Red River Gorge is one of the best camping destinations east of the Mississippi. We’ve devised a helpful guide for anyone heading in that direction. From where to camp to what to do, we have you covered! Keep reading to get the highlights, tips, and tricks.
Where Is the Red River Gorge?
Red River Gorge is in Slade, Kentucky, which is about 60 miles southeast of Lexington. It’s within Daniel Boone National Forest.
Red River Gorge has arches and geological formations shaped by the Red River, dating back millions of years. There are approximately 150 arches. Countless activities for the adventurous and leisurely traveler alike are at your feet, and there are three campgrounds with RV and tent sites.
Do You Need Reservations to Camp at Red River Gorge?
Make Red River Gorge camping reservations in advance. With any popular destination like the Red River Gorge, it’s essential to reserve your campsite before arrival. That way, you can alter your plans beforehand if campgrounds are at capacity.
The campgrounds we list below offer online reservations, so check the booking windows in advance to get a spot when you want to visit.
What Time of Year Should You Visit Red River Gorge?
Spring or fall is the best time of year to visit the Red River Gorge. October is the most sought-after month because it comes after the heat and rain of the three months preceding. July through September are the hottest and wettest months in this region.
In the winter, the rocks can be cold in the gorge. While this time of year draws fewer people to the area, if you don’t like a cold, damp feeling while you’re out and about it might not be the time to visit. Especially if your camping unit is not well-insulated.
Where to Camp at Red River Gorge
Red River Gorge camping gives you easy access to all the area offers, and you can camp there year-round. We recommend checking out one of these three campgrounds for your visit.
Land of the Arches Campground
Land of the Arches Campground (also known as Lota Rocks Campground) is in Campton, Kentucky. It has RV and tent sites as well as “indoor camping” if you bring your own bedroll.
There are also four other types of indoor accommodations, including an apartment and cabin. The campground has bathrooms and showers, too.
Middle Fork Campground
Natural Bridge State Resort Park’s Middle Fork Campground is a state park in Slade, Kentucky. It’s open year-round and gets you up close and personal to the famous Natural Bridge.
The campground has RV sites with standard electrical hookups and primitive tent sites. Pets are allowed, and the campground has water stations, a dump station, a bathhouse, and more.
Whittleton Campground is also in Natural Bridge State Resort Park. The campground has RV sites with electricity and primitive tent sites. It also has water stations, a dump station, a bathhouse and is pet-friendly.
What Is There to Do at the Red River Gorge?
There’s plenty to keep you active in the area. Some of the most popular activities include hiking, rock climbing, zip-lining, spelunking, bird watching, kayaking, horseback riding, photography, bird watching, and more. These four adventures made it to the top of our list.
Rock climbing at Red River Gorge brings in people from around the world. There’s so much sandstone here to cover that it’s doubtful any climber has touched it all. The Red River Gorge’s Climbing Coalition posts the most extensive and up-to-date information for climbing in the area.
Ready for a thrill? You can zip line 300 ft above the gorge! And you might even get to speeds of 55 mph. No biggie.
Red River Gorge Ziplines offers a 1,900-ft zip line. It’s a two-hour adventure with no age restrictions, but participants must weigh between 70 and 250lbs. Reserve your spot in advance. Individual and group rates are available.
Underground Kayak Tours
The Gorge Underground provides one-hour guided kayaking tours. You’ll kayak in the mine under the gorge while the guide illuminates features throughout the underground.
It’s a fantastic way to see unique aspects of geology with provided equipment and tandem kayaks. The age minimum is three years old, and a tour can accommodate up to 12 people.
Daniel Boone National Forest has about 500 miles of trails passing through sandstone and limestone rock faces. You can spend an hour or days exploring on foot!
For quick reference, these are the top ten recommended hikes around Red River Gorge.
- Rock Bridge Loop (unmarked): 1.5 miles, easy
- Chimney Top Rock, Princess Arch, and Half Moon Arch: 1.8 miles, easy
- Whittleton Arch: 2.5 miles, easy
- Natural Bridge and Laurel Ridge Trail: 3.0 miles, easy
- Gray’s Arch: 4.0 miles, easy
- Turtle Back Arch and Rock Bridge (unmarked): 4.0 miles, moderate
- Auxier Ridge and Courthouse Rock: 5.0 miles, moderate
- Silvermine Arch and Hidden Arch: 5.1 miles, moderate
- Double Arch, Star Gap Arch, Arch of Triumph (unmarked): 5.6 miles, moderate
- Indian Staircase and Indian Arch (unmarked): 3.5 miles, difficult
Remember to plan when hiking, leave no trace, and respect wildlife and other visitors.
Enjoy Red River Gorge Camping!
We recommend Red River Gorge camping for at least a week. With so much to explore in the area, a weekend visit may keep you wanting more.
But if a couple of days is all you have, prioritize your activities to get the most out of your stay. With so much to do, start planning early!