Natural Arch Scenic Area

Natural ArchNatural Arch Scenic Area, located on Stearns Ranger District, is a great place to enjoy the outdoors with your family and friends. The scenic attraction in this area is a spectacular sandstone arch that spans nearly 100 feet. You can see a panoramic view of the arch from an overlook.

Picnic sites, group picnic shelters, playgrounds and hiking trails provide year-round enjoyment. Special events can be booked in the amphitheater.

Learn more about recreation opportunities at Natural Arch.


Natural Arch Loop Trail #510: This trail begins at the Natural Arch parking area and runs along a paved pathway to the base of the arch passing two scenic overlooks. At the arch, you may climb the steps to the arch and continue along a dirt pathway that loops around the northwest end of the arch. Buffalo Canyon Trail #508 intersects at your right. Follow Trail #510 around the cliffline and you will return to the base of the arch.

Buffalo Canyon Trail #508: Follow Natural Arch Loop Trail #510 from the parking area past the overlooks, down the steps, and through Natural Arch. At the fork in the trail, take the right fork. It will descend from the cliffline to Spruce Creek. You will cross Spruce Creek and then come to Forest Service Road 5266. Turn left and follow the road to a low water crossing. Less than 100 yards after crossing Cooper Creek, you will come to a road junction. Turn left and follow road and diamond-shaped trail markers for about a mile. The trail will then leave the road and cross Cooper Creek again. The trail will follow Gulf Fork and Cutoff Branch back to the junction with Natural Arch Loop Trail #510 at the base of the stairs. Follow Trail #510 back to the parking lot.


A fee pass is required to use the Natural Arch Scenic Area. You can self-pay onsite at the entrance, or you can purchase a pass in advance at the Stearns Ranger District Office, some local vendor locations, and the Daniel Boone National Forest Supervisor’s Office.

Collected fees are used to maintain and improve the recreational facilities.

Picnic Areas

Eight picnic sites and two group picnic shelters with nearby grills, water fountains and toilets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Each group shelter has six picnic tables, a large grill, a serving table, electricity and water to accommodate up to 36 people. The shelters may be rented up to one year in advance by contacting the Stearns Ranger Station. The area is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.


Swings, horseshoe pits and tether-ball poles are provided for your use. Additional play equipment can be set up in the playground area. 

Cultural History

Natural Arch and the surrounding forest are part of our nation’s cultural heritage. This region was once the home and hunting grounds of prehistoric peoples. They left no written records, but evidence throughout this area provides many clues about how they lived.

To help preserve the area’s cultural integrity, leave everything as you find it. Avoid moving rocks or disturbing the soil. Observe signs and obey the rules. The artifacts and cultural resources in this area are protected by state and federal laws.

Special Events

The amphitheater can seat a crowd of about 300 people in a rustic outdoor setting. The covered stage is equipped with electrical hookups for audio and visual equipment.

Amphitheater at Natural ArchCommercial events and groups of 75 people or more require a special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. These permits take time to process, so plan ahead when organizing an event that may require a permit.

The amphitheater is available on a first-come, first-served basis unless posted as reserved. You can reserve the facility up to one year in advance. Contact the Stearns Ranger Station for more information.


The Natural Arch Scenic Area is located in a secluded forest environment. Be aware of outdoor hazards, including poison ivy, venomous snakes and biting insects. Black bears have been sighted in this area. When hiking or leaving a picnic site, you must move foods to a closed vehicle for safe storage or dispose of in trash receptacles. Learn more about food storage restrictions.

In an emergency, call 911. Cell phone service may not be available in some areas due to cell tower location and rugged terrain.


Most facilities in this area are accessed by concrete walkways, including a walkway to the Natural Arch overlook.


Directions from Somerset: Take US 27 south for 21 miles, turn right (west) on KY 927 and follow the signs for 2 miles.

Directions from Whitley City: Take US 27 north for 5 miles, turn left (west) onto KY 927. Follow the signs for 2 miles.