Saturday, May 1, 2010

Red River Gorge

The Red River Gorge Geological Area is a popular hiking destination just a mere 2 hours drive from Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH. The forest and scenery is beautiful and well worth the short drive whether it be for a day hike or a weekend backpacking/camping trip.

Since there are so many trails of varying degrees of difficulty and length, it's the perfect place for both beginners and experienced hikers alike. We ventered out to RRG this past weekend to do a little hiking for ourselves. Even though we were limited to shorter hikes (I'm 32 weeks pregnant), none of them were dull or boring and each one provided exceptional beauty.

For those looking to explore the RRG area, I recommend purchasing two books: Red River Gorge Trail Guide by Jerrell Goodpaster and Hinterlands, also by the same author. These two books are the most up to-date guidebooks for the region. Since Goodpaster has hiked all the trails in the Gorge multiple times, he knows what he's talking about. Unfortunately, his books can be hard to come by, so you might want to order them directly from his website. We have already begun to wear through both of these books, so they're well worth the money.

I highly recommend Koomer Ridge Campground for those who prefer car camping. The campground is very peaceful (although you can hear a distant hum of traffic from the Parkway), and pretty much all of the sites are spacious and private. There are some who might complain about the fee ($18 a night), but I consider this a small price to pay for such a nice and well maintained campground. Since many trails go around the campground, it makes for a great place to base camp and still explore the Gorge.

While in the RRG, other notable hiking areas to check out are Natural Bridge State Park and Clifty Wilderness Area. Both offer an abundance of terrific hiking alongside RRG. As always, remember to practive Leave No Trace in all of these areas.
It is worth noting there is a history of vandalism and car break-ins around the Red River Gorge area. Use common sense! If you are extremely worried about your car being safe, one option is to park in the Koomer Ridge parking lot right next to the campground (or just stay in the campground) and take off on your hikes from there. Another option would be to park next to the Natural Bridge State Resort Park Lodge and hike from there (but note that backcountry camping is not permitted inside NBSP). These options might add a couple miles to your trip, but it could mean more peace of mind.

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