Red River Gorge Weekend Itinerary
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The Perfect Red River Gorge Weekend Itinerary

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Escape to the serenity of the Kentucky foothills with this ultimate weekend itinerary for Red River Gorge. Hike to the famed Natural Bridge, catch the views from Chimney Top, or try glow kayaking in a cavern.

Red River Gorge is a hidden gem, with only a handful of restaurants and shops. Visitors come here to reconnect with nature and rejuvenate their souls in a peaceful getaway where service is spotty, and trails are plentiful.

A Weekend Getaway To Red River Gorge, KY
A Weekend Getaway To Red River Gorge, KY

Forty-eight hours in Red River Gorge is not enough time to see everything this area offers. Luckily, we’ve compiled this guide on the best things to see, do, and eat when visiting Kentucky’s Natural Playground.

Fun fact: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge was almost intentionally flooded at one point in its history.

We hit the road for a weekend to discover the best that Red River Gorge has to offer, and we have crafted the ideal itinerary.

Where To Stay At Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge offers accommodations for all types of travelers, from secluded cabins to campsites along the river. If you’re traveling on a budget, we recommend looking into camping options because there are many inexpensive tent camping spots.

Cabin Rentals in Red River Gorge
Cabin Rentals in Red River Gorge
  • Cozy Cabins: Airbnb and VRBO offer a wide range of cabins with luxury amenities. Red River Gorge Cabins offers rentals from 2 to 40 guests!
  •  Campgrounds: Stay in the heart of it all while camping at Natural Bridge Campground or enjoying an RV hook-up at Callie’s Lake and Campground. There are plenty of camping options throughout the area.
  •  Hotels: Natural Bridge State Resort Park is home to Hemlock Lodge, a popular family retreat. The Cliffview Resort is another family favorite with fun amenities and gorgeous views.

Tip: Want a printable, easy-to-use PDF of our itinerary to take along with you on your Red River Gorge weekend? Sign up below, and we’ll send one to your inbox.

Tip: Check to see if 4WD is needed to access your cabin. Then download directions to your cabin before leaving, as the service is spotty.

How To Get To Red River Gorge

The Red River Gorge is a national forest in Wolfe County, Kentucky. It consists of a canyon system on the Red River in east-central Kentucky. Geologically, it is part of the Pottsville Escarpment.

The gorge lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest and was subsequently designated the Red River Gorge Geological Area, an area of around 29,000 acres.

Distance:

From Lexington, KY: Roughly 1 hours

From Cincinnati, OH: Roughly 2 hours

Orginal Trail to the Natural Bridge
Orginal Trail to the Natural Bridge

3 Day Weekend Itinerary To Red River Gorge

Friday

Gladie Visitors Center

Your first stop should be the Gladie Visitor Center, depending on your arrival time. There, you can speak with the park rangers about trail conditions and closures and pick up park maps. You can also wander throughout the center to learn about the ecosystem and the animals that call Red River Gorge home.

Address: 3451 Sky Bridge Rd Hwy 715, Stanton, KY 40380

Gladie Visitor Center
Gladie Visitor Center

Nada Tunnel

Not far from the Gladie Visitor Center is the Nada Tunnel. Known as the gateway to Red River Gorge, the Nada Tunnel was built originally for the Dana Lumber Company in the early 1900s and named for Nada, Kentucky (a now-forgotten logging town 10 miles past the tunnel entrance).

Today, guests can drive through the 900-ft-long tunnel one car at a time. The tunnel is shrouded in ghost tales, which adds to the appeal of this historic landmark.

Nada Tunnel
Nada Tunnel

Fun Fact: During the year-long creation of the Nada Tunnel, one man was killed when he placed a stick of dynamite that had frozen near a fire for it to thaw. His spirit is said to haunt the tunnel.

After a hair-raising drive through the Nada Tunnel, check into your accommodations. Locating your lodging before dark will be beneficial as the terrain is mountainous and can be poorly labeled.

Friday Evening

After settling into your lodging for the weekend, dinner is next on the agenda. Those looking to grab a bite to eat should venture to the Red River Rock House or Sky Bridge Station.

Red River Rock House: 4000 KY-11, Campton, KY 41301

Sky Bridge Station:  8 KY-715, Pine Ridge, KY 41360

We typically like to stay in, cook, and relax on our first evening. We often gather around a campfire or enjoy a hot tub if we book a cabin with one.

I recommend hitting the grocery store prior to coming down to Red River Gorge or stopping at the Kroger in Slaton on your way in. The Red River Gorge General Store is a good option to grab those last minute items that you may have forgotten at home but they have a limited selection.

Saturday Morning

Grab Coffee at Daniel Boone Coffee Shop

Start your morning with a delicious latte or a breakfast sandwich at the Daniel Boone Coffee Shop. Tempting pastries adorn the display cases while the delicious smells of freshly baked waffles drift throughout the shop.

Daniel Boone Coffee Shop
Daniel Boone Coffee Shop

Traveler Tip: This little coffee shop gets busy quickly, leading to a bit of a wait during peak hours. Grab your order to go and enjoy it at the park!

Address: 769 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY 40376

Natural Bridge State Park

Whether you are staying a Hemlock Lodge, catching the entertainment at Hoedown Island or tackling one of the many trails, Natural Bridge State Park is a hub of activity. Stop in the Gift Shop, walk over the swinging bridge or take the kids to the nearby playground.

Tip: There are plenty of picnic areas at the the park.

