Beyond Cincinnati: Red River Gorge, KY {Series}

OHHades froze over one Fall weekend and my boyfriend and I got a kid-free Sunday! It was awesome!! Like a lot of couples in our season of life, B and I NEVER get a day without kids. We either have my one or his two or all three. No complaints, though. We are so used to not having time to ourselves that we don’t really think about what we’d do without the kids. And, to tell you the truth, there are so many fun things to do with kids that I don’t mind spending the day at the pool, exploring a forest, or sharing the experience of a ballet.

All that being said, I have to admit that the opportunity to have an ENTIRE day (once my son’s father picked him up) to ourselves was exciting. What to do with a full day with no obligations?! We couldn’t waste it by doing nothing or doing something local that we’d already planned do with the kids. For the first time in ages we didn’t have to worry about packing a lunch with all the dietary constraints and picky-eater preferences. We didn’t have to worry about getting kids home in time for dinner and showers before an early bedtime in preparation for the start of the school week.

Okay, so we were pretty excited in our own quiet and reserved ways. We filled up a couple of water bottles and headed for Red River Gorge in Kentucky, about two hours south-east of Cincinnati. The autumnal Sunday morning drive was a pleasure in and of itself. The trees were greener than I was hoping, but it was a beautiful day nonetheless.

We decided to start at the Natural Bridge State Resort Park as the Natural Bridge is the most visited arch in Kentucky and pretty dang cool looking to boot. We crossed a swinging bridge which might have made me nervous if my five-year-old had been with us. The trail up to the arch was not strenuous, but there is a skylift on the other side of the trail for those who would like to see the arch but aren’t up for the climb. A lot of people had decided that the gorgeous weather warranted a day at the Natural Bridge. The views really were spectacular.

Outside the Trading Post

Outside the Trading Post

We walked through “Fat Man’s Squeeze” to access the top of Natural Bridge and then followed along Laurel’s Ridge Trail on an easy hike to Lookout Point and Lover’s Leap. From here, B and I decided to lose the crowd and hike down a less traveled path due to its steepness – Devil’s Gulch. I would not have taken this path with our younger kids. It was certainly steep, but it was so quiet and peaceful down in the gulch. The wind blew and we stopped to listen to the leaves rain down on the forest floor. It was just the day we needed – quiet and restoring.

After our initial hike, we took a break and drove down to Miguel’s Pizza for lunch. It’s an interesting place full of campers, climbers, and day trippers like ourselves. The choice of toppings for your slices/pie is pretty impressive. We also checked out the Daniel Boone Trading Post to see if there was anything we couldn’t live without. Had it been earlier in the day, the coffee would have hit the spot. We made due, though, with snapping a few goofy pics outside the shop.

Sky Bridge

The Sky Bridge

We hadn’t gotten our fill yet of natural sandstone arches and wanted to check out the Sky Bridge. The afternoon sun made it especially pleasant to head into the Daniel Boone National Forest. It was a scenic and curvy twenty-minute drive through the forest. There are lots of pull-offs for the spectacular views and at least one (5 mile) scenic drive we saw posted. The signage down there is plentiful and helpful.

Sky Bridge was less crowded and B and I preferred the tranquility of the late afternoon. The surrounding loop wasn’t as impressive as the Natural Bridge, but the hike was easier and shorter. I would have felt safer with this destination if we had had little kids with us. Our kids, ages 5, 8, & 13, would have been fine at either location, though.

We took a different route out of the forest which was equally as twisty and beautiful in the late afternoon sun. We crossed stone bridges and went through the very cool Nada Tunnel. This is a super narrow, one-way tunnel that was blasted out of limestone back in 1910/11. It is definitely worth a drive through.

Nada Tunnel

Nada Tunnel

A couple of hours on the road and we were home in time to watch some Antiques Roadshow before calling it a night. (Yes, we are wild and crazy. No, we are not in our sixties.) I find it hard to believe that I grew up in Cincinnati and never knew about this place. It is an easy day trip from here or a great location to camp or rent a cabin. There are lots of things to do down there other than hike – rock climbing, kayaking, ziplining, etc. There is even a Reptile Zoo. I would still like to take a family trip down there someday, but for right now I will cherish this little trip as a glorious day with my sweet B.

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