There are numerous great outdoor adventure activities to partake in while visiting the Red River Gorge area. However, if you are not into rock climbing, zip lining, and hardcore hiking, there is also the fantastic Red River Gorge Scenic Byway.
The beginning of the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway
The byway is approximately 46 miles in length, so it is possible to conclude in one hour. On the other hand, if you stop at all the points of interest, the drive could extend multiple hours.
Stanton, Kentucky is the optimal gateway to the byway. Follow the 402 Mountain Parkway and exit on to highway 11 and proceed south towards Slade and Zachariah. The first worthy stop is the Natural Bridge in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park. One of the several state parks in the area.
The hike up to the Natural Bridge on the Original Trail is a rigorous one mile or you can take a lift up the sky lift for a fee. Visitors are greeted with an amazing vista from atop the Natural Bridge, which is a national natural landmark. The top of the bridge is approximately 15 feet wide and looms over the treeline.
Sheltowhee Trace Trail
Another potential side trip is a hike on the famous Sheltowhee Trace Trail from the Whittleton Campground. About a mile north on this trail is the Whittleton Arch. Numerous unique rock formations are located along the picturesque byway.
Chimney Top Trail and overlook
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 divert left on to the Chimney Top Road. Follow the gravel road about five miles to the Chimney Top parking lot.
A quarter mile paved trail leads to the supreme scenic overlook in the area. The lookout features a panorama of faraway hills, the surrounding clifty wilderness, and the lush forest of the Red River Gorge area.
More stops, stone arches, and overlooks along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway
Back along Highway 715, one will encounter a series of vantage points and short hikes; moreover, a couple of these feature beautiful stone arches. Stop at them all or only a few. You have the power to create your own adventure.
The first is Angel’s Window followed by Whistling and Castle Arches. The byway does not disappoint as it takes visitors through the fascinating realm of the River River Gorge geological area.
Take me to the river
The road then descends into the actual gorge and parallels the scenic Red River. More arches and trailheads await along the river including the Sky Bridge and Tower Rock. Take a hike along the wild and scenic river and ponder at the source of these amazing rock formations and gape at more geological wonders.
For those who desire more adventure, there is a trailhead at Bison Way where you can hike up through the Indian Staircase and Cloud Splitter to the north. Here we reunite with the historic Sheltowhee Trace Trail.
Pass through Nada Tunnel
Hang a left on Highway 77 from Highway 715. The next highlight is the Nada Tunnel. Make sure you when you pass through Nada Tunnel to have your lights on; consequently, the road disappears temporarily into the mountain. Once you emerge on the other side, the Scenic Byway is about complete after a fitting final of one more instance of natural beauty.
The Red River Gorge map is cluttered with trailheads, arches, lookouts, historic spots, campgrounds, and many other worthy destinations. Drive at 55 mph nonstop and take in the beauty with your neck craned out the window in one hour, or pause and slowly take in the surrounding scenery.
Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals
A great 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. They offer fantastic cabins for rent, but they also feature a premier zipline course. Enjoy your drive through the Red River Gorge geological zone on the scenic byway.