The Red River Gorge is world-famous for its rock climbing but that's not all it has to offer.
Being the primary attraction spot for tourists, the Red River Gorge is also popular among hikers for its beautiful and versatile hiking trails. Every trail has its unique experience but visiting all of them is not possible in a single lifetime.
Therefore in this article, we will be talking about the best Red River Gorge Waterfall Trails.
The Red River Gorge is a canyon system spread across 29,000 acres of land which is regarded as an archaeological district. This intricate canyon system is home to many indigenous species of flora and fauna.
With numerous waterfalls, cliffs, dunes, natural bridges, and over a hundred sandstone arches, you will surely have an experience of a lifetime. So without any further ado, let's get started.
1. Rock Bridge Trail
Walking distance: 2.3 km
Starting off our list of Best Red River Gorge Waterfall Trails, at number one, we have the Rock Bridge Trail. This 2.3 km loop trail is located near Pine Ridge and is considered a moderately difficult trail for hiking. The trail is a 41 minutes walk and has so much to offer ranging from waterfalls, creeks and rich vegetation of rhododendron and hemlock spread all across both pathways.
Rock Bridge Trail is considered one of the most scenic trails in Red River Gorge. Although the trail has some elevation, it is pretty easy to walk through as the route is well maintained and has carved steps for moving up or going down. The trail gets its name from a gorgeous rock arch that lies along the waterfall.
The best time for visiting this trail is during March or October. In the springtime, when the flowers bloom and cherish themselves in the morning sun, the trail looks very beautiful. Within the sound of the waterfall and the singing of birds, you could just sit back and enjoy the view. And during autumn days, you can catch the fall colors.
Despite being very popular, the trail is free from crowds throughout the year. There is a small waterfall upstream as well where you can rest and have some alone time with nature. Dogs are very much welcome to come with you on this trail but they must be on a leash.
This trail is a delight for birdwatchers and Daniel Boo is home to different water and forest bird species. Rock Bridge Trail is perfect for a short and family-friendly hiking trip.
2. Sky Bridge Red River Gorge Trail
Walking distance: 1.3 km
At number two, we have Sky Bridge Red River Gorge Trail. Located near Pine Ridge, the trail has a walking distance of 1.3 km. It is a semi-blacktop loop trail which is considered a fairly easy one. It takes around 25 minutes to complete and is one of the most popular trails for birding, hiking, and walking. The main attraction of this trail is, of course, the Red River Gorge and the natural sandstone arch known as the "Sky Bridge" from which the trail gets its name.
Starting from the Sky Bridge parking area, Sky Bridge Red River Gorge Trail extends along a high narrow ridge to Sky Bridge. The trail passes over and beneath the sandstone arch and then you have to climb 75 steps back to the parking lot.
Throughout the pathway, you will come across cliffs, canyons, and breathtaking views of the forest. The best times to visit are January and October when the temperature is mild and pleasing. During the evening, you can also enjoy the view of the sun rays falling on the cliff edges which gives the surroundings a mysterious yet beautiful look.
Being a popular tourist attraction, the trail remains crowded throughout the year so you can find restrooms and picnic spots scattered here and there. Also, the trail is accessible throughout the year and without paying any fee. Although the bridge is wide there are no guardrails so it is recommended not to get too close to the edges. Pets are allowed but they must be on a leash.
Sky Bridge Red River Gorge Trail is a great little hiking trail to enjoy some peace and quality time with your family. Also, if you are up for birdwatching, this place is perfect for you as well.
3. Eagle's Nest Trail
Walking distance: 6.0 km
Moving on, at number three, venturing deeper into the wilderness, we will talk about the Eagle's Nest Trail. Situated at Wellington, this trail is a long 6.0 km loop and is an unofficial trail stretching from Unicorn Arch to Eagle Point Overlook. It is a very popular hiking trail that takes an average of 1.5 hours to complete.
This is a beautiful trail for watching the beautiful scenarios of rivers, creeks, hills, and lovely forest vegetation. The bowl below Eagle Point Buttress is gorgeous and the top of the Buttress also has many beautiful areas. It is best to visit during the springtime when the forest is filled with a wide range of beautiful flowers.
You can choose to go down the trail clockwise or counterclockwise as per your convenience. Going counterclockwise, you will pass by the river first and this arrive at the campsite right in the beginning. So, if are thinking of planning an overnight trip, counterclockwise is the best option for you. However, being unofficial, you won't get any camping facilities in the wilderness.
Since it is unofficial and unmarked, many people find it difficult to navigate through the trail. But if you are experienced in hiking, a quality map and a compass will be enough to prevent you from losing the path. You can bring your pets along with you and they can also be without a leash in some areas.
Eagle's Nest Trail has different ranges of landscape each having its unique scenario. For an adventurous trip, this trail is perfect. Just make sure you do enough research first and you will be good to go.
4. Sheltowee Trace: Red River Gorge Trail
Walking distance: 19.8 km
Coming down to number four, let's have a look at the Sheltowee Trace: Red River Gorge Trail. Located near Pine Ridge, this trail is a 19.8 km point-to-point trail that is considered a moderately challenging one. It is a very popular trail among hikers and birdwatchers and takes an average of 5.5 hours to complete.