Address: 2135 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY 40376

Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge is a beautiful sandstone arch stretching over 75 feet long and 65 feet high. Walking over the bridge is one of the top things while visiting Red River Gorge. Guests can access the Natural Bridge in two different ways.

Natural Bridge in Kentucky
Natural Bridge in Kentucky

Hiking

Natural Bridge State Park contains 22-miles of hiking trails, including the original trail built in 1895. The original trail is still the quickest way to get to the Natural Bridge bridge at only 1 mile from Natural Bridge Rd, this hike is deceptive as it is strengthous and challenging as you make your way up to the elevation of the bridge.

Hiking in Red River Gorge, KY
Hiking in Red River Gorge, KY

Download the Map of Natural Bridge State Park to plan out your hike, as many trails connect to see nearby natural wonders. See popular formations and overlooks such as Balanced Rock, Lookout Point, Devil’s Gulch, Needle’s Eye and Lover’s Leap.

Skylift

For a more relaxing climb to Natural Bridge, enjoy a ride on the sky lift. The ascent begins one-half mile from the park entrance and ends within 600 feet of Natural Bridge. Open daily from the first weekend of April through the last weekend in October.

SkyLift To Natural Bridge
SkyLift To Natural Bridge

Tip: Guests can take the Skylift to the top of the Natural Bridge then hike their way back to the parking lot.

Saturday Afternoon

Grab Lunch at Miguels

Hiking the cliffs around the gorge can build up an appetite. Reward your efforts with a cold beer and hand-crafted pizza at Miguels Pizza. Miguel’s is a Red River Gorge staple, with plenty of outdoor space many hikers and climbers opt to dine outdoors.

Address: 1890 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY 40376

Miguel's Pizza in Red River Gorge
Miguel’s Pizza in Red River Gorge

Tip: ORDER ONLINE! Place your order in advance so it is ready for pick-up when you arrive. Otherwise you might have a bit of a wait.

Gray Arch Trail

 A short but moderately strenuous hike that takes you down below the second largest arch in the Red River Gorge. The trail is only .3 miles

Saturday Evening

Glow-In-The-Dark Kayaking With SUP Kentucky

Paddle through an abandoned limestone mine by the glow of your LED lights and your headlamp in one of the most unique experience in Kentucky, the Crystal Kayak and SUP Glow Tour.

Glow-In-The-Dark Kayaking in Red River Gorge, KY
Glow-In-The-Dark Kayaking in Red River Gorge, KY

Venture into the an abandoned limestone mine to see an underground waterfall, rainbow trout and even bats! You will want to secure your spot on this tour early as it does book out in advance, especially for larger groups.

A guide will take your group throughout the abandoned mine. It is a man-made mine, not a cave so don’t expect to see stalagmites, stalactites and other cave formations.

Glow Kayak Tour at Red River Gorge
Glow Kayak Tour at Red River Gorge

Tip: You will want to dress warmly for this adventure as it is chilly in the mine.

Grab Dinner At Thatcher BBQ Company

Swing into this family-owned local BBQ joint for fall of the bone ribs, mouthwatering pulled pork and a draft beer. With sit-down and carry-out options available, this is one spot that you will want to visit again.

Addess: 918 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY 40376

After dinner, head next-door to the Pit House, a live music venue featuring local musicians. It is a great way to round out your evening.

Tip: They are only open Thursday-Sunday.

Sunday Morning

After checking out of your accommodations, swing by Daniel Boone Coffee Shop for breakfast before hitting the trail.

Tip: There are not many coffee or breakfast spots in the Red River Gorge area. I recommend packing a few items for breakfast such as bagels, muffins, fruit or yogurt.

Devils Gulch at Natural Bridge State Park
Devils Gulch at Natural Bridge State Park

Choose Your Own Adventure

Red River Gorge offers tons of great outdoor activities for all types of travelers. Guests can choose from rock climbing to visiting a reptile zoo, the adventure is up to you.

Chimney Top Trail

Discover this 0.7-mile out-and-back trail near Pine Ridge, Kentucky that leads to a gorgeous scenic overlook that towers 400ft above the Red River. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 18 min to complete. Half Moon Rock is nearby to the left. 

Go Rock Climbing

Red River Gorge is known for its excellent Rock Climbing. Climbers from around the globe make their way to “The Red” for the some of the safest, longest, pumpiest, and most fun climbing areas ever developed.

Rock Climbing is a popular outdoor activity at Red River Gorge.
Rock Climbing is a popular outdoor activity at Red River Gorge.

We recommend signing up for guided climbing if you are new or not quite ready to venture out on your own. Let the instructors teach you the proper climbing techiqnues and safety standards.

Kentucky Reptile Zoo

See one of the largest collections of venomous snakes in the world at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo. Guests can witness venom extraction as it is collected for scientific medical research and enjoy an educational reptile talk during their visit.

Clifty Wilderness Preserve

Clifty Wilderness offers natural beauty and quiet solitude. This 12,646-acre area has more than 20 miles of trail including popular hikes such as Coppera Falls,Eagle Point Buttress Overlook, The Hopewell Arch, Double Deer Arch and Snow Arch. The terrain is rugged and steep, offering plenty of physical challenge and adventure.

More Kentucky Adventures:

Top Things To Do While Exploring Caves In Bowling Green

The Ultimate Guide For Tackling The Bourbon Trail

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The best 3 day red river gorge itinerary

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