Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Also located in the Red River Gorge is Natural Bridge State Park, home to one of the largest and widest natural arches in eastern Kentucky. I absolutely loved hiking here. I started on the Original Trail – a less than 1 mile climb to the ridge -which has been in use since the 1890s. The trail is wide and well-maintained, with beautiful cut-rock steps that ease the steep grade as the trail winds up along the eroded cliffs.

Beginning of Original Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Beginning of Original Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Original Trail along the cliffs, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Original Trail along the cliffs, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Approach to Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Approach to Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Natural Bridge from back, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Natural Bridge from back, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

After passing under the arch I turned onto the Battleship Rock Trail which follows the ridge before climbing up the Needle’s Eye Staircase to the top of the ridge. From there I picked up the Laurel Ridge Trail, which traverses the length of the ridge and eventually over the Natural Bridge itself before descending down through a rock joint. These sections along the base of the cliffs and then along the ridge itself were the most scenic and offered some absolutely stunning views. The trail through the rock joint was also really neat.

The lush Battleship Rock Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

The lush Battleship Rock Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Needles Eye Staircase to the top of Laurel Ridge, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Needles Eye Staircase to the top of Laurel Ridge, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

View from the end of Laurel Ridge near Lovers Leap Overlook, Laurel Ridge Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

View from the end of Laurel Ridge near Lovers Leap Overlook, Laurel Ridge Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Me near Lovers Leap Overlook, Laurel Ridge Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Me near Lovers Leap Overlook, Laurel Ridge Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Top of Natural Bridge, Laurel Ridge Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Top of Natural Bridge, Laurel Ridge Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Looking back on descent from the top of Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Looking back on descent from the top of Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Rock joint, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Rock joint, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Me in the rock joint, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Me in the rock joint, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Passing back through the arch I began the descent back to the trailhead but instead of following the Original Trail, I chose the Balanced Rock Trail which in addition to featuring the eponymous Balanced Rock had some interesting sandstone cliff formations and shallow caves caused by erosion.

Amazing sandstone swirls, Balanced Rock Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Amazing sandstone swirls, Balanced Rock Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Balanced Rock, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Balanced Rock, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Example of sandstone erosion creating a shallow cave, Balanced Rock Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky

Example of sandstone erosion creating a shallow cave, Balanced Rock Trail, Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky