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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Hiking to Cherokee Arch in Red River Gorge

One of the more underrated, yet incredibly scenic naturally formed arches in Red River Gorge, Cherokee Arch is one to put on your radar for your next trip to the area. Spanning more than 40 feet in length and soaring more than 60 feet above the forest floor, the arch, along with its picturesque surroundings, offers one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire gorge.

Cherokee Arch Red River Gorge

Trailhead elevation 1,207'

Water None

Don't miss the scenic view just before the descent to Cherokee Arch

Hiking to Cherokee Arch

The unmarked trailhead for Cherokee Arch can be found at the end of Chimney Top Rock Rd, indicated by two knee-high wooden posts 100 feet or so to the right of the neighboring Princess Arch Trailhead. It's worth noting that the 3.5-mile Chimney Top Rock Rd is gated during the winter months, so depending on when you plan on hiking to Cherokee Arch, you may want to check the USFS Daniel Boone National Forest website for seasonal road closures.

Cherokee Arch Trailhead

From the trailhead, the unmarked but well-worn path gently ascends before reaching an established campsite with a stone fire ring near the 0.2 mile mark. At the campsite you'll find two trails. The trail on the left leads to Cherokee Arch. Over the next 0.6 miles you'll encounter numerous easy to navigate blowdowns and a brief area slightly overgrown with rhododendron.

Cherokee Arch Trail

At roughly 0.7 miles into the hike, you'll come across the first of three minor rocky sections that require a little attention when descending. The drops are relatively small, measuring no more than 2-3 feet each, but those with mobility limitations or knee issues may find them slightly challenging.

Cherokee Arch Trail

Shortly after the rocky area, keep your eyes peeled for an overlook area to your left. This vantage point offers a stunning view that extends for several miles throughout the gorge, including several prominent formations.

Cherokee Arch Trail

After you've taken in the view from the overlook, the trail begins a relatively steep descent, dropping more than 200 feet in elevation in less than 0.2 miles before reaching the forest floor. Once you've arrived at the forest floor, the trail takes a right turn and runs parallel to the base of a series of cliffs, never straying more than 20 feet from them. After hiking along the cliff base for roughly 0.25 miles, you'll reach Cherokee Arch.

Cherokee Arch Red River Gorge

The arch rests within a very large alcove near a curve in the cliff wall and is easy to spot as you near it. You'll find multiple vantage points to admire Cherokee Arch from, but the view from the far side of the alcove is particularly spectacular. The alcove is filled with a slew of large boulders and sandy patches, clear evidence of erosion over countless millennia. During the spring and following heavy rainfall, a small cascade materializes from near the top of the arch.

When you're done taking in the views, simply retrace your steps. It's worth mentioning that there are several smaller arches accessible via a spur trail near the overlook, such as Rat Windows and Mushroom Arch. However, I personally did not find them particularly interesting or worth the effort to reach. You can find more information on these arches from various other online sources.


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