Are you curious about what it is like to backpack in Red River Gorge in Eastern Kentucky? Many tourists are attracted to this area of America because it has several distinct features that cannot be seen elsewhere. While many websites explain what you can do, many do not give solid advice about what you should not do.
However, with an insider’s opinion on what to look out for at Red River Gorge, backpacking in this area will be one you never forget.
From natural plant life and geographic features seen in few other places in the world, the gorge has days of adventure to offer. Regardless, anyone unfamiliar with this area of Kentucky will need a few basic tips to ensure safety.
In the details below, several topics are listed to help you have a backpacking adventure that is safe and stress-free for everyone involved.
These tips and warnings will help you figure out if you need to leave the dog at home, which trails are ideal for people living with disabilities or if there are trails easy enough for little kids.
After finishing the article, you will know how to get started whether you are a beginner hiker or experienced backpacker.
Why choose Red River Gorge for a backpacking vacation?
Are you curious about what makes Red River Gorge truly unique? Many people are not aware that Red River Gorge formed because most of the states under the Ohio River were underwater in prehistoric times.
This means Red River Gorge has rare aquatic fossils embedded on the large rocks that make up the gorge.
The other interesting aspect of backpacking in Red River Gorge is the extensive number of nearby natural wonders such as Natural Bridge.
Other outdoor draws to the area include birding, canoeing, distinct geology, and wildflowers. This area of Kentucky also has breathtaking photo opportunities that can be found in few areas of the world.
Which trails are age appropriate for kids and people living with disabilities?
Red River Gorge is extremely child-friendly, but it is not ideal to take kids into parts of the park where they are in danger of falling off of large rocks or cliffs.
For this reason, older children are ideal for trails, and children should never deviate from the trail. For people living with disabilities that impair walking, there is an abundance of choices for paved trails next to some of Red River Gorge’s most interesting features such as Natural Arch Trail.
Unfortunately, Kentucky does not have a detailed page specifically for trails that are accessible. For example, some trails, like Lakeside Trail, will have wooden steps on the trail; making it difficult to navigate a wheelchair. A complete list of each trail with details is found at the Forest Service website.
Is Red River Gorge pet-friendly?
According to the Natural Bridge website, Red River Gorge allows pets on all hiking trails, but the exception is Natural Bridge.
Regardless, there are a few problems that pets can experience when hiking at Red River Gorge. Namely, an unleashed dog is more likely to jump off a cliff accidentally.
Pets are also more likely to attack other wildlife or other hikers if they are off-leash. One idea that works in urban areas is to chip the dog or have a tracker placed on the collar charms.
Sadly, there are many areas of Red River Gorge that are too remote to receive phone reception, and these phone app trackers might not work.
One other word of caution includes the extreme temperatures found during the summer in Kentucky. In other words, if you were planning on keeping your pet in a recreational vehicle or car while you are hiking, consider renting a hotel room that has air conditioning instead.
In most cases, unless they are locals that are out hiking with their dogs on a leash for the day, vacationers or tourist will leave their pets at home.
Do I need to be a professional hiker or backpacker to have fun at Red River Gorge?
Although Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Park include several warnings about cliffs, not all of the trails are difficult.
According to the Kentucky State Parks website, there are several trails in the Natural Bridge area. This list also includes which trails are easy and short while others are listed as extremely difficult.
Hikers familiar with the area often take experienced backpackers to the Sheltowee trails. Alternatively, the Lakeside Trail is listed as easy in difficulty, but it is part of the Sheltowee trails.
Another easy backpacking hike is Laurel Ridge Trail, and it gives a view from the rim of the cliffs surrounding Natural Bridge.
What else is there to do outside of the National Park?
If your family is not as interested in backpacking in Red River Gorge as you might have wanted, it does not mean that the trip is completely lost.
For example, in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, the focus of the area is on raising horses. In addition, your family can go golfing, explore zip-line businesses or the Kentucky Reptile Zoo.
For couples that went to Red River Gorge to have a romantic weekend but got caught in a rainstorm, there are several points of interest for couples.
In particular, indoor opportunities such as museums are found throughout the Daniel Boone National Forest Area and in nearby Lexington, Kentucky. Couples can also enjoy fine dining in the Lexington area.
Where do you stay if you do not want to camp?
Many of Kentucky’s parks have resorts, and Red River Gorge is one of them. According to Southern Living, the recommended nearby lodge is at Natural Bridge.
For camping trips that involve canoeing or hiking, however, there are several available cabins throughout Red River Gorge.
There are also other opportunities for lodging in Slade, Kentucky, and Lexington is about 60 miles west of Red River Gorge.
In most cases, careful planning prevents a washed-out camping experience from ruining a vacation. For example, having an emergency list of nearby motels surrounding Slade, Kentucky, can help keep a potentially ruined vacation on track.
Can I go swimming at Red River Gorge?
If you are looking at videos online about visiting Daniel Boone National Forest, no doubt you have noticed that aerial videos of Red River Gorge are breathtaking, and locations like Jump Rock can indicate that cliff diving is popular at this park.
Despite this, keep in mind that serious injuries can happen if you jump into a pool that is too shallow or has unexpected rocks underwater.
Outside of warning tourists of the dangers of diving in unauthorized areas, swimming is definitely encouraged in locations throughout The Gorge.
For formal swimming with small children or people living with disabilities, Natural Bridge Pool is open during warmer months, and the entry fee is nominal.
According to the U.S. Forest Service website, there are specific areas closed to swimming, but other natural waterways swimming areas in Red River Gorge include Mill Creek Lake, Creation Falls, Copperas Falls, Indian Creek, Jump Rock and Swift Camp Creek.
Are there any warnings or banned items at Red River Gorge?
One of the ways that Daniel Boone National Forest park services keep Red River Gorge safe is by requiring every camper has a permit.
This information is presented on their homepage about Red River Gorge, and highlights include warning campers not to hike at night. Due to a large number of cliffs in the area, it is also recommended not to camp alone.
Specific rules that might not be expected are a ban on alcohol drinking in the park. While you may see other people doing it, the fines and consequences might be difficult to deal with if you are from another state or country. It is also advised to watch out for any signs that prohibit certain activities such as building a fire.
Traveling tips for Red River Gorge include avoiding night driving
If you have only driven in a city, driving on countries roads at night might have several disadvantages. For example, many country roads do not have a shoulder.
This means that if you have a sudden turn in the road or have a deer crossing, you might not have a road shoulder to help correct your mistakes.
Another problem with driving around Red River Gorge at night is a lack of street lighting. This can cause issues if you do not see wildlife on the sides of the road. Nevertheless, keep in mind that all Kentucky interstates have lighting, and do not need to be avoided.
Advice for foreigners traveling to Red River Gorge
Most of America is covered in state parks and other natural parks that few other countries have the opportunity to own.
For this reason, visitors from other countries may not be aware of the dangers of outdoor life in Kentucky. In particular, Kentucky has three types of poisonous snakes.
There are also several varieties of mushrooms that can cause fatalities. Another unexpected issue with camping in Kentucky is the presence of mosquitoes.
For this reason, make sure you have all of your vaccinations up-to-date, and you have an emergency strategy planned in case you are bit by a snake.