Daniel Boone National Park (Introduction to Red River Gorge)


Photo image of Kentucky, captured from GoPoCo.org website

This map shows where we had multiple hiking adventures, from July 11 to 18, 2016. We were in the blue area, Powell County, Kentucky. We also drove over 60 miles on July 16 to Lexington, marked by one of the three orange stars, one day. We’ll have a post about that trip.

We stayed in a brand new RV park, 4 Guys RV Park. Some parts are still under construction, but it didn’t bother us. The office hours are of an evening, so we didn’t get a map or the Wifi password until after our hike to Natural Bridge. We were told the Red River Gorge (RRG) is excellent for hiking. I guess he was kind and didn’t mention our age….😁  I said we love to hike, so I guess he thought we looked fit enough (or again he was kind) to not mention how rugged it is!

Anyway, we were psyched from our hike the day before to Natural Bridge. And after hearing the affirmation the RRG is great for hiking, we were told to take the  Historic Nada Tunnel. We were ready to tackle the RRG – or will it tackle us?

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

“An interesting way to enter the Red River Gorge is through the 900-foot Nada Tunnel, located along KY 77 on Cumberland Ranger District. This tunnel was built for use by a logging railroad during the early 1900s. The tunnel is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The tunnel is a one-way section of a two-way road, drivers must watch for the headlights of oncoming vehicles. It is 12-foot-wide by 13 feet high; so RVs, tour buses and other high vehicles should use extra caution.” (Quote taken from this Forest Service website.)

I’m loving some of the signs we are seeing in this part of Kentucky. A few hundred yards before this tunnel, the sign warned “Congestion Ahead.”  To me, when I see that, I expect congestion. I guess we are in the “off” season since we’ve seen the sign in other places and we’ve never met with any congestion! We’re so thankful!


We are about to enter the historic Nada Tunnel.

We were not warned about how dark or narrow the tunnel was. Again, we’re now doing research after the fact! Our limited Verizon plan (18 GB) for our Mifi is a bit of a deterrent as we usually wait to do much of our research and posting on our blog when we have free wifi.

The sign actually should have said as you enter RRG, “WARNING: Many Dangers Ahead. Are You Sure You R Up for this Adventure?”  And now we understand the hats and tee-shirts that say, “I survived the Red River Gorge.” It is very sad as there have been too many deaths in RRG.

Oh my, we weren't expecting it to be so dark!

Oh my, we weren’t expecting it to be so dark!

Needless to say, this was a bit of an experience.

Needless to say, this was a bit of an experience. Only one car waiting for us to come out. What must it be like when it’s “congested?”

Scenery after the Nada Tunnel

Scenery after the Nada Tunnel. Our eyes are still adjusting….After our “hike” we will continue on this road for 46 miles, The Scenic Byway.

We know the trailhead is supposed to be soon after the tunnel. So we keep driving and driving….Bill sees a gravel road, but too late to turn onto it. But we think, certainly parking for a Trailhead won’t be down a gravel road. Then finally:

Martin's Fork Parking

We think we finally arrived at what we assume is THE Trailhead! It does say, trailhead, right?

We see this parking lot! Yay, we (think we) found the trailhead. So we look around for the entrance to the trail. And we search and search. Looking closer at the map, it says it starts behind the bathroom, but trust us, there was no “official” trail there (we’ve since learned the official trails have white triangle blazes)…..

This was the only map we had to hike. The red arrow shows the Trailhead parking and you can see, no trail from here, but we saw the trail we wanted to be on....

This was the only map we had to hike. The red arrow shows the Trailhead parking and you can see, no trail from here, but we saw the trails we wanted to be on….Also note, Rough Trail comes right up to the road, but doesn’t go on. But now we know it does as that is what we were actually on!

The little info box tells hikers to not desecrate the “rock shelters.” Also a bulletin board was next to it had some warning information, like look out for bears. We really don’t think bears would be climbing this trail….thankfully we saw no scat nor bears, nor any wildlife except some hawks. We were too busy watching our steps to have looked closely at them! This is where we entered the trail that actually is not on that map if you really look closely.

Interesting info that asks you to not desecrate the Rock Shelters. Apparently, no-one read it....

Interesting info that asks you to not desecrate the Rock Shelters. Apparently, no-one read it….

Yep, we're on an alleged trail....We have to watch every step as it was really "rough."

Yep, we’re on an alleged trail….Bill is carefully watching every step as it was really “rough.”

Every few 100 feet or so, we came to a three-pronged fork in the trail! We just didn’t take many pictures we had to keep our hands on our poles to help us stay on the trail. And we pretty much went straight up for over 1/10th of a mile. Maybe we should have turned around….but then what? We’re determined to see an “arch.”

Finally, we can breathe in here! Sadly, we found lots of litter on this trail and you can see it here.

We later learned this is a historical rock shelter. It was so sad to see litter on the trail and here.  This is actually a trail, Rough Trail, but I don’t think the Forest Service monitors it. We thought we were on Arch or the Double Arch Trail. And Rough it was….

