The Flyingfishman

Red River Gorge Trails & map

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A Creek Runs through it

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The following are trails I have traveled in the Gorge with a small review for each. Ratings are as I see them and may not reflect your abilities. Always take extra precautions when you enter any area in the Gorge.

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Before hiking the Gorge please know your limitations. It is not a playground that you can jump out of in an instant. People die here and are rescued from the Gorge more times than are necessary. Usually those situations arose from acts of ignorance... I.E. liquor/drugs and high cliffs or a daredevil mentality. The slightest amount of moisture on the sandstone cliffs makes for a slick situation. Use your head, take a map, take water and enjoy all it has to offer.

 

 

 

Angel Windows Trail  #218

 

Distance: mi. round trip

 

Rating:  Very easy

 

Description:

The hike from 715 is popular due to the fact that it

is a very easy walk.  The “windows” are well worth the hike.

 

 

Auxier Ridge Trail # 204

 

Distance: 1-3/4 mi. One way

 

Rating: Medium difficulty

 

For views that are unimpeded Auxier Ridge is a “must do”.

Views include: Raven’s Rock, Haystack Rock, Double Arch, and Courthouse Rock. I prefer to connect this trail with Auxier Branch #203-Double Arch #201 -Tunnel Ridge Road and also take in Star Gap Arch (unofficial trail). This makes for about a 6.5 mi hike.

 

Bison Way Trail #210

 

Distance: mi (one-way)

 

Rating: Easy

 

Great connector trail to reach the Sheltowee Trace.

Turn left at the intersection and after about 10 minutes you run

into the “unofficial trail” to Indian Staircase. Once on top of the

Staircase, follow the ridge to the left and visit the Huge Rock Shelter,

Indian Arch and Adena Arch. You can easily spend a whole day on

the ridge.

Added plus: Great Fall Foliage viewing area. 

 

Buck Trail: #226

 

Distance 1-1/2 mi (one way)

 

Rating: Moderate to Hard

 

Connector for Pinch-emTight and Koomer Ridge Trails.

Nice ridge top walk from Pinch-emTight down to Chimney Top Creek. It gets difficult from here. If you are easily winded, the climb from the creek to Koomer Ridge Trail is a gasser. Chimney Top Creek offers a great outdoor experience. Many hikers choose to camp close to it’s banks. At night you may be lucky enough to hear a wildcat.  

 

Gray’s Arch Trail #204

 

Distance 1-1/4 mi (one way)

 

Rating: Easy in…Strenuous out

 

Gray’s Arch is a must see. It is a huge buttress arch. The hike in is mostly ridge top walking on a well worn path. The descent to the arch includes several wooden steps (hence the difficulty coming out). Once you reach the last step instead of taking Rough Trail # 221 to the left, follow the path that goes straight. It will lead you to the arch. Read the note at the bottom of the arch about the poor fellow who fell to his death there.

 

Hidden Arch Trail #208   

 

Distance: 2 mile loop  

 

Rating: Medium

 

Nice Loop hike from Koomer Ridge Campground. Lots of steps, both up and down, to and from the arch. Bottom line: If you are hiking Koomer Ridge trail to connect to another…you should take this trail. It is also a must see if you are staying at the campground.

 

 

Koomer Ridge Trail #220

 

Distance:  2-1/2 mi

 

Rating: From campground-easy

            Back Strenuous

 

Many great loop hikes start from Koomer Ridge Campground. You need to take this trail to start them. Easy ridge top walk to Chimney Top Creek. Coming back this way constitutes a pretty lengthy climb. My favorite loop hike in RRG goes as follows: Koomer Ridge-Hidden Arch-Koomer Ridge-Rough-Gray’s-Pinch-emTight-Buck-Koomer Ridge with an overnight stay on the ridge above Gray’s Arch. I usually rent a site at the campground to A) park my car more safely and B) take a shower when I’m finished. Parking is however provided free in front of the grounds. It’s just not as visible. I pitch an old 3 man tent on the site to give the illusion of occupancy.  

 

 

 

Pinch-em Tight Trail #223

 

Distance 1-3/4 mi (one way)

 

Rating: Easy

 

Good hike to ad to make a loop. This is a great connector to the Rough Trail.  

