SUMMARY: Natural Bridge is technically NOT in the Red River Gorge Geological Area, but rather in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park. However, it is probably the best known site in the area, and many people mistakenly think it is actually part of the Red River Gorge Geological Area. Because of Natural Bridge’s location in the state park special rules apply in this area such as the strict restrictions on pets, off trail hiking and climbing. There are approximately 7 different trails plus a Skylift to reach the top of Natural Bridge. This route is one of the shorter and more popular routes, if you are uncomfortable walking up Balanced Rock trail, consider hiking this route in reverse. This route allows visitors to enjoy balanced rock, natural bridge and fat man’s squeeze.
RATING: Easy hike (approximately 1.5 miles total.)
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO HIKE: Early spring when flowers are blooming or autumn when you can catch the fall colors. The USDA Forest Office is located in Winchester, Kentucky about an hour from Red River Gorge. For up to date information either stop in the Ranger District Office, visit their website or telephone: (859) 745-3100. Hemlock Lodge in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park has information on the state park and complimentary trail maps and guides for Natural Bridge.
AMOUNT OF TIME NEEDED: Allow less than a half of a day (1-2 hours) to enjoy this hike.
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD:
- From rest area at exit #33 off of the Mountain State Parkway Turn right onto KY-11, and go to the entrance to Natural Bridge State Resort Park (2.4 miles)
- Turn Right into Natural Bridge State Resort Park and follow signs to Hemlock Lodge (0.2 miles)
- Park in Hemlock Lodge Parking Area. If there is not enough parking in this area, there are alternative parking areas nearby.
- From the Hemlock Lodge Parking Area, walk past the Hemlock Lodge and past the trailhead for the Original Trail to Natural Bridge.
- Turn right and follow trail #2 Balanced Rock Trail until it arrives on top of Natural Bridge (0.75 miles.) After 0.25 miles into the hike you will pass Balanced Rock (on left) an unusual rock formation where one rock appears balanced on the other.
- Cross over Natural Bridge and enjoy this spectacular site.
Consider a detour out and back trail #9 Laurel Ridge Trail to Lookout Point and Lover’s Leap. (1.5 miles)
- Return to Natural Bridge, cross back and find Trail #1 Original Trail descending on the right side of Natural Bridge.
- Descend down the staircase to get below Natural Bridge and pass through Fat Man’s Squeeze arriving below Natural Bridge.
- Go under Natural Bridge, turn right and follow Trail #1 Original Trail back to the Hemlock Lodge (0.75 miles)
- Arrive at the Hemlock Lodge and the Hemlock Lodge Parking Area.
This hike can easily be combined with one of the other Natural Bridge hikes or trail #9 Laurel Ridge Trail.