SUMMARY: A long moderate hike to the very unique Double Arch, the peaceful Arch of Triumph, and one of my favorite unmarked (and popular) arches Star Gap Arch. After visiting the 3 arches head across the valley to Auxier Ridge and Courthouse Rock and there amazing vistas before completing the loop. There is a gravel road for the last 4 miles to the trailhead with basic services at the trailhead. Please note that about 1 mile of this hike is on gravel roads. The gravel road is closed to all vehicular traffic except for the forest service. You can also modify and lengthen this hike to include Andrew’s Double Arch (past Star Gap Arch.) For info on that hike visit Star Gap Arch and Andrew’s Double Arch.
RATING: Long day (6-10 hours) (loop) hike (approximately 7.3 miles total;) This hike uses unmarked trails and some people have trouble navigating the 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.
AMOUNT OF TIME NEEDED: Allow a full day (6-10 hours) to enjoy this hike. Some can hike it faster, but most arrive at Star Gap Arch, Double Arch, and Auxier Ridge and spend time exploring and resting. The scenery is spectacular, the geology is interesting; and, the 2 major arches and Auxier Ridge are a perfect place to have lunch and explore. Pack a lunch and enjoy the adventure!
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD:
- From rest area at exit #33 off of the Mountain State Parkway Turn left, and go to end of road (.3 miles)
- Turn Right onto KY 15 (3.3 miles)
- Turn Left onto Tunnel Ridge Road (3.7 miles)
- Park at the End of Tunnel Ridge Road in the Auxier Ridge Parking Area
- Backtrack up Tunnel Ridge Road to a traffic circle with a gate across it and a sign that says Double Arch (100 yards.) The hike begins here.
- Turn Right (go around gate and past sign for Double Arch) and follow gravel road (0.15 miles.) Look for an unmarked trail on your right side leading out on a ridge. This should be the first trail leading out the first ridge.
- Turn right on unmarked trail (0.15 miles) and go out until the end of the ridge. You will pass a couple of campsites and you will come to a small mossy area just before the ridge ends and the ridge begins going down. You are on top of the Arch of Triumph. It is easy to scramble down on the left side as you approach the arch. If you are short on time or energy, I recommend skipping Arch of Triumph.
- Return on unmarked trail to the gravel road (0.15 miles)
Turn right and continue on gravel road (0.55 miles.) As the road makes a bend to the right there is a trail leading off to the left with a sign #2071 at the intersection.
- Turn left and follow this unmarked trail to Star Gap Arch (0.5 miles.) The trail has a good deal of little spur trails leading to camp sites and other locations. Stay on the main trail and when in doubt stay right as you are following the trail around a ridge line. The trail will eventually narrow and come on top of an exposed rock. You are on top of Star Gap Arch. To get below Star Gap Arch can be a little difficult and may require a rope. The easier ways to descend are back before you began crossing the arch on the left side (as you approached,) there are a couple of options.
- Return on the unmarked trail to the gravel road. (0.5 miles)
- Turn left on gravel road and follow gravel road until it ends in the old Double Arch Parking Area. (0.5 miles)
Follow Trail #201 Double Arch Trail (1.0 miles) (do NOT turn right on Trail #203 Auxier Branch Trail after approximately 0.2 miles)
- Return on Trail #201 Double Arch Trail (0.8 miles) to intersection with Trail #203 Auxier Branch Trail.
- Turn left on Trail #203 Auxier Branch Trail until intersection with Trail #202 Courthouse Rock Trail. (0.75 miles)
- Turn Left onto Trail #202 Courthouse Rock Trail until it ends at Courthouse Rock and Trail #204 Auxier Ridge Trail (0.25 miles)
- Turn Right on Trail #204 Auxier Ridge Trail (2.0 miles)
- Arrive at Auxier Ridge Parking Area
BONUS: Did you know you can get up on top of Double Arch by means of stairs carved into the rock on the right side of the arch.
BONUS #2: From the exposed parts of Auxier Ridge you will be able to see both Haystack Rock and Courthouse Rock. Courthouse Rock is the large rock at the end of the trail (right). Haystack Rock is off to the left front side sitting in the valley.
Bonus #3: Did you know you can climb up courthouse rock? Notice: this activity can be extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. Do not attempt without proper training and definitely bringing ropes and safety equipment. The first part begins on the left side and you scramble up the bottom part at which point the path crosses to the other side where you scramble up below the gully pictured below. When you get to this gully it gets dangerous and you need training, equipment and or a guide. To climb the gully you put your back against the right wall and your feet on the other wall and ascend. While it does not look bad in the picture, when you arrive you will realize the gully is over a major cliff and there is no room for error.GPS Coordinates of start of hike at start of Trail #210 Double Arch Trail 37°49’11.30″N 83°40’57.30″W GPS Coordinates of split of Trail #210 Double Arch Trail and unmarked trail to Arch of Triumph 37°49’15.10″N 83°41’2.50″W GPS Coordinates of Arch of Triumph 37°49’23.00″N 83°41’2.60″W GPS Coordinates of split of Trail #210 Double Arch Trail and unmarked trail to Star Gap Arch 37°49’19.50″N 83°41’24.50″W GPS Coordinates of split of route marker leading to Star Gap Arch 37°49’14.50″N 83°41’43.30″W GPS Coordinates of Star Gap Arch 37°49’21.00″N 83°41’46.50″W