 

Rock Bridge Trail #207

 

Distance 1-1/4 mi loop

 

Rating: medium difficulty

 

This is a must see arch in the gorge. It actually forms a bridge over  Swift Camp Creek. Along the way stop off to view Creation Falls. Many use half of this loop to connect to Swift Camp Creek Trail #219. A large portion of this trail actually has been paved. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying the beauty. The best time to go is in the late spring and enjoy the Rhododendron in full bloom. 

On 2 seperate occasions while hiking Swift Camp Creek Trail I have encountered hikers who spent an unwanted night in the Clifty Wilderness. It seems they set off to hike the Rock Bridge Trail but failed to make the left turn back up the ridge shortly after Rock Bridge and ended up on Swift Camp Creek trail. I now carry a water filter in that area even if I am out for a day hike in the event it happens again. Dehydrated and exhausted hikers are a lot of fun to lead out of the woods. If you are not sure of where to turn it is just as easy, and more scenic, to turn around at the Rock Bridge and go back whence you came.      

 

Rough Trail #221

 

Distance: 8-1/2 miles

 

Rating: They don’t call it “ROUGH” for nothing!

 

Very little scenery but still a must do hike. Use this to connect Koomer Ridge with either Gray’s Arch or Swift Camp Creek. One section I love is the climb eastward to the intersection of Rush Ridge Trail. You will climb up what  looks to be a runoff to a double-decker rock shelter. You will walk across the second shelf and probably crawl across a small section of that. You then descend down a log ladder (a log with notches in it).  The trail makes for a great adventure, especially with a full backpack. Remember, they don’t call it “Rough” for nothing. For the adventurous try some of the unmarked trails that follow the ridgelines that connect to this trail. There are hidden beauties to be found.

 

Sky Bridge Trail #214

 

Distance: 1-1/4 mi loop

 

Rating: Easy-well worn path

 

Great views of the Clifty Wilderness, and of course Sky Bridge Arch. This is another “must see” arch. You will walk on and under the arch. The trip back to the parking lot is a little tough for some.

 

Swift Camp Creek Trail #219

 

Distance: 7 hard and difficult miles

 

Rating: See above note

 

Swift Camp Creek Trail lies entirely in the Clifty Wilderness. As you enter the area you are greeted with the following WILDERNESS- We do not guarantee your enjoyment or your return.” Swift Camp is my favorite place to go in the gorge. It is hard, rough and dangerous. I was told, by a certain Forest Service Legend, that the estimated copperhead population in certain sections around Swift Camp Creek is 2000 per acre. Watch your step and you may want to avoid rock outcroppings. Black bears have been spotted often by me and others whom I trust on the western side of the creek. The Forest people may deny this to avoid a panic but there is now a mandatory food hang in the Gorge. This is a result of the bear attacking the hiker in 2010. If you want to feel like you are in a jungle without ever leaving Kentucky, I highly recommend this trail.       

 

Whistling Arch Trail # 234

 

Distance: mile Round trip

 

Rating: Very easy 

 

Scenic ridge top walk to the arch and back. One of the many great sites along hwy 715.

 

Whittleton Arch Trail #217

 

Distance: mi (one way)

 

Rating: Moderate

 

Whittleton Arch is a large arch that to me looks as if it is nowhere near completion. This is a short hike off of Whittleton Branch Trail.

 

Whittleton Branch Trail # 216

 

Distance: 2 mi (one way)

 

Rating: Medium difficulty

 

This is the first hike I ever took in the Gorge. I was staying at the Whittleton Branch campground at Natural Bridge State Resort Park. The trail led from the campground next to a creek with giant moss covered boulders and a carpet of fern along the way. This is the one that got me hooked on the gorge. It leads to the connector trail for the Arch. It goes on to KY-15 near the intersection of Tunnel Ridge road.

 

Wildcat Trail #228

 

Distance: 1-3/4 mi (one way)

 

Rating: Medium difficulty

 

This trail runs from hwy 715 to Swift Camp Creek Trail close to the crossing point for Timmons Arch (across the creek and up the ridge). It is mostly a hardwood forest walk  until it starts to descend towards Swift Camp Creek. You are now in a tunnel of Rhododendron. It passes rock shelters and the terrain gets a lot rougher. This trail also lies within the Clifty Wilderness.   (Tip) If you turn left onto Swift Camp Creek Trail from Wildcat you will soon cross Wildcat Creek. As you start to parrallel Swift Camp Creek again turn right down a visible path to a great camping spot.