The Red River Gorge is one of Kentucky’s most astounding natural areas, and also one of the state’s best-kept secrets. Vacation rentals near Red River Gorge provide unparalleled scenery and close proximity to world-class outdoor adventure. Visiting with kids is an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the outside world and experience hiking, biking, fishing, and more. Experience everything the area has to offer with these exciting, kid-friendly activities.
1. Walk Across a Natural Rock Bridge
Head to Natural Bridge State Park to walk across a unique bridge formed from sandstone. To reach the bridge, take The Original Trail, which rises approximately three-quarters of a mile to the bridge. From the end of the trail, walk up the steps and climb on top of the bridge itself. The wide surface allows plenty of space to walk; for safety and peace of mind, it’s a good idea to carry very small children.
2. Ride a Chairlift
While you’re at Natural Bridge State Park, ride the Sky Lift. This compact chair lift runs from a spot near the park entrance and stops close to the natural bridge, making it a great choice for families with small children. Enjoy excellent views of the hills and forest on your way up, and consider coming in the fall to see the leaves burst into color.
3. Fish in Mill Creek Lake
Teach your little ones how to cast at Mill Creek Lake. Pack your gear, purchase a Kentucky fishing license, and enjoy a day of fishing for crappie, sunfish, trout, and more. If you don’t have rods, stop into the Natural Bridge State Park office to check out a free pole and reel. For an extra treat, rent a kayak or canoe to fish the remote corners of the lake.
4. Hike the Gorge
Explore the dramatic sandstone formations of the Red River Gorge on foot using the area’s hiking trails. One kid-friendly option is the easy, 2.5-mile Whittleton Falls trail, which ends in a beautiful waterfall. From the Rock Bridge Loop trail, you can see a natural stone bridge that spans the river. The loop is just 1.5 miles long, so it’s a great option for small kids.
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5. Kayak or Canoe the River
Kayak or canoe down the river for the best views of the Red River Gorge. Companies such as Red River Adventure transport you and your rental boats upriver, so you can paddle leisurely downstream to your waiting vehicle. Land on the shore to enjoy a picnic, take a swim, and explore the wilderness. The water in the gorge tends to be gentle; ask rental staff for route recommendations, and be sure to pack portable flotation devices for little ones.
6. Take a Rock Climbing Lesson
Introduce the whole family to a new sport with a climbing lesson from one of the Red River Gorge’s many local companies. Lessons, which range from two-hour sessions to full-day training, teach you and your children the basics, from handling equipment to rappelling. Once everyone feels comfortable on the ropes, book a guided climbing tour to take advantage of the gorge’s legendary terrain.
7. Drive the Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway
When your little ones need a break from adventuring, take a scenic drive down the Red River Gorge National Scenic Byway. Along the 46-mile route, stop at different overlooks to stretch your legs and hunt for the rare wildflowers that populate the gorge. One highlight for kids is the drive through the one-lane Nada Tunnel, which was built in the 1800s.
8. See Ancient Rock Shelters
Explore the lifestyles of ancient Red River Gorge Inhabitants with a trip to the rock shelters in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Shelters are scattered throughout the gorge, but you can find several on the trails that lead off of Tunnel Ridge Road. Check with a park ranger in the visitors center to learn about trail conditions at the time of your visit, as rainfall can make them difficult for little children.
9. Learn About the Civil War
Stand on a Civil War battlefield at Camp Wildcat, which was one of the first engagements in Kentucky. After a drive down a narrow gravel road, you can explore the battlefield and search for remains of the original trenches that housed the soldiers. Stop by the interpretive pavilion to learn about the battle, and explore the site’s well-maintained hiking trails.
10. Enjoy Gorge Views
Enjoy some of the best views of the Red River Gorge from Chimney Top Rock. To get to the rock, head to the Cumberland District and park at the Chimney Top Rock trailhead. Take Chimney Top Trail #235, an easy 0.3-mile paved the path, to the first overlook. Use caution on the trail, and transport toddlers and infants in backpack carriers.
11. Take a Dip in Cave Run Lake
If you’re visiting the Red River Gorge in the heat of summer, escape the heat and humidity at Cave Run Lake. Access the water on the beaches at Zilpo Recreation Area and Twin Knobs Recreation Area, or rent a boat from the marina for water skiing and tubing. Both areas offer day use, so you can pack a lunch and set up a base camp on the shore. Several horseback riding companies also offer tours of the area, and hiking trails provide easy walks along the water.
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