Monday, May 13, 2013

Arches East

Is Kentucky part of the South? I don't think so, not really. I mean clearly it's part of the Bible Belt, but geographically it's well to the north of south. Deep South, anyway. Is it part of the Northeast? Probably not. The Midwest? I don't know. Appalachia, for sure. But along with maybe Missouri, it's really kind of in the middle, refusing to be pigeonholed one way or the other. Regardless, I'm gonna write about it here at Northeast Adventures. Because I found something really neat there. Possibly peripheral, but plenty welcome.

A few weeks back (in late April), Jen and I took a quick vacation trip to Red River Gorge in Kentucky. We flew into Charleston, West Virginia, rented a car, and drove a few hours west on I-64. After a brief stop for lunch in Huntington (I now get all the "We Are Marshall" references), we wound our way into eastern KY. 

Red River Gorge isn't really in a mountainous region of Kentucky. It's well to the west/northwest of the Blue Ridge and the rest of Appalachia. Or at least, it's at the western edge of the Appalachian foothills. What it IS, though, is a canyon. Or rather, a connected series of canyons. With vertiginous mesas and cliffs and arches. Like something you'd find out in Arizona or Utah, only vegetated. Arches East. How cool is THAT?!?

Gray's Arch at Red River Gorge in Kentucky
panorama shot of the very popular Gray's Arch from beneath the rock shelter

L: Red River Gorge from Chimney Top rock. R: Expanse.

our ridiculously sweet cabin for the week (hot tub on deck and mid-week rates!)

Rock Bridge Arch in Kentucky
wading out to Rock Bridge Arch

drizzly day wildflower walk

rich woods

solace cove

suspension bridgeiris
L: Suspension bridge over the Red River. R: A trailside iris.

stuff on the other side of Double Arch

Nada Tunnel
L: Nada Tunnel. R: Where's Jenny?

Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Below the span at Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Apparently, this is normally an insanely crowded place, complete with a chair lift to near the top of the arch. Not that we would have taken it anyway, but the chair lift was closed (it was drizzly off and on). We hiked up about a mile to get here and saw a grand total of two other people the entire afternoon. Jen is about to hike up through a slot called Fat Man's Squeeze.

Hanson's Point at Red River Gorge
Hanson's Point, where we found the finest view at Red River Gorge. The ridge dropped off on either side and ended at a remote ledge with 360-degree views of the canyon (our lunch spot for the day). This unofficial, unmarked spur trail was a few miles into a 9-mile loop hike.

Somehow we managed to time this trip just right. Apparently the place gets VERY crowded, but we were there mid-week and saw almost no one the entire time we were out hiking or exploring; it really seemed like we had the place to ourselves most of the time. Also, spring had just arrived and the leaves were coming out and wildflowers were going gangbusters, but the bugs weren't bad at all and it was perfectly pleasant in terms of temperature. And finally, because we were there mid-week, we got a significantly lower rate for our cabin. 

Aside from the extremely cool arches and great hiking, we also enjoyed a few dinners out: local food and drinks at the Red River Rockhouse and laid back everything at the climber's paradise of Miguel's Pizza. Red River Gorge is a huge destination for rock climbing, and it often seems like you'll see everyone at either of these two excellent places at the end of the day. 

Special mention must be made of a highly entertaining radio station out of Morehead: Mix 106 ("The station no one can agree on at work" "Less Talk, More Head" "A bunch of songs that seem like they shouldn't go together, but strangely... do"). We listened to it all week. Still trying to see if I can stream it at home.


  1. I will add this to my list of places to check out! It looks impressive!

    1. Christine/Adam, this place is so you guys =)

  2. Very cool looking place. We both spent time on the Missouri recently though 1000s of miles apart. ;)

    1. Mark! Hello, my friend. Awesome to see you here. As just mentioned to Christine above, Red River Gorge is also so very you. A bit out of the way for us right/left coasters, but totally worth the trip.

  3. Hi Ben! We are looking at going to Red River Gorge in mid-April and are looking for a place to stay...your cabin looks so awesome! Do you have any details for booking??

    1. I do! And happy to share.

      Here's the link for the cabin rental:

      April looks open; go get it!

      We thought the rates were very reasonable considering where we were and what we got, and we found mid-April to be the perfect time to visit (everyone kept saying it's always super crowded in season and on weekends, but our mostly Monday to Friday trip was virtually other-people-free).

      Pros: hot tub on the deck right outside your room. rustic yet modern and well-furnished. perfect amount of space for 2 people. tons of wood to burn should the apocalypse come while you are there (just start ripping up the walkway from the far end and you should be good for like a year =)
      Cons: There really aren't any, BUT, you need to be OK with a half-mile-long and very steep driveway to ascend, with a couple of confusing junctions to driveways to other cabins in the hollow (challenging the first time, but very easy once you know).
      We spent a considerable amount of time feeling pretty good about our choice!
      Can't vouch for the others in the complex nearby, but the few we passed by looked pretty good too. You can see on the site that each is unique and has its own features, etc.; worth perusing.

      There's a full kitchen there so you can easily cook in, but for when you go out I gotta recommend Miguel's Pizza for the laid back climber scene (even if you're not a climber), and the Red River Rockhouse, for sure:

    2. I just realized a lot of what I just said is redundant with the original post. What can I say, it's been almost a year! Consider it doubling down on my recommendations =)

    3. Haha, no worries! Thanks for all the info - very much appreciated! There were lots of cabin rental companies online but I hadn't remembered seeing one that looked as cool as yours! :) We are planning a Mon-Fri as well so hopefully we'll have the same luck as you and have the place basically to ourselves.

      We took a hiking trip in Southern Utah a few years ago and are so stoked to find something kinda similar in the Midwest (we hail from Milwaukee, WI), and since we're driving we can bring our dog this time! And funny thing, he was actually born in Kentucky and brought up to our shelter here as a pup.

      Thanks again! And great photos btw! :)