Red River Gorge in the Boone National Forest of Kentucky is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Being a big hot spot for the rock climbing community, some don’t realize it also has endless miles of incredible hiking! For those who are vertically wary or just looking for an awesome rest day activity while climbing here, hiking Natural Bridge State Park is a must while in Red River Gorge!
The hike itself is a relaxing one roughly 2.5 miles long with only about 650 feet of vertical gain in the entirety of the hike. It is a popular place to go hiking due to it’s unique natural feature and convenience to get there. If you can, we recommend going during the week to help avoid the crowds you may encounter on the weekends. Once you park the car you will see the trail that goes along the river to a wooden bridge shown above.
The trails here are very well marked. Once you walk over the bridge you will follow the signs to the natural bridge. The forest inside of Natural Bridge state park is lush with hemlocks, rhododendrons, tulip trees and white pines.
The forest floor is very damp, often having a haze or even fog rolling throughout it. Moss grows very thick along the forest undergrowth such as the base of living and dead trees.
As you snake your way up the trail, you will come to a series of switch backs taking along sandstone walls and overhanging vegetation. This part of the trail is rather enchanting, you begin to gain a little elevation allowing more sunlight to peek through the trees. A soft glow illuminates the rock along the pathway as you make your way up. Then you look ahead and see it.
The golden underbelly of the bridge glowing in the middle of the forest! Standing 65 feet high and 78 feet long this natural santstone arch is a beautiful wonder of the natural world and one of a very few to be found in the eastern United States.
As you follow the trail up the stairs, you will come up to to a “Lemon Squeezer”. If you are afraid of tight places this may not be the funniest section for you but it is short, only 30 feet long or so. This fracture in the rock offers a narrow passage way up to the top of the ridge and the bridge itself.
As the name of the park itself – you have a natural bridge joining the ridge line offering passage to the other side. Pitch pines can be found growing out of the sandstone rock itself along the sides of the bridge.
The views from the Natural Bridge simply put are stunning! The valleys, adjacent cliffs and ridges make up your background scenery. Battleship rock being the prominent cliff face you see in the distance.
The well marked trail continues on along the ridge line to Battleship Rock that you saw off in the distance in the previous photo. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the local wildlife that can be found along the way.
This is an Eastern Fence Lizard, we came across this guy as we made our way over to the Battleship Rock. Watch your step these little guys can be hard to see. They would startle the folks in our hiking group when ever one darted across the trail.
Just as the view from the Natural Bridge is stunning so if the view from the adjacent cliff – Battleship Rock. You have a 3 sided view of the valley from here including an excellent clear view of the Natural Bridge itself. This outcropping is flat and pretty large, just make sure not to get to close to the edge, you do not want to fall off here!
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