Hiking the Rough Trail Loop in the Red River Gorge

Developed for hiking only, this route goes to the top of the ridge and back several times, so be sure you’re ready for some inclines and declines. The trail isn’t prohibitively strenuous, but novices should beware—you definitely need to go into this knowing what you’re doing and how to prepare properly. The Red River Gorge area is a must-see when you’re in (or even near) Kentucky and this is one way to do it while working up a serious sweat.
What Makes It Great
This glorious trail delivers just as much as it demands, cutting east and west across the center of the Red River Gorge. The trail can hardly help itself—just a few miles in after passing by Gray’s Arch Trail, you’ll be astounded with the view you’ll get of the arch itself just before the trail turns and cuts back east. There are expansive views from the top. The valley below is surrounded by trees and brimming with wildflowers if you go in the spring.
After another ascent, you’ll drop and traverse a vegetation-filled downward path. This slope leads you to Rush Branch. Like all other sections of the trail, it wastes no time turning towards the sky once again, intersecting with the Sheltowee Trace at Pinch ‘Em Tight Ridge. You’ll stay with the trail for a hot second before heading downwards again, across two creeks, and back to, yet again, another climb from the creeks to Chimney Top Road. You’ve got another decent ahead of you before reaching the end at KY-715.
To some, this might sound like a grueling struggle, but for those that like to push themselves through what nature serves up, Rough Trail is the perfect test.
Who is Going to Love It
If you’re a hybrid hiker that loves to boulder, rock climb, and backpack, then you’ll love Rough Trail Loop. If you’ve been hankering for a challenge and wanting to push yourself past your boundaries and into a new level of ability, this loop is a great choice. There are plenty of places where you can mix and match and cut down on distance, so you’re not completely committed once you start. Because of that it’s also pretty easy to add mileage on if you really want to go wild or to switch it up every time you visit to keep boredom at bay.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
From Slade, Kentucky, head east on KY-15 for seven miles, then turn left onto KY-715. After just over four miles you’ll end up at the Rough Trail / Swift Camp Creek Trail parking area on your left.
Written by Cinnamon Janzer for RootsRated.