Best time to travel to Kentucky

Red River Gorge Fall Colors in Kentucky 2024

The leaf-peeping heaven in Southern Appalachia, Kentucky

Best time: late October

Red River Gorge Fall Colors
Red River Gorge Fall Colors
Red River Gorge Fall Colors
Red River Gorge Fall Colors
Red River Gorge

The Red River Gorge is a popular destination within the Daniel Boone National Forest. A canyon system on the Red River lies in east-central Kentucky. Occupying an area of around 29,000 acres (120 sq. km), the Red River Gorge boasts interesting cliff formations, which look like natural arches and bridges, high sandstone walls, rock shelters, and caves. Overall, there are more than 100 natural sandstone arches of various sizes. These natural wonders look especially scenic when surrounded by foliage in the fall.

When is the best time to see fall colors in the Red River Gorge

First fall colors appear in the Red River Gorge in early September. Leaves change first at the higher elevations of the eastern side, and then the change expands to the lower elevations of the western side. The fall colors peak in the last two weeks of October and early November.

Where to see fall colors in the Red River Gorge

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

For the most amazing views, head to Kentucky's Natural Bridge State Resort Park to see one of the largest natural bridges in the Red River Gorge. The Natural Bridge, which is about 75 feet (22 m) long and 65 feet (19 m) high, can be reached via a 3-mi (5-km) Natural Bridge Trail. For a more relaxing experience, you can take a ride on the skylift, located one-half mile from the park entrance. The ascend ends within just 600 feet of Natural Bridge, where you can fully enjoy a stunning fall panorama. The lift operates daily from the first weekend of April through the last weekend in October. While you are in the park, you can also hike a short Henson's Arch Trail, which takes just 30 minutes to complete, or tour Natural Bridge Cave.

Gray's Arch Recreation Area

Other popular scenic sites in the Red River Gorge include Gray's Arch, which can be accessed via the 4-mi (6-km) Gray Arch Trail. The trail starts at the Gray's Arch Picnic Area off Tunnel Ridge Road. Then the goes through a dense autumnal forest and provides spectacular views of the surrounding area. Gray Arch, spanning 79 feet (24 m) is the largest of all arches in the Red River Gorge. On the way back from the Arch, you can take Rush Ridge Trail and Rough Trail for more spectacular views.

Hanson Point

Hanson Point is the stunning overlook of the Red River Gorge, offering exciting clifftop views. The overlook is accessible via Pinch 'em Tight Trail, which is another fairly easy 5-mi (8-km) hike, which leads to a large rock with breathtaking 360° views of the fall foliage in any direction. If you can do some rock climbing, there are dozens of more spectacular trails. After all, the Red River Gorge is the most popular rock climbing destination in Kentucky, with 2,000 climbing routes,

Scenic Drive

Red River Gorge Scenic Byway is a perfect way to enjoy fall foliage from your car window. The 46-mi (74-km) byway can be accessed from Stanton, Kentucky. Follow the 402 Mountain Parkway, then take an exit on Highway 11 in the direction of Slade and Zachariah. The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway passes several state parks and the Natural Bridge State Resort Park.

Camping and Kayaking

You can go down along the Red River in a canoe or kayak. Boating through a 100-year-old limestone mine under the Red River Gorge is another possibility. Kayak rentals are also available at Mill Creek Lake, located three miles south of Natural Bridge State Park on Hwy 11. You can stay in a lakefront cabin or opt for a campground. Overnight lodging is also available at Natural Bridge State Resort Park.

Practical info

When do the fall colors typically peak in the Red River Gorge?

Late October and early November is when the fall colors in the Red River Gorge typically reach their peak. Fall colors start to appear as early as September from the higher elevations on the eastern side, spreading over to the western low elevations. Visitors can participate in seasonal activities and take in the natural beauty during this time. Show more

Is there a scenic drive available to view the fall colors in the Red River Gorge?

Yes, visitors can take the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway for a panoramic view of the fall foliage. The route extends for over 46 miles (74 km), crossing the Daniel Boone National Forest, as well as other popular sites within the Red River Gorge. Visitors can stop at designated lookouts for panoramic views of the gorge or simply enjoy the entire drive from the comfort of their own vehicle. Show more

Is overnight lodging a possibility in the Red River Gorge?

Overnight lodging options are available at Natural Bridge State Resort Park, and visitors can choose from a plethora of different options like lodges, cottages, and campsites. The park has restaurants, a swimming pool, and several amenities that visitors can take advantage of. Visitors can plan a comfortable stay amidst nature and relish the beauty of Red River Gorge to the fullest. Show more

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