Thinking of setting out on foot to explore this beautiful landscape? The hikes below are a great place to start.
Rock Garden Trail to Balanced Rock: 2.5-mile loop1 of 6
This short but difficult hike packs a big punch, taking hikers past Balanced Rock and onto Natural Bridge, one of the gorge's most famous arches. Begin on the Balanced Rock Trail from the Hemlock Lodge parking lot. Soon, you'll see Balanced Rock on your left. From here, you'll climb sets of stone stairways directly up, a heart-thumping endeavor. When you reach Natural Bridge, make sure to stop, rest and take in this natural wonder. To loop back to your car, connect with the Rock Garden Trail.
Photo Credit: Boyd Shearer, Flickr
Courthouse Rock: 5-mile loop2 of 6
You'll find the trailhead to Courthouse Rock at the end of Tunnel Ridge Road and, at around 2.5 miles in, you'll reach the trail's namesake. Courthouse Rock is a great place to rest and admire the geological magic of your surroundings. From there, take the Auxier Ridge Trail to loop back to your car. On the ridge you'll see sweeping views of the gorge and of Courthouse Rock itself, a new perspective that will leave you with admiration for the massive rock formation.
Sky Bridge: 0.8-mile loop3 of 6
The most popular destination in the Red River Gorge, the Sky Bridge trail is an easy, paved—and likely crowded—walk. But what it lacks in solitude, it makes up for in beauty. The path crosses the natural Sky Bridge, an arch that offers birds-eye views of the surrounding forest. Make sure your hike doesn't end at the edge of the arch, though. The trail continues, leading to the underside of Sky Bridge and a unique perspective of the arch. Use caution while walking across Sky Bridge, especially when hiking with children, as there are sheer drop-offs on both sides and this area is not without its share of accidents.
The Rough Trail: 7.7-mile one-way4 of 6
The Rough Trail is indeed rough, but it makes for a great backpacking trip (15.4 total miles out-and-back) or, if you have two vehicles, it's a nice shuttle hike. Start at the Martin's Fork Trailhead and walk nearly a mile to the intersection with the Rough Trail. Once on the trail, you'll see everything from rocky vistas to densely green ravines. Watch for wildlife like wild turkeys, foxes, woodpeckers and even black bears, which have recently returned to the region.
Chimney Top Rock: 0.6-mile out and back5 of 6
This hike starts in the parking lot for the Chimney Top Recreation Area. A great hike for kids, there are benches along the paved path for resting tired little legs. Though the trail is easy, it offers some of the best views in the entire Red River Gorge. Atop the 200-foot Chimney Top Rock, you can see Half Moon Arch and Cloud Splitter Arch. Make sure to keep kids close and on the trail, as falls from the cliffs are a possibility, especially if the rock is wet.