Sheltowee Trace Trail starts from the parking lot on KY 715 and ends at Tunnel Ridge Road. The place has its historical significance and the term Sheltowee honors the history of Daniel Boone the word "Sheltowee" means "Big Turtle". The trail is beautiful to visit all year round but it's better not to travel during rainy months as the fog might ruin your experience.
The trail goes through sparse forests and passes through the bank of the Red River. The main attractions are high cliff lines and towering pinnacles such as Chimney Top Rock. You will start by walking on the suspension bridge over the Red River where you will see the Chimney Top Rock.
Then, the rest of the trail is mostly walking through the forest, enjoying the beautiful views and pleasing chirping of birds. During warm summer days, for cooling down, you can go for a swim in the river as well. Your canine friend is also allowed to dive in with you.
Although the trail is very popular and remains crowded most time of the year, you can enjoy some solitude at quiet times of the day. Also, Sheltowee Trace is connected to Rough Trail and Buck Trail which are equally beautiful as well.
Sheltowee Trace: Red River Gorge Trail is good for spending a long weekend with your family members especially if you love to go for a swim.
5. Copperas Falls Trail
Walking distance: 5.0 km
In our number five spot, there is Copperas Falls Trail. This one is a 5 km out and back trail near Pine Ridge. It is considered a moderately difficult trail which is quite popular among campers and hikers. It is an unmarked trail that generally takes an average of 1hr and 10 minutes to complete
This trail takes you through the woods, along a creek, and also from the name you can guess, it includes a beautiful 40 feet waterfall. However, the waterfall is not always flowing in a rush, but there's always a trickle.
The journey through the trail takes you through the dense forests of Kentucky and below the waterfall, there is a naturally formed cave. From the cave, you can have a full view of the beautiful forest which is no less than any fairy tale.
Like any other Red River Gorge Trail, this trail also has a bunch of different interesting rock formations scattered throughout the pathway. Most parts of the trail go along a creek so your feet might not stay dry throughout the journey.
Copperas Falls is open all year round and there's no specific best time to visit it. But since it is a water area, summer will be the ideal visiting time. Dogs are welcome but they must be on a leash at all times.
Copperas Falls Trail is a great trail to have some fun time navigating through the river crossings. Also, if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the fast-flowing waterfall, then that's a bonus to the already incredible journey.
6. Angel Windows Trail
Walking distance: 1.0 km
Moving on to number six, we will be looking at Angel Windows Trail. This one is a short and sweet walk of about 1 km near Pine Ridge. It is a very easy trail without much elevation or narrow ridges.
This out and back trail generally takes less than an hour to complete and is considered a popular tourist spot for birding, walking, and hiking.
Starting from the parking lot, Angel Windows Trail leads out to a cliff formation with natural cutouts in the rock cliffs.
This natural formation looks like windows carved through the dunes and that is the reason, the structure is called "Angel Windows". The rock is also called "Horse Head Rock" because from one side it looks like the head of a horse. It depends on your imagination what you would like to call it.
This is a very interesting trail to visit because of the different cool-looking rocks and hills. Pets are very much welcome on this trail but they must be on a leash.
Early spring is the best time to go for a walk on this trail since the flowers are blooming at that time. Also, if you love the Autumn falls, you will love this place as well when the pathway would be filled with dry leaves on both sides. So you can enjoy walking on the leaves and feeling the warmth of the autumn sun amid the sweet chirping of birds.
Angel Windows Trail is a great spot for family trips as your kids would like the interesting structures. The hiking distance is short as well so it's worth checking out if you happen to pass by the area sometime.
7. Swift Camp Creek Trail
Walking distance: 21.7 km
At number seven, we have Swift Camp Creek Trail. This one is a long journey of 21.7 km for people who want to go on an adventure.
Located near Pine Ridge, it is considered a very challenging trail with lots of ups and downs throughout the way. It takes an average of 6 hr and 15 minutes to complete and there are lots of resting, fishing, and camping spots down the path.
Swift Camp Creek Trail gives a real challenge to hikers. From heavy undergrowth beneath and a wide range of river crossings to steep rocky edges and creeks, there's a lot to experience and observe.
The trail runs along its namesake creek "Swift Camp Creek" and is beautiful to drop by at any time of the year.
The best season to visit is anytime except the rainy months as you will occasionally encounter fast-flowing water. After some walking, the trail connects to Rock Bridge Trail, and just before the junction between them, you will find a beautiful looking old log dam. Compared to the neighboring trails, it experiences less traffic and most of the trail feels remote.
As said before, this is a very popular trail but you will be able to find some solitude at some specific times of the day. Dogs are allowed and there are also some areas where they can stay without a leash.
Swift Camp Creek Trail is the perfect trail for you if you are up for a challenge. A map, a compass, and an indomitable spirit are all you need. And also, make sure to bring lots of water with you.
Kentucky is home to some of the best national parks in the world.
And Red River Gorge is a beautiful place to spend your weekend. It's a place for connecting with mother nature in a new way. Try hitting the trails for once, we are sure you won't be disappointed.
That's where we come to the end of our article. We hope you have enjoyed reading and found out something new.
We will see you another time in another article. Take care!
About the Author
Hussain is a passionate hiker and traveler that love the outdoor and enjoys what nature has to give, whenever he can he love to write and give tips & honest reviews to help others get out there and just seek more unforgettable experiences.