Weekend Trip: Red River Gorge & Clifty Falls State Park

Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge hike on Auxier Ridge with view of Courthouse

One of my favorite places to hike that is still within driving distance to my home base in Indianapolis is Red River Gorge down in Kentucky. It has become mine and my girlfriend’s go to place to get out of town and explore nature. This was our third weekend trip to Red River and we have done different hikes every time, which is awesome! Officially it is known as the Red River Gorge Geological Area which is part of Daniel Boone National Forest.  Directly next to the area is also Kentucky’s Natural Bridge State Park which features one of the best natural bridges / arches in the area. This time we only had 1 day to hike and picked out 3 medium length trails near the west side of the area. I also had something special planned…

Red River Gorge hike to Grays Arch

Red River Gorge hike to Grays Arch Red River Gorge hike to Grays Arch Found a Red Spotted Newt at Red River Gorge

We decided to just drive up early Saturday morning instead of staying overnight on Friday. To maximize our time we packed a cooler with all the essentials and hoped the weather would hold out. Nearly the entire time driving down it was raining but luckily by the time we arrived it had clear up just enough to get some great hiking in. The first hike started off the Tunnel Ridge Road and was a 4 mile loop to Gray’s Arch (great guide on the trail) which is one of the more popular hikes. It starts off meandering through the woods then down into a valley where a creek is. We found a Red-Spotted Newt on the trail near the creek so keep your eye out for wildlife! Eventually you start climbing back up and find the beautiful Gray’s Arch. Unfortunately the arch was packed with people but it was still a great spot. On a quieter day I would suggest a picnic there. To get back out of the arch area you have to take a couple flights of stairs but once on top the trail is very flat and it is one of the most frequented paths.

Red River Gorge hike for Engagement

View of Auxier Ridge Trail towards Courthouse Red River Gorge hike on Auxier Ridge with view of Haystacks Red River Gorge hike to Auxier Ridge Red River Gorge hike to Whittleton Arch

After refueling we headed further down the road to the 5 mile loop from Auxier Ridge Trail to Courthouse Rock Trail (great guide here). I had been planning something special and this trail was perfect… The Auxier Ridge overlooks valleys on both sides of the trail, obliviously its on a ridge… Well I found a secluded rock outcropping overlooking the vase expanse and decided this would a perfect spot. So I dropped down to one knee, pulled out the ring, and proposed to my girlfriend Beth. She said yes!!! We were both so excited that we kept on hiking towards the Courthouse…. Rock. An amazingly fitting name for this trail. On the way you can see a couple cool rock formations such as the Haystacks which really do look like haystacks in the sun. Eventually we completed the trail and we are now officially engaged.

With all the excitement we decided to keep hiking and drove to the Whittleton trail head to hike the 2.5 mile trail to the Whittleton Arch. The trail follows a creek and splits at Sheltowee Trace trail. It dead ends at the arch which is almost more like a cave (see last thumbnail picture above). The arch had a very small dribble of water but in the spring time it should have more flow.

After our final hike we drove back towards Lexington and decided to stay in Georgetown as it was more convenient and snagged a great deal on the hotel. The other times we went down to Red River Gorge we stayed in Lexington before which is a really fun city with their nice bars and restaurants. But my favorite place is to stay at is Cliffview Resort in a yurt! Yes, what Mongolians live in. Anyway, Red River Gorge deserves a whole new post. On to the next day at the surprisingly beautiful Clifty Falls State Park….

Clifty Falls State Park

Hike through Clifty Falls tunnel

Clifty Falls engagement photo over waterfall View of waterfall at Clifty Falls Hike through the river bed at Clifty Falls

From Lexington area to Indianapolis you typically take the I-75 and I-74 but if you take a detour you can stop at Clifty Falls State park in Indiana right off of the Ohio River. It is worth the stop if you like hiking and you can cover most of the park in one day. Keep mind the roads to get there are extremely windy and hilly, almost like a roller coaster. Kind of fun in good weather but in the snow or rain can be pretty hairy. The park itself is known for its waterfalls, cliffs, and natural tunnel you can literally hike through. In the fall the waterfalls are more of dribble but it makes hiking the river bed possible. In the spring time the waterfalls are suppose to be great but it means you can’t hike through the river unless you want to get wet…

For our hiking adventures we did maybe a 5 mile loop starting near Hoffman Falls up to trail 4 and 5. From there we braved the tunnel cave and went through all the way to the other side. Watch your head as the ceiling does get pretty low in the middle and it is really wet and dark so be careful. At the tunnel falls my now fiance, Beth had a little fun showing off her new bling. After that we hiked down to trail 2 which is the river bed. Very rocky but really fun to hike and to see the random pools of fish. Eventually we finished our hike and stop at the waterfall which the park is named after, Clifty Falls. Taking in the final view of the cliff was a perfect way to end our trip.

Overall a wonderful weekend hiking around Indiana and Kentucky. And I am now engaged! Surprised she said yes! 😉