A View From the Top
Farther to the north, the Daniel Boone National Forest counts more than 100 such formations in its 26,000-acre Red River Gorge Geological Area. Many, such as Gray's Arch, lie along area hiking trails, but a winding drive along State 77 near Slade leads up to the high spots--literally. Chief among them, the Sky Bridge is a mere stroll from the parking lot. The sturdy span measures 75 feet long and 23 feet high, and the trail, which runs past it, leads in short order to a glorious overlook. The view here is that of an eagle poised above the Red River--hundreds of feet below--and the rugged, sheer cliffs that enclose its gorge.
Kentucky's most visited arch anchors Natural Bridge State Resort Park, only a handful of miles from the geological area. Several trails connect the arch with the park's Hemlock Lodge, and the shortest path is only ¾ mile. Natural Bridge sits astride a ridge that drops away on both sides into wooded valleys. At 65 feet in height, it is one of the tallest in the area, and its 78-foot length makes it one of the longest as well. So precise is its form that from a distance, such as Lookout Point, it resembles the careful construction of an engineer. In late afternoon, though, when the low sun strikes the sandstone, it warms to a rich color known only to nature, glowing like a kind of molten rainbow.
When You Go
While winter is definitely the best time to view the arches, it does require certain precautions. Hikers should prepare for changeable--and sometimes challenging--elements by wearing layers of clothing and sturdy boots. Also, take heed: Cold conditions can sometimes leave trails and steps icy and slippery.
For information about area arches and other natural attractions in Tennessee, call the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area at (423) 286-7275 and the Pickett State Park at (931) 879-5821.
To learn more about similar sites in Kentucky, call Big South Fork (see above), the Daniel Boone National Forest at (859) 745-3100, or the Natural Bridge State Resort Park at (606) 663-2214.
Campgrounds and cabins are available in many of these parks and forests, along with locally run motels and inns in nearby towns. Two good possibilities are the Newbury House Bed & Breakfast at Historic Rugby in Tennessee ( 628-2441 or 1-888-214-3400; $85.02 double occupancy for a room with private bath, rate includes breakfast for two) and the Hemlock Lodge at Natural Bridge State Resort Park ( 663-2214; $42.95 double occupancy, rates run higher in the spring, summer, and fall).
For more information on area lodging and attractions, call Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association toll free at 1-877-868-7735.
"Visit the South's Arch Country" is from the November 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.