ferrata Climbing, you get a brief 30-40 min orientation. After the training, you have a day pass for independent climbing on the course.

Climbers can choose a half-day of up to 4.5 hours or a full day of up to 8 hours.

The majority of guests spend 4-6 hours at Southeast Mountain Climbers. Spectators can watch climbers from the observation deck or picnic tables.

man and woman climbing Via ferrata with Southeast Mountain Guides in Kentucky

Guided Rock Climbing and Rappelling with Southeast Mountain Guides

Another option for guests is a guided rock climb or rappel.

  • Guided Climbs are recommended for ages 6 and up.
  • Guided Rappelling is recommended for ages 6 and up but they do not have an age restriction.

*Reservations are required and recommended in advance for all activities.

kayaks with clear bottoms at The Gorge Underground in Kentucky

2. Go Kayaking in a Cave at The Gorge Underground

2478 Glen Cairn Road, Rogers, Kentucky

Experience Red River Gorge from another perspective below the surface with The Gorge Underground.

Paddlers are guided through an abandoned flooded limestone mine that has over five miles of tunnels dating back over 100 years.

This is the coolest place to go in the summer with 52-degree temperatures year round.

kayaks with clear bottoms at The Gorge Underground in Kentucky

In addition to kayaks with clear bottoms and clear kayak tours, The Gorge Underground offers boat tours and guided stand-up paddleboard tours through an abandoned Limestone mine.

women at The Gorge Underground in Kentucky

Guests are supplied with a headlamp attached to a helmet, a paddle, and a PDF to wear.

The clear kayaks are VERY popular so you’ll want to make advanced reservations for your desired dates and time.

kayaks with clear bottoms at The Gorge Underground in Kentucky

Types of Tours at The Gorge Underground

  • Kayak Tour – 1-hour tour for ages 5 and up
  • Kentucky Cave Boat Tour – 1- hr tour for ages 3 and up
  • Crystal Clear Glass Bottom Kayak Tour- 1.5-hour tour for ages 5 and up
  • SUP Cavern Glow Tour (stand-up paddleboard tour) – 1.5-hour tour for ages 5 and up
Go Kayaking in a Cave with The Gorge Underground

The “Crystal Kayak Tour” on a clear bottom kayak at The Gorge Underground is very popular so you’ll want to purchase tickets in advance online to get your desired date.

The tours last 1- 1.5 hours and the cave temperatures are around 52-55 degrees year-round.

rainbow trout in water at The Gorge Underground in Kentucky

The water levels inside the cave can vary depending on the weather and the season.

One of my favorite parts of the kayak tour was when we approached the rainbow trout swimming around under the colored lights.

Cloud Dome Treehouse rental at Red River Gorgeous

3. Sleep in a Dome Treehouse With Red River Gorgeous Wilderness Cabin Rentals

The Cloud Dome Treehouse is one of the unique overnight options at Red River Gorgeous Wilderness Cabin Rentals.

They offer an assortment of overnight accommodations for a range of comfort levels. (Full amenity, off-grid, treehouses, and Dome town.)

“Dome town” is a series of geodesic domes suspended in the trees connected by suspension bridges that weave through the canopy.

inside the Cloud Dome Treehouse rental at Red River Gorgeous

You can rent all three sleeping domes in “Dome Town” as a group or rent them individually. Each dome sleeps two people and the walls of the dome are uninsulated.

Fans are provided in the summer and heaters are in the winter

There is a giant canopy lounge net and a communal water dome with two full bathrooms and one wash station.

Cloud Dome Treehouse rental at Red River Gorgeous

The outdoor lighting stays on until midnight so pack a flashlight or lamp in case you need to go to the bathroom.

More Unique Lodging Options in the Red River Gorge Area 

Natural Bridge Skylift

4. Ride the Skylift to the Top of Natural Bridge

Nature Bridge State Park Resort – 607 Skylift Dr, Slade, KY

(Open seasonally)

If the Natural Bridge skylift is open, I recommend taking it up to the top of Natural Bridge. This will allow you to conserve energy to hike around the top once you arrive.

You can ride the Skylift round trip, or take the chairlift one way and hike back down.

