Red River Gorge Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2002)
- Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
- Length46 miles
Visitors can explore the natural wonders of the Red River Gorge Geological Area by travelling along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway. The area is a popular destination for backcountry camping, canoeing, hiking, and rock climbing. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore many scenic outlooks, stone arches, and unique rock formations.
Story of the Byway
Trace the path of the winding Red River by travelling along the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway. The route begins in Stanton. The town provides access to several hiking and biking trails and is near several arches and rock formations. Visitors can discover the natural wonders hidden inside the gorge such as over 100 stone arches and waterfalls. Seventy million years of wind and water have shaped this into one of the most unique areas in the eastern United States.
The route then enters the Daniel Boone National Forest Stanton Ranger District. The park itself is open for exciting recreational activities such as camping, hunting, hiking, and fishing so long as visitors follow the appropriate regulations. Along the way catch stunning views of the Red River, which the byway runs along. Visitors should keep an eye out for the 900-ft long Nada Tunnel, which was built for the Dana Lumber Company between 1910 and 1911. The solid limestone tunnel had been blasted open with dynament and dug out with steam machinery and hand tools. Soon after the tunnel had come into operation it had to be opened further to allow the large trainload of logs to go through. Visitors might be able to spot the ghost of a formal construction worker, who supposedly perished when a stick of dynamite accidentally exploded. Those with large cars should be wary that the tunnel’s clearance is 13 ft.
Visitors should try to spot unique rock formations such as Raven Rock, Sky Bridge, and Angel Windows. Sky Bridge is a natural sandstone arch, wide enough for crossing. To access these natural rock formations, visitors can make use of the well marinated trails in the area. Many of these trails have toilets that are accessible for those in wheelchairs and for beginner hikers. Hikers seeking more of a challenge will still find trails difficult enough to suit their needs along the way as there are trails for all skill levels.
At the Gladie Visitor Center, visitors can learn more about the cultural heritage, unique resources, and spectacular geology found within the boundaries of the Red River Gorge Geological Area, right across from Raven Rock, and Clifty Wilderness, just beyond the Visitor Center. Interpretive exhibits provide a glimpse into the past and convey the wild, natural beauty that visitors seek today when entering the Red River Gorge. Visitors can also find backcountry camping permits, maps, and information about the Red River Gorge.
The byway continues to wind its way to its end point in Zachariah. Visitors can rent a cabin to visit Torrent Falls, one of the many beautiful waterfalls in the Red River Gorge. Otherwise, visitors can see the waterfall as they drive through on the byway. Visitors will also enjoy Kentucky’s own Via Ferrata. This style of climbing originated in Italy to transport troops during World War I whereby climbers are secured to a cable system while traversing a cliff with the aid of iron hand and foot rungs. This climbing path is a great beginner rock climbing experience and spans ¾ of a mile of the sandstone cliff line. The path is equipped with cables to clip into, and iron hand- and foot-rungs are accessible when needed.
The route begins in Stanton on State Highway 11 and heads east. Instead of continuing straight on State Highway 11, visitors will make a loop following the Red River using State Highways 77, 715, and 402 before rejoining State Highway 11. The route follows State Highway 11 until its termination point in Zachariah.
Points of Interest
The Nada Tunnel was built for the Dana Lumber Company between 1910 and 1911, and the solid limestone had been blown out with dynamite.
Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center
At the Gladie Visitor Center, visitors can learn more about the cultural heritage, unique resources, and spectacular geology found within the boundaries of the Red River Gorge Geological Area.
Southeast Mountain Guides Via Ferrata
This climbing path is a great beginner rock climbing experience and spans ¾ of a mile of the sandstone cliff line. The path is equipped with cables to clip into, and iron hand- and foot-rungs are accessible when needed.
Outdoor Adventuring at the Red River Gorge
Starting from Stanton and heading west along the Byway on State Route 11 Route, drive into the Daniel Boone National Forest. Marvel at the sights of the Red River as you travel along the byway. Soon after you turn onto State Route 77, you’ll pass under the Nada Tunnel. The Nada Tunnel was built for the Dana Lumber Company between 1910 and 1911, and the solid limestone had been blown out with dynamite.
As you turn onto State Route 715, you’ll encounter the Red River Gorge Geological Area. Here, you can discover the spectacular rock features, including sandstone arches and towering cliffs that attract thousands of viewers each year. Here, visitors can enjoy year round hiking, camping, canoeing, and wildlife viewing alongside other recreational activities. Just a few bends from the Red River Gorge Geological Area, you’ll find the Gladie Visitor Center, where you can learn about the cultural heritage, unique resources and spectacular geology found within the boundaries of the Red River Gorge Geological Area and Clifty Wilderness. Climb up to the Sky Bridge, a great place to stop for a picnic.
The byway then continues to wind through the Kentucky mountains. Follow State Route 402 up to Slade before traveling south on State Route 11 to Zahariah. There are many options to stop and hike along the way. While in Zachariah check out the natural beauty of the Torrent Falls and try out an old Italian climbing style, the Via Ferrata, to get a new view of the falls. While in Zarachiah, stop at a local restaurant for some farm to table fare.
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