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Your guide to Red River Gorge
All About Red River Gorge
Just outside of Lexington in the dense oak-hickory woods of the Daniel Boone National Forest lies Red River Gorge — a unique geological area featuring steep limestone cliffs popular with rock climbers, and winding rivers perfect for paddling. Red River Gorge is also known for its hieroglyph and petroglyph collections scattered throughout the park.
Nicknamed “The Red,” this is one of the world’s best climbing and repelling destinations, and features the largest group of sandstone arches east of the Rocky Mountains. If you’re not much of a climber, you can explore the nearly 500 miles of scenic hikes within the forest, kayak through the underground cave system, or take a picturesque drive along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway. With the city of Lexington just over an hour away, Red River Gorge makes for an excellent jumping-off point to exploring eastern Kentucky.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Red River Gorge
The eastern Kentucky climate is characterized by moderate swings in conditions throughout the year, with short bursts of dramatic weather and consistent precipitation regardless of the season. The summers in the region tend to be hot and humid, with the occasional thunderstorm rolling across the eastern plains and forests. The winters in Daniel Boone National Forest bring snow and lower temperatures that can dip below freezing.
The shoulder seasons are ideal times for staying in Red River Gorge cabins. Spring and fall offer pleasantly crisp temperatures, and lively spring blooms and brilliant autumn displays of orange, red, and yellow foliage bring color to the rolling landscape.
Several of the communities surrounding the park host an array of events and celebrations throughout the year, one of the regional favorites being the Mountain Mushroom Festival in Irvine. This April event celebrates the local morel mushroom and its unique place in Appalachian cooking. A cook-off, mushroom hunting demonstration, vendors, and street food are all part of the festivities in this two-day event.
Top things to do in Red River Gorge
Auxier Ridge Loop
This moderately difficult, five-mile loop trail is open year-round and is one of the more popular treks in the park. Hikers are taken through the area's beautiful hickory forests and along escarpments providing gorgeous vistas over the surrounding area. The loop's apex is the towering Courthouse Rock, a domed geological formation popular with rock climbers and bouldering enthusiasts.
The Natural Bridge
Located in the adjacent Natural Bridge State Resort Park, this expansive limestone formation is nearly 80 feet long and one of the most impressive sites in the area. You can take a trail that goes directly underneath the arch, and a second trail system provides distant views from a nearby clifftop.
In the early 1900s, the Nada Tunnel was blasted through the mountain as a route for trains carrying lumber to a local mill. The tracks have since been removed, and now a paved road runs through the 900-foot-long tunnel. Only one vehicle can fit inside the small tunnel at a time, and it is unlit except for headlights. There are several petroglyph sites on the park side of the tunnel for the observant traveler to find and explore.