This is a great option if you are traveling with family or friends who can’t hike up the trail to the top but still want to see the view from the top of Natural Bridge.

Fun Fact: Did you know there is a Natural Bridge in Virginia too?

sign for Laurel Ridge trail at Natural Bridge State Park

There are easy hikes at the top once you get off the Skylift with scenic views of the area.

The Skylift is not open year-round so make sure that you double-check their operation schedule.

Skylift chairlift at Natural Bridge in Kentucky

Skylift at Natural Bridge Prices

There is a fee but in my opinion, it’s totally worth it to save time and steps if you only have time for day hikes. You can opt for a round-trip ride or one way.

Check the Skylift website before you go.

*Tickets can be purchased a one way ride at the top or bottom of the Skylift from the gift shop.

If you have younger kids hold on to them extra tight. The Skylift is basically like a chair lift with a bar that goes across you.

Skylift chair lift at Natural Bridge

The Skylift Season at Natural Bridge

In the spring, the Skylift is open on weekends, weather permitting from March 1 until April 1. After that, it’s open 7 days a week until the end of the season.  

Check the Natural Bridge Skylift Facebook page for updates if you are concerned about closures for inclement weather.

The Skylift season ends sometime in November based on when the leaves change and the weather.

The Skylift is closed from December through February.

natural bridge slade ky

5. Admire Views of Natural Bridge From Above and Below

Natural Bridge is 65 feet in height and spans 78 feet in length with 360-degree views of the natural surrounding area.

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 trail and has the least stairs to take you to the top.

view of Natural Bridge in Kentucky

If you hike up to Natural Bridge you’ll get to see the view underneath the arch on your way up.

“The Original Trail” is the most popular hike on the way up to the top of Natural Bridge. It starts near the Gift Shop near the parking lot and the trail has an elevation change of 420 feet along the way.

Narrow steps Natural Bridge

Access to the top of the Natural Bridge is located through a tight space between the rocks on the other side of the great natural sandstone arch followed by a set of stairs.

tight squeeze Natural Bridge Trail

Hikers are traveling from both directions and you may have to wait a few minutes for others to pass through the path before going to the other side.

You don’t want to try to shimmy around someone or be forced to go back to the beginning halfway through the narrow path.

on top of Natural Bridge in Kentucky

There are no guardrails at the top of Natural Bridge so keep young kids close once you reach the top of the arch.

view of Natural Bridge at Lookout Point

Take the Lookout Point trail at the top for another perspective of the Natural Bridge.

view from the top of Natural Bridge in Kentucky

The trails at the top are relatively flat which makes it pretty easy to move between different vantage points of the ridge.

Hoedown Island at Natural Bridge State Park

6. Attend the Natural Bridge Hoedown Dance

2135 Natural Bridge Rd., Slade, KY

The Hoedown dance is located at Hoedown Island at Natural Bridge State Park.

Every Saturday evening from the beginning of May to the end of October you can join in on the family-friendly fun with a range of dance styles from square dancing line dancing, and clogging.

Trust me when I say that this is worth checking out! We took students to the Hoedown dance over 15 years ago and it’s still legendary.

There are bleachers if you want to spectate or rest for a bit from dancing too.

I promise it’s WAY more FUN if you let loose and join in…no matter what skill level of dancer you are.

If you don’t know the moves, don’t worry, the dance caller can help you by calling out the moves when it’s time to square dance.

Kids 12 and under are free and 13 and up are $3 pp. The warm-up dance is at 6:30 followed by the regular dance that starts at 7:30 PM.

Natural Bridge State Park

7. Go on a Unique Hike at Red River Gorge

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.

map of Red River Gorge Geological Area in Kentucky

The hiking options at Red River Gorge are endless, and the views are incredible throughout its 29,000 acres within the Daniel Boone National Forest.

YouTube video

Top 10 Hikes at Red River Gorge

There are over 600 miles of trails to discover when you visit Red River Gorge with hikes and climbs for all fitness levels.

