Admirers of the Bluegrass State will happily tell you that Kentucky is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States. Red River Gorge Geological Area—located inside of the Daniel Boone National Forest— is home to lively blooming plants, sandstone arches, and the robust Red River which is ideal for canoeing. If distinctive rock formations make your heart skip a beat, Red River Gorge should top your list of places to visit.
Red River Gorge is home to more than 100 stone arches. There are numerous hiking trails which allow visitors to view dense forests, blooming wildflowers, and striking rock formations that look as though they were transplanted from southern Utah. Red River Gorge’s stately Princess Arch—with its slender expanse of seemingly delicate rock—will truly make you forget what region of the country you’re visiting.
One of Red River Gorge’s most popular arches is the Angels Windows—which are two petite arches that resemble natural vaulted windows in a roughly hewn stone cathedral. The Angels Windows are easily accessible via a low impact trail. There is a steep drop very near the Angels Windows arches so visitors are advised to use caution while taking selfies and exploring the area.
A local tour company offers kayak and boat tours of a flooded limestone cave which was once a fully operational mine. Participants can watch rainbow trout swim beneath a translucent kayak as they paddle through an eerie abandoned mine illuminated by subtle LED lights. No trip to Kentucky is complete without exploring one of the state’s legendary caves.
Plant lovers adore Red River Gorge’s serene Clifty Wilderness. Clifty Wilderness features nearly 800 different varieties of plants, patches of hidden mushrooms, and blankets of vibrant green moss. Visitors can explore verdant forests, rugged rock formations, and countless secret stone nooks and crannies by hiking over 20 miles of trails. As the name implies, Clifty Wilderness is fairly rugged terrain with virtually no amenities so it is important to pack ample food and water if you plan to spend a substantial amount of time there.
If the crowds at the most popular National Parks are too much for you, a visit to rustic Red River Gorge is an excellent opportunity to enjoy breathtaking scenery without wall-to-wall people. Red River Gorge may not be an official National Park, but its splendor absolutely rivals the most celebrated natural spaces in the United States.