The hike to Double Arch is one of the best hikes in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. It features the beautiful and unique Double Arch and some incredible views. 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. From here take Route 15 east for 3.5 miles and then take a left onto Tunnel Ridge Road. After 3.7 miles the road ends with a loop for turning and a gate that prevents people from continuing down the closed section of the road. The parking area for the Double Arch Trail is on the right.
The Double Arch Trail, #201, begins on the gated-off portion of Tunnel Ridge Road, about 600 feet to the left of the parking area. The former road makes up 1.25 miles of the trail to Double Arch, and it is pleasant walking as the gravel path winds along the ridge. As the road is coming to its end, the trail cuts to the right and becomes an actual dirt trail instead of an old gravel road. The trail quickly descends into the woods and cliffs rise up on the left. At 1.53 miles from the trailhead gate, the Auxier Branch Trail, #203, branches off to the right. This trail can be used to connect the hike to Double Arch with the hike to Auxier Ridge and Courthouse Rock. If you have the time and the fitness, combining the hikes makes for an excellent day. To get to Double Arch, however, one must bear left at this intersection. Remember this, because the old trail signs here can be hard to spot and harder to read.
After passing the intersection, the trail will narrow a bit and follow along the base of a cliff. In just a few minutes the trail will circle around the end of the cliff and climb right to Double Arch. Enjoy the sight of the two arches, and then step into the shade of Double Arch and enjoy the view of Auxier Ridge and Courthouse Rock across the hollow. After that, you may wish to get on top of Double Arch for even better views. To the right of Double Arch there is a path of steps carved into the stone that leads to the top. Use caution when climbing these steps and when on top of Double Arch, because falling a hundred feet is a surefire way to ruin a great day. The top of Double Arch provides great views, but if you walk a bit to the left and up a short hill, you will find that the views become even more expansive.
After enjoying the views to your heart’s content, you can hike back the way you came for a round trip of 4.5 miles, or you can use the Auxier Branch Trail to head over and check out Courthouse Rock and Auxier Ridge. If you decide to do that, bear left when the Auxier Branch Trail connects with the Courthouse Rock Trail, and hike up to Courthouse Rock and return to the parking are via the Auxier Ridge Trail. Doing that would make the hike about 6.25 miles.
The hike to Double Arch is spectacular. Unfortunately some people do not care about beautiful things. As of the writing of this article the entire Tunnel Ridge area is still temporarily closed due to an escaped campfire, which was set during a fire ban. Please treat the area with 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. 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, click this link and this link. If you would like to know about some other incredibly fun activities that the Red River Gorge offers, then you should definitely read this article. If you are looking for a place to stay while hiking in the Red River Gorge, you should read this article. If you want some delicious food to fuel up with before or after your hike, then you should read this article.
My recommendations for guides to hiking in the Red River Gorge are, as always, Hinterlands and Red River Gorge Trail Guide, both by Jerrell Goodpaster. They cover the unofficial and official trails of the Red River Gorge, respectively. These informative books are available at most local businesses in Slade and around the Red River Gorge, and they can also be ordered online from www.lostbranch.com. Most of the trail distances in this article were taken from these two books. Have fun outside, and go for a hike!