The following 10 hikes at Red River Gorge are recommended by

  1. Indian Staircase and Indian Arch (3.5 miles – unmarked – difficult)
  2. Whittleton Arch (2.5 miles – easy)
  3. Double Arch, Star Gap Arch, Arch of Triumph (5.6 miles – unmarked – moderate)
  4. Gray’s Arch (4.0 miles – easy)
  5. Auxier Ridge & Courthouse Rock (5.0 miles- moderate)
  6. Natural Bridge & Laurel Ridge Trail (3.0 miles – easy)
  7. Silvermine Arch & Hidden Arch (5.1 miles – moderate)
  8. Turtle Back Arch & Rock Bridge (4.0 miles – unmarked – moderate)
  9. Rock Bridge Loop (1.5 miles – unmarked – easy)
  10. Chimney Top Rock, Princess Arch, & Half Moon Arch (1.8 miles – easy)
Ziplinging at Red River Gorge

8. Zipline Across the Gorge at Red River Gorge Zipline

455 Cliffview Rd, Campton, KY

Thrill-seekers will love this 2-hour zipline adventure that takes you 300 feet above the gorge through the Daniel Boone National Forest near Cliffview Resort.

You can save on your stay at Cliffview Resort here.

Zipline at Cliffview Resort

There are 5 ziplines including 2 side-by-side racing lines.

The longest zipline on the tour is 1900 feet long.

Reservations are strongly suggested for a zipline tour.

zipling at Red River Gorge

There is no age limit to zipline, but you must weigh between 70 and 250 lbs. 

kids playing in Creation Falls waterfall at Red River Gorge

9. Hike to Creation Falls Waterfall

Directions to trailhead From Slade, take KY 15 for 7 miles to KY 715. Turn left on 715 and go 0.3 miles to Rock Bridge Road on the right. Follow this road to Rock Bridge Recreation Area.

Creation Falls is located on the Rock Bridge Trail loop in the Cumberland Ranger District in the Red River Gorge.

The 1.5-mile trail is paved… but it’s definitely not stroller-friendly and still has a LOT of stairs.

Rock Bridge is a popular hike and the parking area may have limited spaces so be prepared to park on the side of the road.

Your vehicle will need a car wash after driving 3 miles on the gravel road to get to the trailhead but it’s worth it.

sandy beach Creation Falls waterfall at Red River Gorge

Creation Falls has a few vantage points from the trail and is easy to access. This is a great place to cool off on a warm day. There’s a sandy beach area near the waterfall. Many families hang out while kids play in the water like it’s their own personal swimming pool.

It’s recommended to plan 1-2 hours to relax and enjoy time by the waterfall and explore Rock Bridge.

Rock Bridge at Red River Gorge

Creation Falls and Rock Bridge are located within about 100 yards of each other creating two picturesque spots within steps of each other. 

road to Nada Tunnel

10. Drive Through Nada Tunnel

20 Nada Tunnel Rd., Stanton, KY

Nada Tunnel is a narrow one-lane 900-foot historic former railroad tunnel.

How Big is Nada Tunnel?

Nada Tunnel is 13 feet high, 12 feet wide, and 900 feet long.

inside Nada Tunnel in Kentucky

Turn on your headlights and blow your horn before you enter the tunnel.

You don’t want to have to back out of the tunnel if there are already vehicles in the tunnel coming from the opposite direction.

Nada Tunnel Red River Gorge

After you drive through the tunnel, you’ll find plenty of hiking trail options along the road as you go.

Miguel's Pizza Red River Gorge

11. Eat at Miguel’s Pizza

1890 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY

A favorite of rock climbers and out-of-towners, Miguel’s Pizza is THE place to eat during your visit to Red River Gorge.

There are several other restaurant options in the area, but you need to include Miguel’s Pizza as one of them.

Miguel’s Pizza is conveniently located a short drive from the Natural Bridge State Park entrance on the opposite side of the street.

There are plenty of spaces in the parking lot. It’s a great place for a large group to gather for a meal because of the abundance of covered picnic tables outside.

pizza at Miguels Pizza at Red River Gorge

Miguel’s has an assortment of menu options for patrons to choose from. There are 40+ toppings for a custom pizza, salad, pasta, or sandwiches.

There are even gluten-free pizza crust options and beer and wine options.

picnic table at Miguels Pizza Red River Gorge

There’s plenty of seating between the indoor dining and the covered picnic table areas.

You can place your order inside at the counter or ahead of time online.

