Sunset on Pioneer Northwest

Map of Pioneer Northwest Hike

Map of Pioneer Northwest Hike

Elevation Profile of Pioneer Northwest

Elevation Profile of Pioneer Northwest

Overview. After enjoying this hike back in April, we thought this would be a great sunset location - and it certainly is. With the sun near its most northerly track, we were able to enjoy the last rays of sun while looking out over Red River Gorge and Nada Tunnel Road.

Route Type | Out and Back
Total Distance | 1.28 miles
Overall Difficulty | Easy
*this trail is unmarked, but easily navigated

Trailhead. This trail departs from the Pioneer Parking Lot located off of Tunnel Ridge Road in Red River Gorge. To reach it, turn onto Tunnel Ridge Road from KY-15 and head north. Continue on the road, passing Gray’s Arch Picnic Area and a number of other parking lots. Pioneer Parking Lot will be located on your right. [map]

Trail navigation. Head out to Tunnel Ridge Road from Pioneer Parking Lot and turn right (north). The trail begins a very short walk up the road (0.2 miles) and is largely an old road bed. Follow the trail northwest, staying on the main path. With user trails like this, there are always many spur trails to the side, so explore if you wish. Continue until you reach the end of the trail that features an excellent overlook facing out to Nada Tunnel Road below (KY-77). Retrace your steps to return to the trailhead.

Two other viewpoints. After sitting out on the ledge for the second time, my curiosity is piqued to explore what appears to be two additional viewpoints that can be reached from this trail. With undergrowth at its peak, we’ll likely stop in another time to explore these other areas.

CAUTION - Skip the lower platform. Just a quick note on this particular trail. When you reach the overlook, there is an opportunity to drop down to a lower exposed rock area that only modestly improves the view, but adds a great deal more risk to the hike. Adding to temptation, someone has fixed a rope since our visit in April. Drop down if you wish, but take care with your steps.

CAUTION - Cliffs. Be careful to avoid getting too close the edge of cliffs, as this is the leading cause of serious injury and death when hiking in Red River Gorge.

CAUTION - Poisonous snakes. While the gorge is within the range of timber rattlesnakes, copperheads are the most common poisonous snake encountered. Stay alert on the trail, as snakes are commonly found taking in the warmth of the trail. Give them a wide berth or wait for them to move off the trail.

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]