The Red River Gorge area in Kentucky is an excellent example of the wide diversity you will find in the Appalachian Mountain region. Because the Gorge is technically a canyon system, you will discover many natural bridges here that rival the number located in canyon states like Utah. In fact, Kentucky has the second largest number of natural bridges and arches in the United States, thanks to the sandstone geology of the Red River Gorge area. Let’s take a look at a few of these natural bridges now.
Natural Bridge State Park
Photo Ken Thomas / public domain image
Deep in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and part of the Red River Gorge, you will find a sandstone structure that rises over 65 feet above the mountains. This rock formation spanning over 78 feet in width is the aptly named “Natural Bridge of Kentucky.”
Photo Ken Thomas / public domain image
The Natural Bridge State Park that surrounds this formation allows visitors easy access to the bridge. You can walk around on top of it, experiencing the feel of the bridge for yourself. Just be careful around the edges, because a fall from that height is not something you are likely to walk away from intact.
Gray’s Arch is one of the most prominent natural bridges in the Red River Gorge, boasting a span of over 79 ft. This span gives plenty to explore around the bridge’s area. This bridge is one of the most popular in the park, no doubt due to its spectacular appearance.
It is not unusual to find wedding parties at this location, and on most days, you will find plenty of visitors enjoying the scenery. But this arch is very spacious, allowing room for many to enjoy its grand views at a time.
To get to Gray’s Arch, enter the trailhead found at the Gray’s Arch Parking Lot, located off Tunnel Ridge Road. Follow this trail until it intersects with Rough Trail and keep on hiking until you reach the natural bridge.
Natural Arch of Kentucky
This natural bridge (or arch, as the name indicates) is in the McCreary county area of the Red River Gorge. This a popular visitor destination in the Gorge, and the best place to view it is from the overlooks on the Natural Arch Scenic Area trail.
When you do see it from the other trail, it seems (at least to my questionable mind) to form a perfectly shaped eye. I would imagine that certain times of the day, the right backlighting could make this effect even more pronounced. On my next trip to the Gorge I may need to explore this. Road trip!
What’s better than one arch? A double one, of course. The Double Arch you’ll find in the Red River Gorge gets its name from its unique structure. Erosion has created an unusual double arch, with a smaller one directly under the more substantial top bridge.
Double Arch has a unique feature that you may find interesting and useful. On the right side of the arch, you will discover stairs carved into its surface. These stairs allow access to the top of the arch. Just be careful when you get there, it is a long way down to the rocks below.
You can get to this natural bridge via the Tunnel Ridge Road. Both the Auxier Ridge Trailhead or Double Arch Trailhead will take you there. But once you arrive, carefully make your way to the bottom of Double Arch and pause to take a look around you. From there you can see Courthouse rock, Haystack Rock, and Auxier Ridge, showing off some of the natural beauty found in the Gorge.
The Rock Bridge truly lives up to its name. This natural bridge is the only one in the Gorge area that forms a bridge over water. But the bridge isn’t the only thing of interest in the immediate area.
Right past the Rock Bridge, you will find a beautiful waterfall. The sounds of the water going over the edge and hitting the rocks below can produce a very peaceful, nap-inducing effect. So, if you go to the Rock Bridge, allow a little extra, how should I say this, appreciation time.
You can get to the trailhead for this natural bridge by going to the end of the appropriately named Rock Bridge Road.
I was curious how this arch got its name, but no one seems to know for sure. While the name (and no doubt the story behind it) is a mystery, the beauty of this arch is not. Perhaps it makes a well-formed crown fit for a Princess?
Although smaller at 32 feet than other natural bridges in the area, Princess Arch is a very photogenic formation that deserves to be appreciated. If you go, be sure to look at the bridge from both sides to not miss anything. After all, if there is a tiara there, you don’t want to miss it.
Princess Arch can be reached from a trailhead at the end of Chimney Top Road. While you are exploring the bridge itself, take the time to check out some other interesting rock formations close to it.
Sky Bridge is a popular destination in the Gorge, and for a good reason. The bridge towers over its surroundings and sports a span of over 76 feet. From the bottom, it does seem to reach into the sky.
The best time of year to see this natural bridge depends on what it is you are looking for along the way. The trail provides views of many flowers if you go in the spring. If you want to check out the fall colors, this is again an excellent choice to take in the scenery.
You can reach this sizable natural bridge through its loop trailhead located at the end of Sky Bridge Road.
Angel Windows are so named because they form two distinct openings found at the base of a cliff. With a little imagination, I can see two stained glass church windows brightly colored against the backdrop of the rocks, especially on a sunny day.
The arches are located a short distance off KY 715. The trail goes on past the natural bridges. If you follow it out, you can find a small but soothing water trickle falling over a rock edge. But be careful, since there is a sudden drop off to the right of the trail. If you aren’t sure it’s safe, don’t go past the Angel Windows – that’s enough angels for one day.
The Red River Gorge area in Kentucky shows off a lot of the diversity you can find in the Appalachian Mountain area. The region is popular with many hikers, explorers, and rock climbers. While the area boasts a lot of different points of attraction, it is hard to pass up the many natural bridges in the area.
With plenty to explore on both the top and the bottom of a natural bridge, they remain a popular destination. But I can’t urge enough caution when exploring these natural wonders. Be careful out there, folks.