Find a Spiritual Escape at Kentucky’s Red River Gorge

Hiking Kentucky's Red River Gorge cover

Every day, we are crowded by people, buildings, and traffic. Our mobile devices inundate us with text messages, emails, and social media alerts. It’s no wonder that so many of us crave an escape—a quiet, peaceful place to renew our spirits and recharge our bodies. According to author Sean Patrick Hill, that place is the Red River Gorge.

In the new edition of Hiking Kentucky’s Red River Gorge (November 2019, Menasha Ridge Press), Sean presents 28 trail routes that showcase the region’s unparalleled beauty. He guides readers to lush forests, secluded waterfalls, and brilliant wildflowers within the three geographic areas that make up “the Gorge:” Red River Gorge Geological Area, the Clifty Wilderness, and Natural Bridge State Resort Park.

“The Gorge is, in fact, a spiritual place,” says Sean. “Though the Gorge is increasingly busy during warm weather, there is still an opportunity to find silence. Many times of year, if not midweek in summer, you can have a large swath of wilderness to yourself.”

To that end, Sean provides a list of “Best Hikes for Seclusion” near the beginning of the book. One such recommendation is the Osborne Bend Loop of the famous Sheltowee Trace. The difficult but exhilarating trail roughly follows the canyon of Gladie Creek on its way to the Red River. The picturesque route even includes a view of a nice waterfall.

As Sean’s other “Recommended Hikes” demonstrate, the Gorge offers more than a quiet retreat. His curated lists include “Best Hikes for Kids,” “Best Hikes for Wildflowers,” and a variety of other selections.

“There are plenty of reasons to hike the Red River Gorge: exercise, sightseeing, bird-watching, backpacking, and more,” adds Sean.

Those reasons also include the famed arches.

“It can be argued that the real draw of the Red River Gorge is the rock,” Sean says. “With the most rock arches east of the Mississippi River, this area stands alone for scenery.”

Arches at the Red River Gorge surrounded by green trees and foliage on a bright day

The hikes detailed in this book cover every major trail in the Red River Gorge. They allow for day hikes of varying lengths, times, and difficulties. Each of the 28 entries includes ratings for scenery, trail condition, difficulty, and solitude. For each route, there is a full-color map, elevation profile, and photography, as well as an overview, route details, and driving directions.

“For the most part, if you undertake all of these hikes, you will have seen the best the Gorge has to offer,” says Sean. “I chose hikes not only for the value of destinations but also for exploration of the various topography of the Gorge.”

Sean, a Louisville resident, has hiked some of the best trails in the country, including the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Yet he has high praise for the Gorge.

“It really takes only one good hike to fall in love with the Red River Gorge. After that, you’ll find yourself thinking about it again and again.”

Hiking Kentucky’s Red River Gorge ($18.95, paperback) is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.

Sean Patrick Hill's author bio picture

About the Author

Sean Patrick Hill lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he spends time with his daughter, practices photography, and writes. As a hiker and backpacker, he has walked trails across the country, from the Pacific Crest Trail to the Appalachian Trail, including rambles in the Grand Canyon, the Delaware Water Gap, Yosemite National Park, the Rocky Mountains, the Olympic Peninsula, and the Oregon Cascades. In Kentucky, he tends to stick to the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (where he volunteers as a trail ranger) and the Jefferson Memorial Forest, though he will on occasion ramble as far as Pine Mountain, the Cumberland Gap, and, of course, the Red River Gorge.