“We’re going to have to rappel our way out of here!”
Yep, deep down into our hike to see Fern Bridge, Bill hollered that up to me! He says some of the funniest things on our hikes. I should do a better job of recording what he says….
We are continuing to write about our time in our last Kentucky campground and this time, it’s a state park. Click here if you missed the previous post about our arrival.
After a good nights rest, we were ready to conquer Three Bridges Trail (TBT) and see some of the best the natural geological sites in the park. We tried to find Smokey Bridge the night before, allegedly the biggest of the three. We actually had walked right past it! It was hidden by the trees. The only way to see it, you had to walk down lots and lots of manmade stairs, my nemesis. We skipped it.
We’re now using the All Trails app to help track the elevation in our “mountainous hikes.” The TBT turned out to be the perfect hike and I captured it correctly:
We were on the trail for over three hours, enjoying the sights as we took breaks. While it was hot again, it just didn’t seem as humid in this “forest.”
The Park brochure describes the trail: “This popular trail highlights three of the Park’s natural bridges including Smoky Bridge (the largest), Raven Bridge, and Fern Bridge. The trail overlooks many vistas of Smoky Valley Lake and traverses alongside many impressive sandstone cliffs. Red blazes mark the trail.” So much for its popularity as we were alone on the trail. We saw one deer, otherwise, we had it all to ourselves. Or could it be that it was over 90 degrees with 85% humidity and we were the only crazy ones who would attempt it? 😉
There was no mention of the trail rating on the park brochure, just that it was “popular.” Was it easy, moderate, hard? Looking at our All Trails picture above, what would you say? We’d agree it was mostly moderate but there were definitely a few hard places that challenged us, like hiking down to Fern Bridge. We really felt good after we were done and now we know we couldn’t have finished it if we wanted to the night before. It wasn’t a walk in the park!
You saw parts of TBT in our last post, so let’s just start here with our favorite part of the trail, hiking down to see Fern Bridge, and our featured picture is also part of it:
We did make it out, by climbing up the trail on the other side. We were just in awe at this natural bridge. We really like challenges and always have our hiking poles. We sure needed them on this hike.
There actually is a rappelling wall off this trail! We’re at the top of it in this picture, but couldn’t really see the cliff. We’d have to walk down manmade stairs to see it.
Our only complaint about the trail were the signs. There are a lot of nice signs, so that was good. But some of them are not real clear as to which way to go. We’re supposed to be going in a loop, so it should be a no brainer. As it turned out, we did make one wrong turn, but it wasn’t a serious mistake:
The rest of the signs were pretty clear, except at this intersection. Bill is usually so good with his internal GPS, but in a forest like this and confusing signs, it was busy “re-calculating!”
At this intersection, we also see the Raven Bridge sign, which is to Bill’s right, only 1/10th of a mile up. We knew we had to see it and saw it also had a way to climb to the top of it. But then what? Come back down here and then which way? Somehow, we did the right thing ….
We never really enjoyed the vistas while here due to the beautiful green foliage/forest. We looked and looked for the Smoky Creek Valley. If you would like to see more pictures of this trail, click here.
The next day was our last one here in Kentucky to hike, we felt compelled to get in a another good hike. But we are really drained. So we looked for the easiest trail possible, maybe Kiser Hollow Trail? It’s a loop trail of 10 miles, with shorter hikes off of it. We mapped out what would be about 4 miles and if we felt up to it, we could extend it. This is also a multi-use trail, so to us, that meant it should be pretty level, flat and easy. But we forgot we were in Kentucky!
As usual, this hike started out easy. We made it to the first “intersection” we saw. We had a choice to make. Go straight, which looked somewhat flat, or go to our right and go up a steep hill, or go left on a trail we didn’t read about. It was a no brainer, we’re looking for an easier trail today.
But alas, we did get confused at one of the signs again. So we went nearly seven miles! Below is the analysis of the trail which shows the lowest elevation was 736′, close to the town, and the highest was 1,060′, which is the highest point in the campground, for a net gain of 954′. This ended up being our steepest hike. Had we known this, I’m sure we wouldn’t have hiked it. We are glad we didn’t know and pretty much skimmed over the Park brochure which said it was steep and rocky in places. You can see on the elevation of the map below, we had several steep climbs. It was so bad, we didn’t take any pictures of those rocky steep parts, we had to focus on where we stepped and kept our hands secure on the poles. We wondered, how did the horses do it?
