Overview. After having such a great time with the kids on this hike in April, the wife wanted to see what all the fuss was about. This really is one of the best hikes available at Red River Gorge. It’s 7 miles that offers a highlight reel of what the Gorge is all about - walking through hardwoods, panoramic vistas, super cool geology, and of course, a big ass arch (Gray’s Arch).
Route Type | Loop
Total Distance | 7 miles
Overall Difficulty | Moderate
USDA Forest Service Map of Red River Gorge Area
*part of this hike is unmarked, experienced hikers only
Trailhead. Gray’s Arch Picnic Area is the best parking for this hike, but it was full on the day we hiked. We parked at Archaic which is just up the road and across the street. To reach Gray’s Arch Picnic Area, turn north onto Tunnel Ridge Road from KY-15. Follow it past a few parking lots, and it will be on the right. [map]
Trail navigation. This hike begins from the parking lot heading east of Gray’s Arch Picnic Area on Tunnel Ridge Road. Enter Pinch ‘em Tight Trail on your left and follow it 1.7 miles until it ends at Rough Trail. Be sure to keep right at the first intersection with Rush Ridge Trail and to the left at the second intersection with Buck Trail. Turn left at the third intersection and keep your eyes to the right of the trail.
In about a tenth of a mile, you’ll reach a well-defined, unmarked trail. Follow this out on the ridgeline, keeping to the right at nearly all trail intersections to reach Hanson’s Point. Along the way, you’ll encounter a pair of large backcountry campsites that can accommodate some rather large groups. It is in there places where you route finding can become difficult, as many user trails shoot away from these areas. Stay right and keep moving east. Once you reach the end, Hanson’s Point will give you a spectacular view of Pinch ‘em Tight, Chimney Top Rock, and Half Moon across the gorge below. It’s among the best places to catch sunrise in Red River Gorge.
Turn around and retrace your steps back to Rough Trail. At the trail intersection, turn right to continue to Gray’s Arch. You’ll follow Rough Trail through two climbs that are always on the steep side relative to the area. On the second climb, keep your eyes left to see Gray’s Arch Trail that dips a bit as it heads toward the large rock shelter adjacent to Gray’s Arch. Wind around to the left and climb some more to reach the arch. Gray’s is among the most impressive at Red River Gorge, and we made it our lunch spot for the day.
Once you’ve taken it all in, retrace your steps and turn left to stay on Gray’s Arch Trail/Rough Trail. You’ll climb a number of steps that make for a decent leg burner before finally regaining the ridge. Once on the ridge, follow the trail to Tunnel Ridge Road and return to your car.
CAUTION. More than a few have died on this hike, here’s one - a young man from Louisville fell to his death near Hanson's Point. Take care during your hike to avoid getting too close to dangerous cliffs. Also, if you're not confident in your map and compass skills, skip this hike.
CAUTION - Inappropriate for Young Children. While this is a mostly easy hike, this is inappropriate for young children due to the sometimes slick footing near cliffs.
CAUTION - Bears. Black bears are growing in number throughout Daniel Boone National Forest. Be sure to follow bear safety precautions. [Be Bear Aware by US Forest Service]