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A cruise along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

Red River Gorge Scenic Byway in the Daniel Boone National Forest

There are a lot of great outdoor adventure activities to do in the Red River Gorge, but if you are not into rock climbing, zip lining, and hardcore hiking, there is also a fantastic scenic drive. The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway is approximately 46 miles in length and can be done in an hour or you can take your time and get out and walk at many points of interest along the way.

The best place to start is off the Stanton, Kentucky exit off the 402 Mountain Parkway. Exit on to highway 11 and proceed south towards Slade and Zachariah. The first stop along the route is the Natural Bridge in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park.

Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

Beautiful view from atop the Natural Bridge

It is a one mile hike up to the top of the Natural Bridge on the Original Trail or you can take a lift up the sky lift for a fee. There is an amazing view from atop the Natural Bridge of the surrounding hills and forest. Many more miles of trails and a couple of campgrounds also exist in the park.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park hiking

The Natural Bridge at the Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Another good side trip is to hike up the famous Sheltowhee Trace Trail from the Whittleton Campground. About a mile north on this trail is the Whittleton Arch.

Whittleton Arch

Whittleton Arch along the Sheltowhee Trace Trail

Continue along Highway 11 until you hit Highway 715. Proceed north on 715 into the Daniel Boone National Forest. A couple of miles up 715 you will want to divert left on to the Chimney Top Road. Take this gravel road about five miles to the Chimney Top parking lot. A quarter mile paved trail goes to the best lookout in the area. You get a great panorama of the hills, cliffs, and lush forest of the Red River Gorge area.

Chimney Top Overlook

The paved trail to the Chimney Top Overlook

Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

Chimney Top Overlook

Chimney Top Red River Gorge

Enjoying the view at the Chimney Top Overlook

Chimney Top Overlook Kentucky

Chimney Top Overlook

Back along Highway 715, there are a number of stops where hikers can get out and stretch their legs and walk to scenic points.  A couple of these feature beautiful arch formations. The first is Angel’s Window followed by Whistling and Castle Arches.

Angel's Window Red River Gorge

Angel’s Windows

The road then dips into the actual gorge and follows the scenic Red River for a stretch. More arches and trailheads can be found along the river including the Sky Bridge and Tower Rock. You can also get out and hike along the river.

Red River Kentucky

The Red River

For those wanting a little more adventure, there is a trailhead at Bison Way where you can hike up through the Indian Staircase and Cloud Splitter to the north. This is again on the Sheltowhee Trace Trail.

Hang a left on Highway 77 from Highway 715. The next interesting stop is the Nada Tunnel. Make sure you have your lights on as the road disappears into the mountain only to reappear on the other side.  Once you emerge on the other side, the Scenic Byway is just about complete.

Nada Tunnel Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

Nada Tunnel in the Red River Gorge

The Red River Gorge map is full of trailheads, arches, lookouts, historic spots, campgrounds, and many other places worthy of a stop along the byway. You can drive at 55 mph and not stop at all and take in the beauty with your neck craned out the window in one hour, or you can stop and hike at every stop. If you do the latter you might need two days to complete the Byway depending on how much exploring you aim to do.

Red River Gorge Cabin Rental

Continue your scenic drive by staying at a Red River Gorge Cabin Rental – View from the front of our cabin

A great spot for home base while you explore the Red River Gorge by foot or by car is the Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals just north of Highway 11 on Highway 715. Not only do they have fantastic cabins for rent, but they also have a premier zipline course.

Adventure on!

The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then enter your email in the box to get email notifications for each new entry. Daily travel photos are excluded from your email in order to not flood you with posts. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).

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10 Responses to A cruise along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

  1. Jeremy Branham June 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Gorgeous views! Love the Chimney Top views. Wish I had spent more time hiking in these areas when I lived in the South.
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Awash in a Whirlpool: the secret Niagara Falls hiking trail

    • Ted Nelson June 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      I am glad I found a new place to adventure which is not too far away from Chicago.

  2. Leigh June 17, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    I think I’d need two days. When you get to country like this I think it’s worth hiking and soaking in the scenery. Looks very lush – perhaps a rainy spring???
    Leigh recently posted..A Kayaking Trip in the 1000 Islands, Ontario

    • Ted Nelson June 18, 2013 at 1:13 am #

      A very rainy spring. I was supposed to go two weeks before and had to cancel two consecutive weekends. It was a good thing because it poured those weekends and was very pleasant the weekend we were there.

      We only spent a half day on the byway, but we were there three days total, so I felt I got a lot out of the long weekend. Plus, it is nice to save some of the trails for a future weekend. I somehow missed the Skybridge, which is one of the biggest draws to the park and only a half mile off the road.

  3. Jenna June 18, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    Very pretty! I miss this kind of woodsy nature here in Calif.
    Jenna recently posted..A Storyteller and a Sustainable Winery

    • Ted Nelson June 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      You definitely have a lot to explore in California that make up for it.

  4. ciki June 19, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    What a gorgeous place! Would love to visit one day!

    • Ted Nelson June 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      Yep, it is worth a stop if you are in the area.

  5. Patty Davis June 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    I love these pictures, especially those taken in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park and that of the Nada Tunnel.

    • Ted Nelson June 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Thanks for pointing out the Nada Tunnel. Such a beautiful area. Look forward to returning.

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