Red River Gorge Climbing

Near The Town Of Slade Kentucky

Red River Gorge climbing is renowned throughout the rock climbing fraternity. The superb sandstone cliffs make the Red River Gorge one of the best places in the world to enjoy the sport.
At present there are over 2000 routes on more than 200 cliffs that range in height from 20 to 200 feet.
These routes are evenly split between "trad" and "sport" climbing.

The gorge is situated near the town of Slade KY, very close to the Natural Bridge State Park and the Daniel Boone National Forest.


So is the Red River Gorge climbing only for the experienced? No, everybody can join in the fun!
There are outfits that train complete novices
to whatever standard of climbing they want to achieve. You are able to book into a course for a few dollars and have great fun learning the ropes!

For people of every age and ability who have never tried the sport, but who think they might enjoy the thrill of being on a sheer cliff, there is something called "The Via Ferrata Adventure."
Here you climb a cliff with the aid of steel rungs while all the time being fastened to metal cables attached to the rocks.

But what exactly is the difference between "sport" and "trad" climbing?

Well for those that don`t know, sport climbing is where the climber follows a route where pre-fixed metal bolts have been anchored into cracks in the rock. This allows him (or her) to clip a safety rope to the anchor to protect themselves against falling.

"Trad," or traditional, climbing is where the climber carries removable mechanical devices with him to fix into the rocks. He then attaches his safety rope to them.
These mechanical devices are known in the sport as "pro." (short for protection)

Climbing in the Red River Gorge area originally began on public lands run by the Daniel Boone National Forest. In the 1990`s relations between the climbers and the Forest Service became somewhat strained!

This led to the formation of a group of climbing enthusiasts called the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition. (RRGCC)
This body has worked to maintain access to climbing sites in the area that are on both private land and in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

In 2004 the RRGCC seized the opportunity to purchase 750 acres of land containing many great climbs. This has helped to secure the future of climbing in the Red River Gorge area. This 750 acres is known as the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve.

As well as this area owned and run by the RRGCC there is another large area which, though privately owned, is open to climbers and hikers free of charge. This is the Muir Valley owned by Rick and Liz Weber.
The only rule if you plan to climb here is that you must go online to complete the release form.

In addition to these two well known climbing reserves there are other great climbs which are located on private land.
The best known of these is probably "The Motherlode" which is situated very close to the land owned by the RRGCC.
This amazing cliff with its daunting overhang is among the best known destinations in the Red River Gorge climbing area.

The best time to climb "The Red," as it is affectionately known, is in the Spring between March and May. The second best option is the Fall between September and November.
What about the other two seasons?

Winter is generally better than the summer. Temperatures can get as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit so as long as you don`t mind a bit of cold, it`s OK!

Summer is thought to be too hot in Kentucky for climbing, but climbers are a tough breed and some of them get out there anyway.
Early mornings are ideal, but if you are "hard core" and need your climbing fix throughout the day, then find a route that is in deep shade for most of the time.

Because the Red River Gorge climbing area is so popular, many car parks close to the popular climbing routes fill up very quickly. If you arrive late you won`t be able to park and that will mean going somewhere else. Remember, if you snooze, you lose!

No talk about Red River Gorge climbing would be complete without mentioning Miguel`s Pizza in the town of Slade KY.

This has been the unofficial headquarters of Red River Gorge climbers since the 1980`s.
The food is great, the beer is better, and you will always find like minded spirits there to talk about your sport.

There is a campground out back where you can pitch your tent for a few dollars. But be aware that during the season Miguel`s can be party central.
So if you need your eight hours sleep it might be wiser to camp at one of the many other campgrounds.

If you are planning a trip to the area to go climbing there are a number of great guides that will tell you everything you need to know.
One of these is "Red River Gorge Rock Climbs" written by Ray Ellington and published by Wolverine.

So whatever type of climbing you do in the Red River Gorge climbing area, from the have fun and stay safe.



Return From Red River Gorge Climbing to Red River Gorge
Return From Red River Gorge Climbing to Gorges-to-Visit Home