SUMMARY: The Narrows and White’s Branch Arch are unique because they are a rare arch with a road over it. The road was closed in the early 2000’s to vehicular traffic, and it is a fabulous hike. The descent to the arch is not marked and on an unofficial trail, but walking out on top of the Narrows provides great views and a nice official trail without even descending below. Natural Bridge, White’s Branch Arch and the Narrows are technically NOT in the Red River Gorge Geological Area, but rather in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park and the Kentucky State Nature Preserve. However, Natural Bridge State Park 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, climbing, etc. 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 to Natural Bridge and then to White’s Branch Arch and the Narrows. This route allows visitors to enjoy balanced rock, natural bridge and fat man’s squeeze. Enjoy the views from the top of The Narrows, and if you decide to descend to the arch make sure you are prepared as it can be extremely dangerous or deadly to leave the trail.
RATING: Moderate hike (approximately 5.9 miles total.) This hike uses unmarked trails and many people have trouble navigating the hike. This hike has scrambles/climbs that can be dangerous or deadly. A quality map, compass and deep woods navigating skills are essential for your safety on this hike.
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 a half of a day (3-6 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 just before the top of Natural Bridge (0.65 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.
- Turn left on Trail #5 Sand Gap Trail until you arrive at a steel gate and the intersection with the Trail #100 Sheltowee Trace Trail. Do NOT turn right at sign for the continuation of Trail #5 Sand Gap Trail, but continue straight approximately another 100 yards to the steel gate. (1.5 miles)
- Continue straight on Trail #100 Sheltowee Trace Trail until you arrive at the Narrows (this is a closed dirt road.) The Narrows are identifiable because you are on top of an arch with fall away on either side and great views in both directions. Some trees are beginning to grow and obscure some of the view. (0.6 miles)
- To descend below to White’s Branch Arch on the right side of the trail in the middle of the Narrows is a small unmarked path descending to the arch. This descent requires some scrambling. (0.1 miles)
Enjoy White’s Branch Arch.
- Return to the Narrows and Trail #100 Sheltowee Trace Trail via the unmarked trail. (0.1 miles)
- Follow Trail #100 Sheltowee Trace Trail until you arrive back at the steel gate and just beyond the intersection with Trail #5 Sand Gap Trail. (0.6 miles)
- Continue straight on Trail #5 Sand Gap Trail until you arrive at trail #2 Balanced Rock Trail. (1.5 miles)
- Turn right on Trail #2 Balanced Rock Trail and arrive at Natural Bridge (0.1 miles)
- 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.GPS Coordinates of intersection of Trail #5 Sand Gap Trail and Trail #100 Sheltowee Trace Trail 37°45’38.99″N 83°42’2.60″W GPS Coordinates of Steel Gate 37°45’39.10″N 83°42’3.42″W GPS Coordinates of intersection Trail #100 Sheltowee Trace Trail (Narrows) and small unmarked path 37°45’8.97″N 83°42’2.21″W GPS Coordinates of White’s Branch Arch 37°45’10.11″N 83°42’3.78″W