The Rock Bridge Loop is one of the best hikes in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. On this loop hike are beautiful sights like Rock Bridge and Creation Falls. I highly recommend this hike.
Directions to the Trailhead
The Red River Gorge is located about an hour southeast from Lexington, Kentucky. The most common way to get to the Red River Gorge is to take the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway and get off at exit 33 at the tiny town of Slade. For the hike to Rock Bridge, however, it makes more sense to get off at exit 40, and then turn right to go west on Route 15. After .7 miles turn right onto Route 715, right at True North Inn, which is a good place to eat at after your hike or to stay at during your trip to the Red River Gorge. After going .4 miles and crossing the Mountain Parkway, take a right turn onto Rock Bridge Road. This gravel road will wind for about three miles to the parking and picnic area.
The Rock Bridge Trail, # 207, is a loop trail, and you can start on either side of the parking lot. I usually elect to start on the right side, next to an informative sign about Rock Bridge. The sign informs those who read it that Rock Bridge is a specific type of arch known as a waterfall arch. Long ago this beautiful natural bridge was just a waterfall in Swift Camp Creek, until the flowing water eroded softer stone behind the falls and began to flow under the newly created arch. Rock Bridge is the only arch in the Red River Gorge that is actually a bridge over running water.
The Rock Bridge Trail is mostly paved, although nature is in the process of returning it to a less sanitized state. The trail curves down and through a pretty forest, passing a small rock shelter on the right, and crossing a few small bridges. When the trail is almost half done, it dips down to one of its biggest attractions, Creation Falls.
When the water is running fast, Creation Falls is an amazing sight. When the summer has reduced Rockbridge Fork to a trickle, Creation Falls is still very pretty, if not awe-inspiring. If you decide cross the creek or walk out above the falls, be very careful, as the rock is very slick. Continuing on the trail for just a bit will bring you to an overlook, with much less chance of taking a nasty fall. Once you have taken in Creation Falls and snapped a few pictures, continue on the trail. Rockbridge Fork flows into Swift Camp Creek, and just around the corner to the left is Rock Bridge.
Rock Bridge is a lovely sight. If you feel compelled to actually use it as a bridge, exercise caution because it is a bit of a scramble to get on top. While you are here enjoying the peaceful beauty you may reflect and ask some questions. Why are there two words for Rock Bridge but not three for Rockbridge Fork? Is Creation Falls so named because it could be in the process of creating another waterfall arch? Why do Americans watch so much terrible reality television? Some mysteries are unsolvable. After pondering deep thoughts and savoring Rock Bridge, continue on the trail past it and along Swift Camp Creek. If you turn to the left and follow the other trail, you will just dead-end in some campsites.
After continuing past Rock Bridge, the trail will reach a juncture with the Swift Camp Creek Trail. This is a lovely trail that will be covered in a future article, and if you have time it is worth checking out. The Rock Bridge Trail begins to climb back up, and passes a nice stone overlook on the way. Shortly after that, it arrives back at the start for a 1.4 mile round trip.
This hike and the whole Red River Gorge deserve respect. Do not litter, chop down trees for firewood, or vandalize the cliffs with carvings. Do not have a campfire when there is a fire ban due to drought, if not from decency and common sense, then at least because of the large fine and mandatory appearance in Federal Court that will result when you are caught. Please do not camp within 300 feet of an established trail or a stream, or within 300 feet of the back of a rock shelter. If you do not know how to tread lightly outside, please learn. http://www.lnt.org/ is a good place to start.
The Red River Gorge is an amazing place. To read about other amazing hikes in the Red, click this link, and this link, and this link. If you are looking for a place to stay while hiking there, you should read this article. If you want to fuel up before or after your hike, then you should read this article. If you would like to know about the other fun activities that the Red River Gorge offers, then you should definitely read this article.
If you are looking for a guidebook to hiking in the Red River Gorge area, then I highly recommend Hinterlands , as well as Red River Gorge Trail Guide , both by Jerrell Goodpaster. They cover the unofficial and official trails of the Red River Gorge, respectively. These fine books are available at most local businesses in Slade and around the Red River Gorge, or they can be ordered online from www.lostbranch.com. Most of the trail distances in this article were taken from these two books.