Are you planning a visit to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky? It is one of the most beautiful areas in the state and has grown in popularity over the past few years. Having grown up hiking in the gorge, it’s a new experience seeing so many travelers discovering this little piece of paradise, but this was expected! It’s a stunning area of Kentucky, and now that tourism has grown, there are more things than ever to do around the gorge!
The Red River Gorge should be at the top of your list of all the things to do in Kentucky! Whether you’re a camping and hiking enthusiast or you’re looking for a way to enjoy the natural beauty of the area without being too close to nature, there are things to do around the gorge that you will love! We’ve got you covered with the best things to do around the Red River Gorge in Kentucky! Which of these things will you do first?
Red River Gorge In Kentucky: 15 Amazing Things To Do
Visit The Gorge Underground
The Red River Gorge in Kentucky has many cool things to do, but this has to be a contender for the coolest! The Gorge Underground offers different types of water tours through a river cave. You can SUP, kayak, crystal clear bottom kayak, or take a classic boat tour on their custom cave boat.
The tours go through the 100-year-old flooded limestone mine. The water is very clear, and you can see down to the bottom of the cave floor. Children over the age of three can participate in the tours at the Gorge Underground. The tours are all different with different prices, so you can find the tour that best suits your price range and needs.
What’s the best tour at the Gorge Underground? Well, it’s up to you, but the crystal bottom kayak tour is hard to beat! The tour has you in a clear bottom boat, and there are colorful underwater LED lights that light up the waters below; this gives you a great view of the cave floor and the Rainbow Trout swimming underneath the kayaks.
Hike To The Natural Bridge
The most prominent site in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky is the naturally formed sandstone arch called Natural Bridge. The arch has been a tourist attraction for more than a hundred years. The Lexington and Eastern Railroad Company founded the site as a tourist attraction in 1895. Since then, the site has been thrilling visitors as they walk over the 30 foot wide and 75-foot long bridge.
The bridge itself is 65 feet high, and there are several ways to get to the bridge. The original trail is the quickest and most popular way to get to the bridge. It is a .75 mile trail and is ranked as moderate—the trail gains around 420 feet of elevation on your way up.
Natural Bridge Sky Lift
You can ride the Natural Bridge Skylift for those who want to see Natural Bridge without all of the hiking. The lift will give you amazing views and save you from having to hike up and down from the bridge. Although I can’t recommend the hikes around the bridge enough, this is an excellent option for those with health concerns, young kids, or anything else that might keep you from being about to hike to the bridge.
Even if you have hiked to Natural Bridge before, a ride on the Natural Bridge Sky Lift is a fun and exciting experience that you should have on your Red River Gorge bucket list! The skylift takes just eleven minutes one way. The skylift is a paid attraction in the Red River Gorge; tickets are discounted for children.
Kentucky Reptile Zoo
This attraction in Slade, Kentucky is a must-see! They are a non-profit zoo that specializes in venomous reptiles. They have snakes, turtles, alligators, and more. In fact, they have one of the most extensive collections of venomous snakes in the world. They’re also specialists in extracting venom that is used for medical research and making anti-venom.
You can watch shows at the zoo that are put on daily. For example, at 1 pm, the zoo directors have a venom extraction demonstration where you can watch the process and learn about how the extraction saves lives. Then, at 3 pm and 5 pm, the tour guides will hold Reptile Talks where you can see some of the reptiles up close. The Kentucky Reptile Zoo is super affordable, and children under three are free.
Hike The Auxier Ridge Trail
The Red River Gorge in Kentucky has many fabulous trails; another popular trail option is the Auxier Ridge Trail. The trail follows a narrow ridge high up in the gorge and is 2.1 miles long. You will be rewarded with views of Double Arch, Haystack Rock, Courthouse Rock, and Raven Rock. In addition, there are dramatic and sheer cliffs on both sides of the Auxier Ridge Trail.