We came to what looked like the top of this “mountain.” Bill was able to peak over and saw a descent and could tell then we would have to also climb again. It was a hard decision, but we decided to turn back. We really didn’t go very far, nearly a mile but we just weren’t feeling “safe.”  I was also watching the Weather App and a storm was approaching….If you want to see more pictures from this hike, click here.

We thought this was a trailhead. We're so used to well marked trailheads with parking "lots" of sorts. This had it all, plus bathrooms.

I’m pretty drenched as it was a strenuous hike in this high humidity, but I’m still smiling!

It was starting to rain, so we decided to go for a drive, not knowing we were on a 46 mile drive on the Scenic Byway. It was an interesting ride along the Red River on one side and outcrops on the other side. But it took it us unexpectedly to the Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center & Historic Site. What a gem it was and made it worth it!

We were able to talk to several Rangers. We learned a lot, mainly there haven’t been any bear sightings, but they know they are coming. They are trying to raise awareness as we have seen so many signs warning of them. We didn’t communicate very well when we said we couldn’t find the “official” trail but seemed to have found an unauthorized trail. They said they would go check it out. But now looking at the map closer, we see we missed the trail head to the Arch and Double Arch Trails, where we hoped to hike. That trailhead was off of the gravel road. 😒

We also saw an inspiring eight-minute video about the RRG. There were many educational displays and information that helped us better appreciate the attempts to preserve the heritage of the area. It was obvious there are many out there who don’t know or understand it based upon the litter we saw. I overheard another visitor also commenting to a Ranger about the trash. I was sorry we didn’t have a trash bag and gloves with us to cart it out. Here are a few pictures at Gladie:

Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center & Historic Site

Outside the Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center & Historic Site. Note Bill did change his tee-shirt. We learned to carry a dry one as he saturates them in this humidity.


Just one of the displays, “A Tale of Two Rockshelters.” Very interesting to learn how much history is contained deep in the layers of these “rocks.”


The three types of sediment found in the gorge and in the mountains: Sandstone, limestone and shale.

We drove on for the rest of our journey, passing many scenic points of interests the Ranger pointed out to us. There just wasn’t enough parking for us to stop. There were a few more trails we could have tried to hike, but parking was limited plus the road was just too narrow and winding for our comfort level. So the bottom line is that we now understand when people say, “We survived the Red River Gorge!”

We could have been discouraged. To be honest, we did feel a bit defeated because we couldn’t really enjoy this as a day of hiking. We just decided to make the best of it and learn, we will never to hike on a trail without blazes! A friend commented on a earlier post, how do we think Daniel Boone and those who explored our great nation centuries ago did it?  YES, we often say that! And even better, how did Native Americans survive in these wildness areas we are finding?

Next up, our successful hikes and more about the rest of our time in this beautiful national forest!

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”                                 2 Corinthians 12:9

5 thoughts on “Daniel Boone National Park (Introduction to Red River Gorge)

  1. Bob Betty Wise

    In all our conversations, we failed to tell you Bob was a naturalist at Natural Bridge in 1962 and helped design & build some of the walking trails to the “bridge”. He also worked at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg in l962-63. In fact, we spent our first 6 mo of married life at JW! That was before the interstate highways were built (ya know, in the “good ole days”!). It took us 8 hrs to drive to Western Ky via Lexington & Louisville. Hope to RV that way eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh that’s amazing! It’s so gorgeous there. Wonder how they did it? Much like how did Daniel Boone and the Native Americans live and move around those boulders, arches, natural bridges? It is so rugged, but so beautiful as well.
      We’re now seeing how the KY State Parks are putting in lots of lodges, pools, etc. In fact, we’re in Carter Caves now and they have a golf course here, too. The camping area is relatively flat, but our 40′ bus sticks out of our site! There were a number of 35′ motorhomes here, but we all grimaced as we talk about the road up here! Very curvy and with a pretty steep grade! But we are in the mountains of Kentucky.
      Tonight is our last night in Kentucky, back to Virginia tomorrow.


  2. Sometimes finding the trailhead and trail can be difficult. I’m so glad we still have our unlimited data plan so I can spend time researching hikes and get all the info we need. But it does take time and a data limit would make that rough. Glad you kept a positive attitude and enjoyed yourself anyway:)


    • Wow, unlimited data! I had to give my plan up to upgrade to an iPhone. I knew I would regret it, but my “old” phone just wouldn’t do what we need as we travel, etc. But perhaps I could have figured out how to work around it.
      Thanks for stopping by. We finish up our travels in Kentucky tonight. So one more on our hikes in Daniel Boone National Park and then our last stop, Carter Caves. We’ve ended on a GREAT note! Yay.


  3. […] maximize our hiking, but we did get in some GREAT hikes outside of the actual RRG area. Click here to read our three posts about this great time, which includes a trip to Lexington, Kentucky and then […]


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