Secret waterfalls and 10 other things to do in Red River Gorge
Updated: Mar 17
What does it mean to be a naturalist? That’s a normal question to ponder when you’re swarmed by two dozen fish who are biting at your bare feet while scanning the dense tree line for Bigfoot. Red River Gorge, in the heart of Eastern Kentucky in the American South, is an outdoor mecca for naturalists and adventure travelers of all kinds. Rock climbers, hikers, kayakers or in our case…glampers flock to this region for some much-needed Mother Nature and seclusion. There are more than a hundred natural sandstone arches, thousands of acres of lush green forests and estuaries, and hidden waterfalls you can hike to on a whim.
But the region’s most famous resident, aside from the blue-ribbon thoroughbreds, lives deep in the hollows near the Daniel Boone National Forest and is one of history’s most elusive and mythical creatures; ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about Bigfoot. But there’s so much more than folklores and legends in this part of the Bluegrass State, it’s also a great place to unplug, decompress and get back to oneself.
Discover more must-visit destinations in the deep South.
As a couple of west coasters, we had no idea that traveling to Kentucky would be this pretty and peaceful, so here’s a reminder to take every chance you get to go out and explore. We all have a limited number of days left to let our curiosities guide us, and who knows what wondrous surprises lay ahead if we just choose an unfamiliar destination and go.
Here are 10 things to do in Red River Gorge including hiking to a secret waterfall.
1. Hike to Creation Falls, a secret waterfall & swimming hole
Hiking is probably the No. 1 thing to do in Red River Gorge, and there are only a few places in the U.S. where you can find natural waterfalls that are not completely overrun with people all vying for the same photo. This is one of them. The hike to Creation Falls via the Rock Bridge Trail is a relatively easy 1.5 mile (2.25 km) out-and-back trail that takes you down a canopy-covered winding dirt path, crossing through mossy rock formations and shelters until you reach the waterfall and swimming hole. The crisp, cold waters of the Rockbridge Fork and Swift Camp Creek intersection make for an invigorating dip, in a place that feels like the best kept secret in the entire state. The day we went, it was drizzling and there were only a few people on the trail and at the waterfall.
You’ll be tempted to stay at the waterfall, and you should, at least for a while to really soak in Mother Nature at her finest. It feels a little like being in a crater, with a sandy beach and towering trees surrounding you on three sides. The water is shallow, making it easy to wade in up to your thighs, climb the primitive wooden ladder and slip down the natural slide that has been smoothed by the rushing waters.
But don’t just stay at the waterfall. If you follow the creek around the bend, you’ll discover one of the beautiful sandstone arches that makes this region famous. The waters are full of swarming fish who will nibble at your feet if you stand still long enough. Creation Falls truly feels like a gift from our planet. Just remember, what goes down, must come up. The hike back out is all uphill and much more strenuous than the way down, especially if you’ve burnt off quite a bit of energy splashing around in the falls. Keep this in mind if you’re hiking with small kids, they can pretty easily get down, but they may be too tired to get back up the trail without help.