This trail also had two “old homesteads” so of course, we wanted to see them. I asked in the camp store if they knew anything about them since I tried to find out more on-line. No, I was told, only that they were “pretty.” We had to find them. I guess “pretty” in Kentucky is subjective. These are the only two things we saw that could resemble a homestead and their locations was about right on our map:
For more pictures from Kiser Hollow Trail, click here.
Now a little about the campground. Sometimes not knowing what you are in for is a good thing! All sites had both 30 and 50 amps. But no sewer hook ups. But for a few days, that was OK. Bill said had we known what we were in for here, we never would have come. Now that it is over and we are safely back in Virginia, we’re glad we did it!
While 1,064′ may not seem like a high mountain to climb, when it’s only a mile or so to the top, it means either a lot of switchbacks or steep climbing. This had both! But once you are up to the top, it does level off and is beautiful. It is technically a “resort” park which means there is a lodge, swimming pool and a golf course as well as the campground with eight equestrian sites. We could go swimming for 1/2 price if we took our campground car pass in with us. We weren’t here long enough to try it, but if and when we have our grandsons with us, we will be using all swimming pool facilities. We’re also not golfers, but Bill’s summer as a caddy helped him learn to appreciate a beautiful course and this one was nice and green.
The sites were advertised to be gravel and level. But not all were 100% level. We saw a few RVs that needed a few blocks to level themselves out. We used Recreation.gov to look for a site and ours was advertised at 47′ and a pull through. We’re not sure what part of it they measured, but we barely fit on it and there was no room for our car. Someone came over to let us know it would be easy to get on a bigger site by just asking. The beauty of being there Monday to Thursday meant the campground wasn’t full. We didn’t use the facilities so we’re not sure how the bath houses were, but they were busy enough, so they had to be OK.
It was a quiet park, only every once in a while a dog barked at another dog walking by, or the children were a bit rambunctious while they rode their bicycles. The one camp host we met was very nice. We also talked to one of the rangers. He was very helpful. It was definitely a family park and several people offered to lend us their children since we commented we wish our grandsons were with us!
Here is the barn for the visiting horses to stay over night. They have horse back riding for a fee or you can bring your own for the day. To see more pictures of the campground, click here.
The reason we decided to spend the summer “hiking through Kentucky” was because Bill researched what could we do in Kentucky and discovered there were 49 different state parks. As he looked closer, he saw many had great hiking opportunities and that was what we had hoped to do this summer. Not knowing much about Kentucky or its geography, we just thought parks meant shade. We never dreamed what we were getting into, but that is OK. We’re glad we went in a bit ignorant and we had a blast!
Bill once had a dream of owning a horse. We talked a lot about it as we hiked around KHT. His parents took him and his brother to a place nearby where you could rent a horse for an hour or so. Bill loved it, but only remembers going a time or two. Then he had a girlfriend when he was in 7th grade (his only girlfriend before me, btw) and she had a horse. They went riding together so he kept that dream alive until we transferred to Mobile, Alabama. He went on our house hunting trip by himself. He found a house on a few acres with a barn. He really wanted it and a horse, too. I said no. So his dream was smashed. And that’s why we didn’t indulge in the various horse attractions while in Kentucky! But we still had a horse encounter, finally!
So how did our hike end? We heard some horses as we exited the trail. They were cutting through the forest and then a family came riding by us, slowing down of course. I snapped a few pictures, one shown on our last post. Here is the rest of the family:
Bill tried to not think about our drive back down the
mountain hill. Initially, he said he wanted me to drive down it and stop all traffic driving up. I thought we can’t be the only ones with this concern so I asked for the ranger. He came by the evening before we left to talk to Bill. He was off the next day, or he would have done if for us. But he knew one Camp Host, Mitch, who also oversees the roads – whatever that means. He stopped by in his golf cart wearing all reflective clothing. Mitch agreed to help us. But he must of had another task as we couldn’t get a hold of him the next morning. Thankfully, we managed it on our own, with me in the navigator seat. It was as hair raising as the drive up. We only had two pick up trucks meet us on the road, thankfully.
Finally, we made it to the bottom of the hill, ready to turn into town. It was a narrow and somewhat sharp turn at a stop sign. We saw a caravan of two 15 passenger vans followed by cars full of parents, from First Baptist Church, apparently going up to the park for a day of swimming and fun! We held back a little bit to let them clear us. Had we been there a few seconds sooner, it could have been a disaster! Once the coast was clear, we made that hard right turn. Bill said that was the end of our camping in the mountains! Will he change his mind? Next up, we’re making two stops in Virginia before we head to our “home base” with our grandsons and their parents.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19