Red River Gorge Geological Area

Tree on cliffThe Red River Gorge is a uniquely scenic area in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The area is known for its abundant natural stone arches, unusual rock formations, and spectacular sandstone cliffs. The Red River Gorge is designated as a national geological area by the U.S. Forest Service.

Learn more about recreation opportunities in the Red River Gorge.

Map of the Red River Gorge

Learn about managing recreation and protecting resources in the gorge... Limits of Acceptable Change

Permit Required

All visitors on national forest land along KY 15 or in the Red River Gorge and Indian Creek area north of KY 15 must display a recreation permit for backcountry camping between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Exploring the Gorge

Regulations

Observe these simple rules to help protect the forest and ensure a safe and fun trip for you and other forest visitors. If you have any questions about regulations, check with the district office or the Gladie Learning Center.

Camping

Camping is not permitted:

  • in any picnic area or parking area.
  • within 300 feet of any road or developed trail.
  • within 100 feet of the base of any cliff, or the back of any rockshelter.
  • within 600 feet of Gray’s Arch.
  • within any area posted “No Camping."

View Supervisor's Order

Campfires

Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire within 100 feet of the base of any cliff or the back of any rock shelter is prohibited in the Red River Gorge. View Supervisor's Order.

Roads

Keep vehicles on established roads. All vehicle traffic is restricted to roads in the geological area.

Parking

Parking on Tunnel Ridge Road is limited to designated parking sites only.

Rock climbing

Rock climbing and rappelling are permitted except in areas posted as closed. Climbing and rappelling are not permitted within 300 feet of Sky Bridge, Grays Arch, Nada Tunnel, and Chimney Rock Overlook. Development of new climbing routes must be approved in advance by the Forest Service.

Outfitters and Guides

Outfitting and guiding activities require a special use permit from the Forest Service.

Archaeological Sites

All archaeological sites, artifacts and cultural resources are protected by state and federal law. Please help protect these fragile and irreplaceable resources.

  • Do not build fires in rockshelters.
  • Do not collect or dig for artifacts.
  • Do not disturb the soil or move rocks in rockshelters.
  • Report looting or vandalism to the nearest Forest Service office.

Safety along the cliffs

The cliffs of the Red River Gorge add to the scenic beauty, but getting too close to the edge can be extremely dangerous. The cliffs in this area average nearly 100 feet. A fall from the cliff can be fatal or cause serious injury. Accidental falls usually involve one or more of the following:

  • Camping too close to the edge of a cliff. Maintain a safe distance away from cliff edges to avoid accidental falls.
  • Walking around after dark. At night, visual perception is impaired. The edge of a cliff may not be easily recognized.
  • Drinking alcohol or using drugs. Intoxication reduces coordination, distorts perception, and impairs judgment.
  • Risky behavior or stunts. Use good judgement, and never cross barriers or ignore warning signs.

Kentucky law prohibits the consumption of alcohol in public places and open containers of alcohol.

Please make your visit to the Red River Gorge a safe, enjoyable experience. Avoid accidents by exercising caution around cliffs.

White-haired goldenrod

Archaeology

The first people to come to the Red River Gorge arrived about 13,000 years ago when glaciers still covered much of the land to the north. Small bands of ice-age hunters, now called Paleo-Indians, followed herds of mastodons and woolly mammoths to utilize the abundant natural resources found here.

From time to time, small groups of prehistoric people took up residence in the rock shelters of the Red River Gorge. They hunted game, birds and fish and harvested acorns, nuts, wild fruit, fungi and various plants for food.

About 3,000 years ago, the people who lived in the Red River Gorge started cultivating wild plants in small garden plots. Recent scientific excavations of rock shelters in the gorge and surrounding areas uncovered seeds that showed evidence of early plant domestication. The dry, sandy soils in rock shelters of the gorge contain a wealth of information about the origins of agriculture in this area.

The dry, nitrate-rich soils of rock shelters in the gorge provide excellent preservation of plant materials and other normally perishable artifacts. The unique conditions that ensure the preservation of historic and prehistoric artifacts make this area extremely valuable for archaeological research.

In 2003, the Red River Gorge, Clifty Wilderness, and the Indian Creek area was designated a National Archaeological District and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Large map of the Red River Gorge