On a Mother’s Day adventure in Kentucky, we drove all night and arrived early to the Red River Gorge Area. Red River Gorge is in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Right next to the national forest is the Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Both are located about an hour southeast of Lexington, Kentucky.
The highlight of the Natural Bridge is the natural bridge of course, which is a stone arch at the top of a bluff. We were staying in a Red River Gorge Cabin Rental, but our check in was not until later, so we had several hours to kill before we could get some rest. The natural bridge at the Natural Bridge State Resort Park was the perfect way to kill a couple of hours.
Several years ago there was a bear attack in the area. Black bears will usually flee as soon as they see humans, but in this case the visitor was taking pictures of it with his iPhone instead of backing away and giving the animal space. He obviously spooked it with his proximity and it attacked him. I do not believe his story that the bear attacked without provocation.
Because of this incident, there are many signs warning of bear activity. At the base of the Natural Bridge trail there were the obligatory warning signs. Besides this attack, there has not been one since, and there probably was not one prior. The moral to the story is if you want a black bear picture get a zoom lens and give any bear you see adequate space.
The trail to the Natural Bridge, called the Original Trail, is only one mile from the trailhead along highway 11 only a couple miles southeast of Slade, Kentucky off the 402 Mountain Parkway. This trail goes virtually straight up, so it is no jaunt in the park. Other options include parking at the gift shop, which eliminates .25 miles, but not much elevation, and there is a sky lift option which is open daily from April to October for an easier trip up to the top.
Once you get to the top you can take pictures from below the arch. Then there is a narrow gap between the stone where you can access a stairway to the top of the arch. If you have come this far, you must climb to the top as the view is impressive in both directions.
The area has experienced a lot of rain in the couple of weeks before our arrival. The Kentucky forest is lush and verdant because of it and resembled a tropical rainforest. I have recently spent time in the rainforests of Guyana and from atop the natural bridge, there was not much difference between Kentucky and South America.
By the time I got up to the top, it was time to come down and check in at our cabin, so I did not have enough time to adequately explore the hiking trails of the Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Trails went in either direction from the arch, and I am sure afforded some equally outstanding views. It is definitely worth more time exploring, and I am sure I will be back.
Natural Bridge hiking tips
- The one mile trail might not be feasible for older and very young hikers as it is a rugged one mile. There are many benches along the way, so go slow if hiking with people who are not in the best of shape
- On top of the arch be sure to have children in tow as there are no guardrails – The arch is 12 feet wide and perfectly safe if you walk in the middle
- Make sure you wear proper hiking boots as I mentioned earlier this is not an easy hike even though it is only one mile
- There is almost 20 miles of hiking in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park, so explore more than just the Original Trail
- There is a sky lift that takes people within 600 feet of the Arch for a fee – A great option for children and older folks for a $10.00 adult fee and $7.00 for kids
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