Scott and Ariane May 22, 2009 14

Backpacking Red River Gorge

First, let me say that I wanted to spend a lot more time in this awesome display of nature. I feel I was cheeted by only being able to hike the short 10 – 12 mile loop I did. Having said that, Red River Gorge is now in my top 20 places I’ve ever hiked in. The Red River Gorge is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest Red River Gorge Geological Area – 29,000 acres, designated in 1974.

Rock Arches are the celebrity at this park. If you live in the Midwest and want to see Arches without traveling to Utah, this is the place to visit. With deep gorges, and caves, this is one place you need to visit if you are in Kentucky.

Many arches in the Gorge can be found or viewed from the 60 miles of backpacking trails. The number, size, and variety of natural stone arches in the Gorge contribuite to the beauty of this park. Becareful however, some the cliffs are steep and dangerous. There are over 100 arches in this park.


There are some definate rules and regulations while backpacking in this park. Make sure you understand the camping situation. There are NO formal campgrounds but many are out there. You WILL need a permit to camp overnight. You can get permits at the Gladie Center. But you can also get permits at the Shell Gas Station located right on Hwy 15. It might save you a drive if you are going to hike and camp on th South end of the park.

The Sheltowee Trail runs through the Red River Park, but also runs Natural Bridge State Park, and the Clifty Wilderness. The trail is 278 miles long.

If you have a Kayak or Canoe, this is the place to trek down the Red River. Runs right through the Park.

Most of the Trails are easy to moderate, but there are a few sections that you will be climbing up or down hand over foot.

Backpack to Grays Arch. Worth the extra hike. It’s a nice loop hike if you take #205 trail to #221 to #203 back to your car. 10 – 12 mile loop.

The Trail Map is located HERE. For more information call the Gladie Cultural Center at (606)663-8100. They are open from 9:00 to 5:30 from Mid March to November.

Check out some photos of the Red River Gorge

See you on the Trail


  • Alex

    I’ve hiked this park before, it’s awesome. It’s a must do hike for anyone, day hikers, or backpackers. Nice video

    • 3:29 pm - May 22, 2009

  • Steven Rice

    I agree, this is a great area to hike in. Not sure how you got away with sleeping in that cave, but hats off to you. There are a lot of good camp sites in that Gorge.

    • 11:29 pm - May 22, 2009

  • charles

    The park rules specifically state that “No camping is allowed in the back of rock shelters or along the base of cliffs” and “Do not camp in rock shelters. They provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered species of plant and animals.” I like how this guy made a video, which specifically broke park rules. I love Red River Gorge. Please do not follow this guys example…

    • 3:27 pm - May 31, 2009

  • Admin

    Charles, I appreciate your comment. However, I had specific permission from the Rangers in the park to camp one night only in Grays. Providing it was not where signs were posted. Before you post, you should consider what this website is about. I have always practiced “Leave NO Trace”, no matter where I camp. I’m sure people have abused these beautiful caves and thus the park has made such rules. There were no plants, nor animals where I camped, and the video never even shows me camping in the cave, I only mention it. Not sure what endangered species your speaking of. Maybe you could name a few that habitat in Red River Gorge in caves, and that are now on the Federal Endangered Species List? Thanks for visiting the site.

    • 7:51 pm - May 31, 2009

  • charles

    Interestingly you actually referenced the website which gives the park rules about not staying along base cliffs or in the rock shelters – technically you should be 100 ft. away.

    A significant number of endangered, threatened, sensitive, or rare species of plants and animals exist in the area (at least 23). Rock outcroppings, cliffs, and caves provide habitat for some of the rarest species on the forest. Endangered species in the Daniel Boone National Forest include the Indiana Bat, the Virginia big-eared bat, the Gray bat, and the White-haired Goldenrod. Some webssites mention the spotted skunk, the Allegheny woodrat, and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Here is the official website from the USDA Forest Service:

    I am not trying to get into a debate on this website (an excellent site). I was simply quoting park rules. It is important for the general public not to follow the example insinuated in the video and stay in the rock shelters – not only for safety reasons (falling rocks on cliff edges) but to keep the arches/shelters pristine. As someone who frequents Red River Gorge, it is important for everyone not to abuse the habitat, and think they can stay in or near the shelters. There are plenty of obvious under-developed camp sites available throughout the park.


    • 10:40 pm - May 31, 2009

  • Admin

    I agree, that’s why I got permission before I camped. Of course I would reference the web site. Your point is well taken, and I will re-edit the video to explain this portion of the video as to not cause confusion.

    • 8:38 am - June 1, 2009

  • Tents

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    • 7:49 am - August 1, 2009

  • Rock Climbing Officer

    What an excellent blog, I’ve added your feed to my RSS reader. 🙂

    • 5:42 pm - October 26, 2009

  • Ironboots

    I enjoyed the video and will place this on my To Do list as for the regs….this is for all of us to observe….the below is copied and pasted from

    Fires (along with the residue – smoke), I would imagine, would leave (a trace) an eye-sore on rock or rock walls.


    Observe these simple rules to help us protect the forest and ensure a safe and pleasurable trip for you and other forest users. If you have any questions or concerns about these regulations, check with the district office for clarification.

    CAMPING – Camping is NOT permitted:

    ?In any picnic area or parking area.
    ?Within 300 feet of any road or developed trail.
    ?Within 100 feet of the base of any cliff, or the back of any rockshelter.
    ?Within 600 feet of Gray’s Arch.
    ?Within any area posted “No Camping.
    Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire within 100 feet of the base of any cliff or the back of any rockshelter is PROHIBITED in the Red River Gorge.

    • 12:54 pm - December 30, 2009

  • fred

    You write some very good blogs. I always check back here often to see if you have updated.

    • 10:06 pm - February 17, 2010

  • sklep z odzie??

    You have some bugs in html or css code in the footer.

    • 5:02 am - October 6, 2010

  • Umzugsunternehmen

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    • 10:03 am - January 13, 2011

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    • 11:23 pm - June 23, 2012

  • Edison Moses

    On the bright side, nothing bad happened along the way.

    • 6:07 am - October 5, 2015