The Zoo is part of Graining Fork Nature Preserve and is privately owned. To hike or climb in the preserve, you must electronically sign a liability waiver at http://grainingfork.org and be confirmed access via email. The process for this isn’t perfect, but basically, you’ll need to e-sign the waiver and be verified via PayPal donation (this can be as little as one cent).
Overview. This is a short, but difficult hike made easier with some rope left by climbers. After a steep climb, you’ll enjoy three arches that are aptly known as Zoo Arch #1, #2, and #3. These are stacked on top of one another, making it a unique hike.
Route Type | Out and Back
Total Distance | 0.5 miles
Overall Difficulty | Strenuous
unmarked trails, scrambling required, no trail maps available
Trailhead. This trailhead is on the southernmost end of the parking lot that is shared between Graining Fork Nature Preserve and Hop’s Fork. It can be found south on KY-11 a few miles past Natural Bridge State Park. [map]
Trail navigation. From the south end of the parking lot just past the bulletin board, take the trail leading west out to the creek. Follow the sign for the Zoo, cross the creek, and turn left (south). From here, you’ll begin the ascent on a heavily trafficked trail zig zagging up the hill. Some rope was left on a particularly steep section that made this considerably easier. If this isn’t available on your hike, it will become a scramble on some eroded trail with exposed roots. Continue up until you reach the first arch that is smooth and wind-formed. Hook around the right side to reach the next arch and right again for the third. Retrace your steps to return to the parking lot or loop around the rock wall where climbers can often be found.
Not appropriate for young children. This is a difficult hike with plenty of risk for serious injury.
Respect private property owners. While I don’t know much about the owners of the property, the fact that private land is open to the public presents the landowners with the potential for liability. Please respect and follow the rules on http://grainingfork.org so these trails and walls can remain open to the public.
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]