THE OFTEN overlooked middle states seem to house the majority of the country’s hidden gems. A great example is the Red River Gorge in Slade, Kentucky. This scenic destination is an ideal place to escape the demands of everyday life and explore one of the least developed areas with the most natural beauty that Kentucky has to offer.
The Red River Gorge Geological Area is a natural canyon system formed over millions of years by waterways cutting through the area’s sandstone bedrock. It has one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, as well as plant families dating from the ice age. Its variety of activities draws vacationers in every season. From mountain biking and rock climbing in the early spring to late fall (it’s a world-renowned outdoor climbing spot), to white water rafting all summer long and snowshoeing in winter, this hidden forest oasis has something for every kind of adventurer.
As you approach the gorge, you’ll travel through a one-lane tunnel—honk your horn to let others know you’re coming—after which you’ll arrive at a yellow shack, the multipurpose business known as Miguel’s Pizza. Aside from an array of filling and inventive pies, hearty sandwiches, and fresh salads, Miguel’s can set you up with accomodations, from campsites and cabins to lodges and houses for groups as large as 30. They’ll even outfit you for rock climbing in their gear shop. All that’s left is your morning java: Enter the Daniel Boone Coffee Shop for a perfect cuppa that’ll fortify you for the day’s adventure.
IF YOU GO
RED RIVER GORGE, KY
DISTANCE: 253 miles
DRIVE TIME: 4 hours
STAY: Sleep with the birds in a Red River Gorgeous treehouse. Other out-of-the- tent options include geodomes and cliff-suspended houses.
EAT: For the best burgers in the gorge, head to the Red River Rockhouse (4000 KY-11, Campton). After a day of exercise, nothing beats a gooey artisan cheeseburger and fresh-cut fries. Grab a can of local beer from their giant selection, and you’re set.
SHOP: The Red River Gorge General Store (1321 Natural Bridge Rd., Slade) has basic necessities, souvenirs, cute knickknacks, and extra surprises (like yummy fudge).