Red River Gorge Kentucky

In east-central Kentucky, the Red River Gorge sits tucked away inside the expansive Daniel Boone National Forest. The historic Red River cuts through the gorge, and over millions of years carved the over 150 sandstone arches within the geological area’s 29,000 acres. This is the only area east of the Rocky Mountains that boast as many freestanding arches, in addition to a mix of rock shelters, jagged cliffs, natural forming bridges and waterfalls.

The area has been designated as a National Natural Landmark, which recognizes the gorge’s outstanding example of the natural history of the United States. Only 599 sites have been added to this national registry, including significant ecological features in 48 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Things to Do At Red River Gorge Kentucky

Hundreds of people visit Red River Gorge each year to enjoy all the natural splendor the area has to offer. From rock climbing to mountain biking, there’s always something to do to get you closer to nature! Check out some of our favorite things to do at Red River Gorge.

Rock Climbing

Red River Gorge, or “The Red,” as some call it, is host to numerous sandstone cliffs that stand around 200 feet tall. A variety of recreational preserves located throughout the gorge are popular destinations for those who enjoy the sport of climbing.

The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition is comprised of dedicated volunteers that work to ensure the gorge will always provide open access to climbers. They actively act as land stewards to three climbing areas within Red River Gorge: Bald Rock Recreational Preserve, Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve and Miller Fork Recreational Preserve.

Bald Rock Recreational Preserve

In conjunction with Trango Climbing Gear, the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition was able to purchase all 102 acres of the Balk Rock Recreational Preserve. This area provides access to some of the most world-renowned climbing areas, including the Motherlode, Bear’s Den, Unlode and the Chocolate Factory.

The Motherlode boasts some of the steepest lines in the Red River Gorge, making it a favorite of rock climbing’s elite. Some of the highest rated crags on the Motherlode include Stain, Heart Shaped Box, Swahili Slang, Cut Throat, 8 Ball and Snooker. Because this cliff boasts the highest concentration of both steep and long routes, this is where the hard climbers spend the majority of their time.

The Chocolate Factory also gets its fair share of visitors, as it is now one of the largest in the Red River Gorge. It currently offers 105 routes with 82 sport lines and 21 trad lines. Two of the hardest lines at the Chocolate Factory are the Golden Ticket & Pure Imagination. Other aptly name routes include The Glass Elevator, Grandpa Joe, Augustus Gloop, Sugar Rush, Wonkaholic and the Oompa and Loompa lines.

Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve

The Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve offers 750 acres of pristine parkland, making a visit one of the best things to do at Red River Gorge for nature lovers. Over 590 climbing routes exist within this area, as well as a number of hiking paths and mountain bike trails. At one time, this area was owned by the Pendergrass family, whose descendants had leased out the land for oil exploration. But as climbers began discovering the area, the RRGCC worked toward accommodating the mix of private and public lands. In 2004, the coalition purchased surface rights, therefore ensuring continued climbing access.

Miller Fork Recreational Preserve

The 309-acre Miller Fork Recreational Preserve was purchased by the coalition in 2012 and has over 20 established crags and several hundred routes to explore. With the completion of a new parking lot in 2014, climbers are able to access the routes much easier than before.

Hiking at Red River Gorge Kentucky

If you’re not too keen on travelling vertically, there are plenty of fun, horizontal hiking paths to enjoy in the Red River Gorge. The incredible landscape is only further punctuated by the prevalence of arches, which can be seen at the majority of these popular hiking trails.

Indian Staircase and Indian Arch

Indian Staircase and Indian Arch is a 3.5 mile trail that is considered to be fairly difficult. In fact, because of its ability to be either very dangerous or deadly, it is recommended that you do not attempt this hike alone. The best time to hike is in early spring when you can catch a glimpse of blooming flowers, or in the autumn when the leaves are changing color. You should allow at least half of a day to enjoy this hike. Once you reach the top of Indian Staircase, take time to enjoy the spectacular scenery and refuel.

Double Arch, Star Gap Arch, Arch of Triumph

For a more moderate hike, head to the Double Arch, Star Gap Arch, Arch of Triumph hike. Over 2 of the 5.7 mile path is on gravel roads, which makes for easier walking but may not be as exciting as more challenging hikes. However, you can modify this hike to include Andrew’s Double Arch, which is past Star Gap Arch. Or you can combine this hike with Auxier Ridge and Courthouse Rock, which cuts out half of the gravel road.

Gray’s Arch

Gray’s Arch is one of the most popular hiking trails in Red River Gorge. In peak season, this trail can be pretty busy, and even wedding parties or families can be seen enjoying the area. The 4-mile hike offers incredible scenery, at least 1 mile of gravel road, and a trailhead with basic services.

The Gorge Underground

While Kentucky’s Red River Gorge has plenty of things to do above ground, there is also plenty to see beneath the surface! Thrills Ville Adventure Park offers The Gorge Underground, which is a kayaking tour taken through an underground cave. Guides lead guests through the darkness of the Gorge Grotto, where they can paddle through a dark cavern for an hour-long adventure.

Visit Red River Gorge Kentucky

From breathtaking views and incredible rock climbing cliffs to peaceful hiking trails and gorgeous underground gorges, The Red is full of incredible sights ready to be experienced. Book your trip to the area today and soak in all the fun things to do at Red River Gorge for yourself!