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Hiking in Red River Gorge

As I mentioned in my previous post, Carrick and I (accompanied by our dog) rented a cabin in Red River Gorge for Carrick's birthday. We spent several hours hiking on both Friday and Saturday. We were told at the cabin rental office that dogs are not allowed on the trails in the Natural Bridge State Park, so we headed instead to RRG.

Rock Bridge Arch trail
Our cabin was a short drive up U.S. Highway 715 to the trails. (Here's a map of the area.) Our first stop was the 1.5-mile Rock Bridge Arch trail, three miles down a well-maintained gravel road (National Forest Road 24). As we neared the arch, we passed a nice creek and waterfall running next to the trail. Of course I spent 10 or 15 minutes taking some photos. Thanks to my new waterproof hiking boots, I was able to walk partway out into the very shallow creek to get the photos I wanted. After completing this loop trail, we got back in the car to find our next destination. We had a great guidebook with us called "Hiking Kentucky's Red River Gorge" by Sean Patrick Hill. The book contained good trail descriptions, maps, photos and was small and lightweight enough to fit in our small backpack.

Whistling Arch trail
The next stop on our hike was Angel Windows. This was a short .3-mile walk featuring the "angel windows" - a set of natural arches carved into the rocks with a view of the canyon below.

Just down the road from Angel Windows is the Whistling Arch trail, a short out-and-back trail, the highlight of which is the great view from the overlook. It reminded me of when I lived in Idaho as a child. My parents and I frequently traveled the region and I still have fond memories of the three of us visiting beautiful spots like Jenny Lake, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and various other places, watching nature and wildlife. I'm pretty sure that's where my love of nature started.

Chimney Top trail
The Chimney Top trail was our next stop after Whistling Arch. Chimney Top offered a nice handrail overlook with a view of Half Moon Rock and the lower gorge area.

On Saturday, we drove back to the park and explored the Wildcat Trail. While this was a slightly more difficult trail (at least my knees were more sore than the previous day), it was by far my favorite. The trail descends around thick areas of wild Rhododendrons which are apparently in bloom during May and June. We have purplish-pink Rhododendrons in our front yard which are beautiful every summer. I can only imagine how impressive it is to walk among so many blooming Rhododendrons as we listen to birds sing. We'll definitely be revisiting this trail again in the summer.

Wild Rhododendron on the Wildcat Trail
The last hike of the day was the Sky Bridge Trail, an easy trail with the exception of a 77-step staircase at the end of the trail. And if you're afraid of heights, walking across the sky bridge section is a bit dizzying if you look around. It's a beautiful view, but knowing there isn't a secured handrail across this short section is a little scary, but the rock is wide, so you don't really feel like you're teetering on the edge. However, I did put my hands next to my eyes as blinders when I walked across. That made it much easier.

Sky Bridge Trail

The trail descends a bit to another handrail overlook, then wanders back underneath the Sky Bridge. The view from below was just as impressive as the view from above. And not as scary.

Overall, we had a great time checking out the trails and plan to go back again soon to visit some of the others. Someday, I hope to be in good enough physical shape (and to be 20 or 30 pounds lighter) to be able to hike the 7-mile Rough Trail. This is a beautiful part of Kentucky. We've lived here 12 years now. I'm not sure what took us this long to visit.


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