The Red River Gorge 100 mountain bike race yesterday and we wanted to do some exploring on our last day at RRG. After driving to a location with cell phone reception, I spent about 9 seconds on Hiking Project determining which trail to hike. I got the name and a general idea of where to enter. Let’s go!
The trail of choice was the Hood Branch Loop at Red River Gorge. There was plenty of parking near the Natural Bridge Sky Lift.
Park truck. Load camelbak with water bottles (I hate drinking through camelbak hoses). Spot trailhead about 500 yards from truck. Start Garmin (trail maps not installed). Enter trail. Lose cellphone reception.
The hike started off with a pretty steep climb, then worked its way by some rhododendrons and amazing rock features. There were at least 6 bridges on this trail. Some were more sturdy than others.
Hike some more miles. Wait, we are back at that same sign!
Attempt to load Hiking Project maps on the phone. No cellphone reception. Crap!
We decided to take a chance and follow another sign that pointed to Natural Bridge. We hiked some more, mainly uphill. Again, there were some awesome rock features to enjoy along the way.
Photos taken from the base of the arch didn’t do it justice, so we climbed to the top of it. It was easy to see how it got the name Natural “Bridge”. It is basically a half mile long plateau. I could barely see the people on the far end. The view from the top is more than worth the hike or ski lift up.
After thoroughly soaking up the views, it was time to make the 1.5 mile trek back to the truck. It was mostly downhill now. There were more interesting rock features and some awesome stairs carved into the sandstone.
We exit the trail and are right next to the truck. Hmmm… I didn’t see this trailhead when we got here this morning.
After getting phone service I reviewed the map. We did the Hood Branch Loop completely backwards AND we added the Hood’s Branch Upper Loop unnecessarily. The Hood’s Branch Upper Loop is not loaded on Hiking Project, so I didn’t know it was an addition to the regular Hood Branch Loop. Hiking the Hood Branch Loop at Red River Gorge was enjoyable even with all the confusion.
Moral of the story: Do your research before entering the trail and carry a GPS that has trail maps loaded on it.