You can take the same trail back out to the parking lot, or you can take the 2.25-mile Courthouse Rock Trail that is ranked moderate and will also take you back to the parking lot. Although dispersed camping is allowed in the gorge, it’s best not to camp near the Auxier Ridge Trail as it’s too narrow to camp while keeping to the camping guidelines for the gorge.
Eat at Miguel’s Pizza
Miguel’s Pizza is an iconic feature of the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. The bright yellow storefront stands out from the earth tones in the gorge and draws visitors in from all over the world. Other than pizzas, you can get delicious salads, sandwiches, and ice creams. Of course, you can also get Kentucky-made Ale 8.
For those looking for a place to camp near the Red River Gorge, you can set up your tent for just two dollars a night in the field next to Miguel’s Pizza! This is wonderful for budget travelers and those looking to camp close to excellent trailheads in the gorge.
Hike To Grays Arch
The Red River Gorge in Kentucky has more than 100 sandstone arches. Choosing which ones to hike to can be difficult! A good option in the gorge is Grays Arch. The trail begins at the Gras Arch Picnic Area which can be found off of Tunnel Ridge Road. If you visit after it’s been raining you can catch a glimpse at a waterfall that forms during wet weather at the arch.
The trail is roughly 2.3 miles and is a very popular trail. This out and back trail near Slad, Kentucky is accessible year-round and is dog friendly! At the trailhead, you will find picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. You will love the dense and lush woods as you walk your way towards the arch!
Swim At Red River Jump Rock
If you’re visiting the Red River Gorge in Kentucky during the summer months, you may be interested in finding a swimming hole to cool off in. Jump Rock is located off of the Sheltowee Connector Trail in the Red River Gorge.
The Sheltowee Connector Trail and the swimming hole are both great for kids! Jump Rock is the Red River’s most popular place to jump in and swim. The rock is big and has plenty of room for everyone. You will also find a sandy beach along the water to layout on a towel and enjoy the sunshine.
Check Out The Sheltowee Trace Suspension Bridge
If you’re looking for something cool to see while in the gorge, you will definitely want to check out the Sheltowee Trace Suspension Bridge. The entirety of the Sheltoww Trace Trail is around 12 miles point-to-point trail near Pine Ridge, Kentucky. Off of this trail, you will find the Sheltowee Trace Suspension Bridge.
You don’t need to hike the whole trail in order to get to the bridge. You can take the connector trail to get to the beautiful wooden suspension bridge. The bridge is particularly beautiful in the summer when the lush green foliage surrounds the ends of the bridge. A short 0.5-mile hike will lead you to the end of the suspension bridge!
Rent A Canoe From Red River Adventure Campground & Canoe Rentals
Visiting the Red River Gorge in Kentucky is all about adventure, right? At Red River Adventure you can rent a canoe, SUP, or kayak to explore the area. You can take a family-friendly tour on a pristine lake at Natural Bridge State Park. Having a company that prides itself on being family-friendly is great news for family travelers!
Red River Adventure also has many camping opportunities for you as well. The Riverside Campground is great for tent and car campers. There’s also glamping in tents and cabins on wagons and platforms. Or you can check out the Riverside Cabin in the heart of the Red River Gorge in Kentucky! Either way, you’re sure to have a blast with Red River Adventure.
Get Adventurous at Red River Gorge Zip Lines
f you’re visiting the gorge with older kids, you won’t want to skip a visit to Red River Gorge Ziplines. You can fulfill your need for an adrenaline rush with amazing views from over top the tree canopy in the gorge!
There are five different lines, including two side-by-side racing lines! You will enjoy two hours of ziplining fun where you will fly 300 feet over the gorge. The longest line is 1900 feet! Although there is no age restriction, keep in mind that everyone must weigh between 70 and 250 pounds to be allowed on the zip lines. Zip lining through over the trees is one of the coolest things you can do in the red River Gorge in Kentucky!
