Best Hikes in Red River Gorge, Kentucky
After spending an entire day in the car traveling, we needed a hike on our first full day in Kentucky to shake out the cobwebs in the stunning, ancient landscape of the Red River Gorge.
The Red River Gorge is filled with hikes ranging from easy to difficult, in lengths from a third of a mile to over twenty miles. It had been a few days since our last hike, so we chose a moderate five-miler.
The Courthouse Rock to Auxier Branch Trail Loop offered a little bit of everything. We traversed level sandy paths, rocky and rooted terrain, passed over small creeks, scrambled up a few boulders, stopped at cave-like formations, and stood on cliffs with 360-degree views of the gorge.
This trail is shaped like a lollipop where the first and last mile is on the same path. When we got to the split at the start of the loop, we stayed to the right, which led us along the upper ridge with the views first. From there, the trail dipped toward the gorge floor before making a steady climb back up toward the trailhead.
On the trail, the forest surrounded us with an explosion of spring growth, passing Virginia pines, pink lady’s slipper, a variety of ferns, mosses, and the pink buds of mountain laurel just beginning to bloom.
Despite the elevation change and the technical aspects of climbing over a few rocks and avoiding the tree roots, this trail didn’t feel too difficult. We had a blast navigating the terrain, as well as seeing a view of Courthouse Rock from the top, and then walking around the base of it.
Pictures can’t capture the beauty of the gorge. The best way to see it, is to walk it. Several trails branched off from the Double Arch Trailhead parking area, so make sure you’re leaving on the correct one. This trail was confusing at times due to intersecting paths, short spurs to campsites and look out points, and non-existent trail markers. We would have gotten lost several times had we not downloaded an offline trail map on our AllTrails app beforehand.
The parking lot was full on our Tuesday morning hike, and I imagine the weekends are extremely busy. Plan accordingly.
Location: Double Arch Trailhead, Rosslyn, KY
Distance: 5.1 miles
Elevation: 1,181 feet
Duration: 2 hours 45 minutes (it took us just over three with snack and picture stops)
Blaze: White Diamond
Restroom Available: Single Pit Toilet.
Parking: Gravel lot
Dogs Allowed: Yes