5 Dog-Friendly Hikes in Red River Gorge, KY

This is a guest post from Lauren Stites of Trails That Rock

The Red River Gorge is home to over 100 natural stone arches, making it a beautiful hiking destination in Kentucky. It’s also the perfect place to hike with your pup! There are many dog-friendly trails in Red River Gorge. Even some with some places for pups to splash around!

The Red River Gorge dog-friendly trails listed below are all within a short drive from each other, making many of them easy to do in a day or two.

Dog-Friendly Hikes Red River Gorge
© Trails That Rock

Visiting Red River Gorge with a Dog

  • Dogs are allowed on any of the trails inside Daniel Boone National Forest. However, they are prohibited on trails in Natural Bridge State Resort Park, except for Henson Arch Trail and Whittleton Arch Trail.
  • Some of these trails feature dangerous cliffs and drop-offs, so you may want to leash your dog on those trails.
  • Red River Gorge has many wildlife species that might be a threat to your dog, including the occasional black bear and poisonous snakes. Always be aware of your surroundings, and leash your dog when appropriate.

Top Dog-Friendly Trails in Red River Gorge

#1 Sky Bridge Arch Trail

Distance: ¾ mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate due to stairs
Dogs can be off-leash, but it is recommended to leash them while crossing the arch

As one of the most well-known arches in Red River Gorge, the trail to Sky Bridge is popular! It’s also relatively short and can be enjoyed by almost anyone. Especially dogs!

There are stairs along this trail, so if your pup is more comfortable going up steps than down, you’ll want to follow the signs to the top of the arch. Keeping your dog leashed during this portion of the trail is recommended because of the steep drop-offs.

Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge
Underneath the Sky Bridge © Trails That Rock

After you’ve crossed the arch, you can unleash your dog and enjoy the remainder of the trail to the bottom of the arch. The views there are equally spectacular, and the shade provided by the arch is a nice reprieve from the sun, especially on a hot day.

You’ll have to climb about 75 steps to return to the parking lot. You can always avoid them by backtracking up to the arch the way you came.

#2 Grays Arch Trail

Distance: 2 miles, out and back
Difficulty: Starts easy, then progresses to moderate
Off-leash permitted

Grays Arch is one of the largest arches in Red River Gorge. It’s a fun trail to hike with dogs because it’s mostly flat and easy, and just at the end, is a little more challenging.

Like the Sky Bridge Trail, there are stairs on the trail to Grays Arch. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid them, so if your pup isn’t a fan, you can stop at the top of the step to see the arch through the trees and then head back.

Grays Arch, Red River Gorge
The massive Grays Arch © Trails That Rock

If there has been decent rain recently, you might see a waterfall at the bottom of the stairs. Keep following the trail until you reach Grays Arch. You can do a small scramble to reach the bottom of the arch and enjoy its massive size up close.

If you want to make this a longer hike, continue along the Rough Trail from Grays Arch to the Rush Ridge Trail. It’ll make the loop about 4 miles. 

#3 Rock Bridge Trail

Distance: 1.5-mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Off-leash permitted

You might be wondering, “Is Red River Gorge dog-friendly”? And if there ever was a dog-friendly trail in Red River Gorge, this trail is it!

The Rock Bridge Trail leads to Creation Falls, a beautiful short waterfall in Red River Gorge. But the best part of the trail is the small, shallow pool at the base of the falls. This is any water-loving dog’s dream! They can run and splash and play while you sit on the sandy beach. It’s a mostly enclosed space, so they can’t get too far away from you.

Rock Bridge and Creation Falls, Red River Gorge
Splash around at Creation Falls © Trails That Rock

The trail to Rock Bridge is on the moderate side. It was once paved, and you can see remnants of that along the trail. It’s also a popular spot to visit in the summer months, so try to arrive early or much later in the afternoon to get a parking spot.

#4 Chimney Top Rock Trail

Distance: ¾ mile, out and back
Difficulty: Easy
Off-leash is permitted, but it is recommended to leash your dog due to the steep cliffs

Chimney Top Rock is the easiest of all the dog-friendly trails in Red River Gorge. It’s also the only one on this list that doesn’t lead to an arch but rather a gorgeous overlook of the area.

The trail to Chimney Top Rock is mainly paved. But even the unpaved portions are pretty flat, making it a straightforward trail for any dog to handle.

View from Chimney Top Rock, Red River Gorge
The view from Chimney Top Rock © Trails That Rock

There are pretty views along the way with steep drop-offs, so even though dogs are allowed to be off-leash, keeping them on a leash is recommended to keep them safe.

The end of the trail features a fenced-in overlook. You can see the Red River and Half Moon Arch and admire the area’s beauty.

#5 Princess Arch Trail

Distance: 1/2 mile out-and-back to bottom of arch; 1 mile out-and-back to top of arch
Difficulty: Easy
Off-leash permitted

The Princess Arch Trail is another easy trail in Red River Gorge that is great for dogs. This trail and the Chimney Top Rock trail leave from the same parking area, so you can easily do both on the same visit.

The trail to the bottom of Princess Arch is short and easy. Your pup can sniff around and explore some of the nooks at the arch’s base.

Princess Arch, Red River Gorge
Hike to Princess Arch © Trails That Rock

If you want to get to the top of the arch, continue along the trail another quarter-mile. Don’t forget to stop and take in some of the views through the trees.

The top of Princess Arch is flat and easy to walk around. The arch isn’t too high off the ground, but you may still want to leash your dog as you walk on top.

More Dog-Friendly Hikes in Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge is a great place to hike with your dog. There are other trails that your pup might enjoy, like the trail to Whittleton Arch, a 4.5-mile hike to the largest arch by mass in the Red River Gorge, and Whistling Arch, a short, half-mile hike to one of the smallest arches in the region.

It’s best to avoid the Henson Arch trail, even though dogs are allowed. The short hike is very steep, and the stairs leading down into the grotto are more like a ladder than true steps.

About the Author

Lauren Stites

Lauren is the visionary behind Trails That Rock. She is a travel enthusiast who lives outside of Philadelphia.

For more than a decade, she’s been hitting the road, exploring the nooks and crannies of the United States alongside her family. Her passions include visiting big cities and small towns and trekking through nature’s trails. She loves sharing those adventures with fellow travelers.

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