Furnace Mountain Zen Center
You can find peace in serenity in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky in more ways than one. In Clay City, Kentucky, there is an American Zen Buddhist retreat called the Furnace Mountain Zen Center. It was open in the 1980s and holds retreats for those visiting the area.
The exterior is beautiful and the area is truly serene. Traveling is fun, but let’s be honest, when you’re traveling with kids, it can be stressful. If you want to take some time away to realign and feel revitalized, consider booking a retreat while you’re in the area. Or, if you don’t have the time you can just visit for a morning practice!
Fitchburg Furnace Historical Site
In Ravenna, Kentucky you will find the Fitchburg Furnace Historical Site. Constructed in the 1030s, the Fitchburg furnace played a big role in making Kentucky the third-largest iron producer in the country. The furnace cost more than a million dollars to construct and is still standing today!
It’s always nice when you can throw some education into your travels with kids. A visit to the Fitchburg Furnace is a great way to do that! Today, you can visit this historical site, have a picnic at the picnic tables, walk around in the fresh air, and learn a bit about the history of the furnace, the surrounding areas, and the state of Kentucky as a whole!
Visit The Red River Museum
You will find the Red River Museum on the Street in Clay City, Kentucky. This is a small museum that is full of artifacts from the area. The Red River Gorge in Kentucky is full of history and the people in the area are proud to be from there. This museum shines a light on the history of the area and gives you a tangible example of what life was like in the past.
This is a great place to visit for everyone, but especially for family travelers looking to enrich their travel experience, history buffs, and collectors! You can find old photos, farm equipment, household items, instruments, and Native American artifacts at this cool Kentucky museum!
Rent A Pontoon On Cave Run Lake
Cave Run Lake is a beautiful body of water in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. With a total of 8,270 acres, this lake draws people in from all over Kentucky to see wildlife, go fishing or boating, and more! One of the best ways to experience the lake is to rent a pontoon to spend a day out on the water.
You can find pontoon rentals for less than $200 a day at Cave Run Marinas! There’s nothing cooler than checking out the whole lake by boat, swimming in the cool water, fishing, jumping in the water, and watching the sunset over the lake. You and your traveling party will love renting a pontoon on Cave Run Lake!
Other Amazing Trails In The Red River Gorge In Kentucky
Although there is a hand full of hiking trails that are really popular, there are tons of trails in the Red River Gorge In Kentucky. Here are some trails that are great for all skill levels and ages. Whether you’re looking for longer trails, trails with the best views, or kids-friendly hikes in the Red River Gorge, we’ve got you covered!
Chimney Top Rock
This trail is an easy walk, perfect for beginners or those traveling with kids. It’s about 0.6 miles altogether, has restrooms at the trailhead, and is really beautiful in the early spring when flowers are blooming and in the fall when the leaves change colors. You can easily hike this trail in less than an hour and will get lovely views of the Half Moon from Chimney Top Rock.
Silvermine Arch Trail is another easy trail in The Red River Gorge. However, it is a bit longer. Roughly 2.8 miles, you will want to carve out a few hours of the day for this trail. The Silvermine Arch is one of the many naturally formed sandstone arches that you can find in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.
Turtle Back Arch Via Rock Bridge Loop
This trail is for those who are looking for a little adventure. Ranked as moderate, this trail is unmarked and is 4.0 miles long. You’ll want to make sure that you have at least five hours to hike this adventurous trail. You’ll find beautiful scenery, interesting geological features, two major arches, and more! This is a great trail to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the great outdoors.
The Red River Gorge In Kentucky is a must-visit when you’re traveling in the Blue Grass State. In fact, it’s one of the best things to do in Kentucky! From the famous natural bridge and hiking trails to the zip lining and canoeing, the adventures in the gorge are endless! You can stay active, learn a bit of history, eat delicious food, and more! So which of these things to do around the Red River Gorge will you do first?
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