Spring Ephemerals – Sky Bridge Trail, Red River Gorge, KY

I had no specific recall of a childhood visit to Sky Bridge when I began researching a hike for this outing. This was to be our second hike of the day and the online sources that I had found mentioned an out and back hike along a ridge from the parking lot.

Once we got to the parking lot, a group of avid hikers encouraged us to follow them on the loop trail which was 0.75 miles long and turned out to be a better choice than the out and back trail.

The goals for the day were to see some spring wildflowers and to share the experience with a young family who were relatively inexperienced hikers, especially when it came to the Gorge. Earlier we had hiked the Rock Bridge Trail, with its smaller natural bridge, and wanted them to see one of the larger bridges in the Gorge.

From the trailhead we headed down a grade where the trail worked its way through a patch of rhododendron. This specimen showed some retained seeds from last year’s successful pollination as well as the emerging spring growth of this year.

The trail led to a well engineered set of stairs that went down to the base of an impressive sandstone bluff.

The artistry of erosion was impressive and graced the entire face of the palisade.

The base of the massive bluff allowed some of our hikers to get out of the light rain and was a lesson plan on geology.

Between the trail and the bluff was an extensive grouping of Bluets, also known as Quaker Ladies.

After a slow climb up the mountainside the trail came to the base of the double arched Sky Bridge.

To get to the top of the bridge the trail heads east for quite some distance and features nice gorge views to the right.

Here the trail doubles back on the ridge which leads to the top of Sky Bridge. The area had somewhat recently experienced a forest fire, as was noted on the opposing ridge as well.

The views from atop of Sky Bridge, as noted in the title photo and the one below, were well worth the hike.

The surface of the bridge itself featured some interesting geologic patterns,

as well as this visitor basking in the sun.

Finally, the trail exiting the bridge and heading back to the parking lot featured these wildflowers that were new to me:

Golden Ragwort

Trailing Arbutus

In summary, the loop trail to Sky Bridge, while short, is a very rewarding hike with outstanding stone formations, bountiful rhododendrons, great views, nice spring wildflowers, and other interesting understory plants. It would be ideal to pair with a more demanding hike. There are still 3-4 weeks left in the Spring Ephemeral season so find a mature deciduous wood and enjoy the show.

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Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.


Parking – Large asphalt lot

Facilities – In parking area

Trail Conditions – Excellent condition and well marked. It is a mix of asphalt, exposed sandstone, and bare earth. I would rate it moderate due to terrain change.

Benches – None noted but there are exposed rocks that would function as seats.

Kids – Kids 5 and over should do well. Obviously there are cliffs so kids have to be supervised.

Dogs – Welcomed

Suggested Paired Hikes – There are numerous hikes within Natural Bridge State Park and Red River Gorge. Rock Bridge Trail is nearby, excellent, and good for kids.




  1. Pat, I finally got around to reading this much anticipated entry. The loop trail sounds like a nice short hike that Christine and I will enjoy. Thanks Peggy for the photos of the flowers, I am really enjoying them.

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