Photographs by Jeremy Kramer
The goal of a trip to Red River Gorge is obvious: hiking, rock climbing, roughing it, becoming one with nature—basically, being outside. But the beauty of the Gorge is the ability to craft a wilderness excursion that suits you best, whether that’s a quiet weekend in a cozy cottage with a book of Robert Frost poems or a few days completely shut off from technology and civilization. Lodging ranges from pitched tents and off-the-grid cabins to chalets replete with hot tubs and satellite TV. Cook a pot of chili over an open fire, or swing by Red River Rockhouse for some craft brews and a chocolate-Nutella brownie the size of a brick. Either way, you’d be wise to grab pizza at Miguel’s, a Gorge icon for more than 30 years. Known for its homemade sauce and infinite toppings, it’s also got strong roots in the rock-climbing community. The sea of tents and campsites set up in the adjoining lot make it easy to spot from the road.
Recreation is equally adaptable, with roughly 200 miles of official trails to appease your inner Cheryl Strayed, and another 100 of the unofficial variety. Trek the foliage-heavy Auxier Ridge, a high, gravelly crease with views of Courthouse Rock, Double Arch, and miles of cascading cliffs; or grab the kids and ascend the famous Natural Bridge—it’s well traveled for a reason. Cast a line at Mill Creek Lake, scope the canopies from 1,900 feet via a zipline tour, and take an eight-mile, self-guided kayak trip via Red River Adventure.
But if you really want to embrace the Gorge culture, you gotta scale some rock. Torrent Falls Climbing Adventure is a good place to start, offering guided rappelling and rock climbing tours, as well as via ferrata, a form of climbing where you are clipped to a steel cable attached to the rock face, with plenty of iron rungs for your hands and feet and no prior experience required. (You can even go at night!) There are endless spots for the more experienced climbers to explore on their own, but please, only if you know what you’re doing. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…so, ya know, safety first.
Red River Gorge Cabin Co. has more than a dozen cabins, apartments, and B&Bs—both on and off the grid— throughout the Gorge, with room for groups as big as 15. Truly adventurous? Try the Flying Squirrel Tree House, a 200-square-foot shack in the trees with a kitchen cart, sofa bed that sleeps two, and bird’s-eye view. redrivergorgecabinco.com