After you place your order you’ll get a number and have your food delivered to your table. Don’t worry, they’ll find you.

pasta at Miguels Pizza

In addition to great food at Miguel’s, there is a rock climbing shop, a campground for tent or car camping, bedrooms, and vacation rentals (Big House Lodge.)

Other great dining options at Red River Gorge include Rockhouse, Daniel Boone Coffee Shop and RedPoint Barbeque.

Ale Ale 8 one at Miguel's Pizza one at Miguel's Pizza

12. Try an Ale-8-One

Enjoy great pizza at Miguel’s with an Ale-8-One more commonly called “Ale 8”. (*The glass bottles are now being discontinued)

You can purchase this drink in other parts of the state but I think it always tastes better when you’re visiting The Gorge.

Ale-8 is Kentucky’s special soft drink with a citrus/ginger blend flavor. The drink’s name came from a naming contest at the Clark County Fair. “A Late One” was slang used in the 1920s for the latest thing.

Ale-8-One is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky that’s still in existence and has been bottled in Winchester since 1926.

Kentucky’s original soft drink tastes similar to ginger ale or you can try their other flavor varieties of cherry or orange cream.

women rock climbing at Red River Gorge in Kentucky

13. Go on a Guided Rock Climbing with Red River Climbing Guides 

Red River Gorge aka “The Red” is known as a rock-climbing destination.

Climbers from all over the world come to climb at Red River Gorge because of its sandstone crags.

women rock climbing with Red River Gorge Climbing Guides in Kentucky

What’s nice about rock climbing with Red River Climbing Guides is they provide all of the equipment for you to use for your climb, including rock climbing shoes.

You can rock climb at Red River Gorge rain or shine because many rock formations provide an overhang.

rock climber at Red River Gorge

They know the best places to climb for the weather conditions and your skill level.

We had a lot of rain on the day of our guided climb but our expert guide knew the best place for us to go that would keep us out of the elements while we climbed.

women near water fall at Red River Gorge

We had a lot of rain on the day that day which also allowed us to hike to a waterfall nearby.

Venom extraction from Bushmaster snake at Kentucky Reptile Zoo
Image courtesy of Kentucky Reptile Zoo

14. Watch a Venom Extraction Demonstration at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo

200 L&E Railroad Place, Slade, KY

(Check operating days and times before you visit)

Kentucky Reptile Zoo offers public viewing of their snake venom extraction demonstrations. This unique opportunity allows guests to view the extraction process up close and learn how the venom helps save lives.

Venom from the Kentucky Reptile Zoo is used for medical research around the world towards pharmaceutical progress.

The snakes are handled by a professional with safety procedures to keep observers safe. You’ll want to check their schedule or call ahead for times in advance before your visit.

Lesser Sunda islands pit viper snake at Kentucky Reptile Zoo

Fun fact: Kentucky Reptile Zoo has one of the largest collections of venomous snakes in the world!

The Kentucky Reptile Zoo also has “Reptile Talk” presentations where guests can learn about nonvenomous reptiles at the zoo.

Slade Welcome Center in Kentucky

Stop By a Visitor Center for Red River Gorge

  • Slade Welcome Center – 30 L&E Railroad Pl, Slade, KY
  • Gladie Visitor Center- 3451 Sky Bridge Rd, Pine Ridge, KY

I always recommend stopping at a local visitor’s center, especially if you’re short on time.

Slade Welcome Center in Kentucky

Staff can help you determine the best use of your time based on your interests, they’ll know about attractions or trails that may be temporarily closed, info on seasonal Red River Gorge activities, and great recommendations for where to eat.

Need a Place to Stay in Red River Gorge?

Save when you book your hotel and vacation rentals near Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

sheltowee trace suspension bridge at Red River Gorge

Are You Ready for Red River Gorge Adventures?

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1 thought on “14 Unique Things to Do at Red River Gorge in Kentucky”

  1. Exploring Red River Gorge in Kentucky is an adventure waiting to happen! From hiking stunning trails to rock climbing, there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss the famous Natural Bridge and enjoy camping under the stars. It’s a nature lover’s paradise. Just remember to be safe, respect the environment, and have an amazing time.

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