top of page
  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Backpack to Hanson's Point & Gray's Arch in Red River Gorge

An incredible overnight backpacking loop in Red River Gorge offering near 360-degree panoramas from Hanson's Point, arguably the area's most scenic cliffside overlook, and an opportunity to explore the gorge's largest naturally formed arch.


Hanson's Point Red River Gorge

Trailhead elevation 1,289'

Water King Branch

Don't miss sunrise and sunset at Hanson's Point




Backpack to Hanson's Point & Gray's Arch in Red River Gorge

The hike can be started from either the Gray's Arch or Pinch 'Em Tight Trailhead, both located within a few hundred yards of each other along Tunnel Ridge Road. The route described below begins at the Pinch 'Em Tight Trailhead. From there, the hike follows the Pinch 'Em Tight Trail (TR223) through terrain typical of the gorge for 1.7 miles until it intersects with Rough Trail (TR221). Shortly after joining Rough Trail, at a hairpin turn, it reaches an unmarked spur trail on the right side.


Pinch Em Tight Trail

After merging onto the unmarked trail, the path narrows and the landscape transitions to a forest dominated by young pine saplings.


Hanson's Point Trail

Approximately 2.7 miles into the hike, the spur trail reaches Hanson's Point, a fairly narrow cliff extending 200 feet from Pinch 'Em Tight Ridge.


Hanson's Point Red River Gorge

At Hanson's Point, hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the gorge. To the northwest, Pinch 'Em Tight Ridge and Pinch 'Em Tight Point, along with a large unnamed formation, dominate the skyline. Though not often mentioned as a sunset spot, Hanson's Point excels in this regard. In the evening, the sun sets behind Pinch 'Em Tight Ridge, and under the right conditions, sunset can be downright magical.


Hanson's Point Red River Gorge

To the north, the views include Chimney Top Rock and a seemingly endless expanse of rolling hills and valleys. Those with a careful eye will notice Cloudsplitter emerging from the treeline about a mile north of Chimney Top Rock.


Hanson's Point Red River Gorge

Those planning to camp near Hanson's Point to enjoy both sunset and sunrise will find numerous established backcountry campsites nearby. Within 0.25 miles of the overlook, there are at least three large group sites, as well as several smaller ones. The nearest group site is 0.1 miles from Hanson's Point and can accommodate at least six tents. Additionally, there is space for a single tent and at least one hammock right at Hanson's Point. Backcountry camping permits are required.


Hanson's Point camping

Hikers who wake early enough to watch the sunrise from the overlook are rewarded with even more spectacular views. In the morning, as the fog that typically engulfs the gorge gradually dissipates, the sun begins its slow ascent over the horizon, directly east of Hanson's Point.


Hanson's Point Red River Gorge

While Hanson's Point offers remarkable views, hikers should exercise caution when exploring the area. The north side of the overlook features a sheer 200-foot drop, which has led to at least two fatalities over the years.


Hanson's Point Red River Gorge

And, while parts of the south side of the overlook are slightly sloped, a fall from this side would likely also be fatal.


Hanson's Point Red River Gorge

From Hanson's Point, the hike retraces back to Rough Trail, winding through a dense forested terrain for several miles. After a moderate climb and subsequent descent, hikers will reach King Branch, the loop's only reliable source of filterable water, approximately 5 miles into the hike. A short distance beyond, hidden in a dense canopy of trees, lies Gray's Arch.


Gray's Arch Red River Gorge

Spanning nearly 80 feet and rising more than 50 feet tall, Gray's Arch stands as the largest naturally formed arch in Red River Gorge. Adjacent to the arch, a naturally formed amphitheater provides perhaps the best view of the arch, however, those who wish to reach the underside of the arch can do so with minimal effort. Climbing to the top of Gray's Arch is possible but extremely hazardous; any fall from this height could be fatal, so extreme caution is advised.


Gray's Arch Red River Gorge

After visiting the arch, the hike continues with a climb up a series of wooden stairs, followed by a moderate ascent over the next half mile. Approximately one mile past Gray's Arch, the trail reaches the Gray's Arch Trailhead at Tunnel Ridge Road. A brief walk to the Pinch 'Em Tight Trailhead completes the loop.

Comments


bottom of page