Hiking to Hopewell Arch, Snow Arch, Double Deer Arch, & Copperas Falls in Red River Gorge
One of the premier day hikes in Kentucky's Red River Gorge, the hike to Hopewell Arch, Snow Arch, Double Deer Arch, and Copperas Falls is nothing short of spectacular. Technically an unofficial trail in Clifty Wilderness, the mostly well-traveled path largely meanders alongside beautiful Copperas Creek, ensconced by lush rhododendron and hardwood forest, culminating at the striking 40-foot Copperas Falls and its alluring bluish-green plunge pool. Along the route, the trail crosses the Copperas Creek on at least eight occasions and a smaller tributary at least four. While reaching Hopewell Arch and Copperas Falls are generally easy, downloading the area to offline Google Maps is almost essential for locating Snow and Double Deer Arches. Waterproof shoes and hiking poles are highly recommended, especially during spring when water levels are high.
Trailhead elevation 741'
Don't miss walking on top of Hopewell Arch and backcountry camping near Copperas Falls
Hiking to Hopewell Arch, Snow Arch, Double Deer Arch, & Copperas Falls
The unmarked trailhead, listed as Copperas Creek Unofficial Trailhead on Google Maps, can be found near coordinates 37.821054, -83.575788. An eight vehicle capacity parking lot is located 100 feet south of the trailhead, which also serves as the starting point for the very underrated Eagle Point Buttress Trail, among other trails. In the event that the lot is full, which is common, there is roadside parking available close to the trailhead along Sky Bridge Rd/Rt 715. Assuming that you find a spot in the parking lot, begin by walking down Sky Bridge Rd, moving away from the bridge spanning the Red River, and locate the trail just beyond a rock outcropping on the right-hand side.
The trail immediately enters the forest and Copperas Creek will soon come into view on your left. After 0.45 miles, you'll come across a boulder, roughly the size of a house, draped in moss and rhododendron, resting in Copperas Creek.
Just beyond this massive boulder, the trail gently descends, and within 50 feet, a careful eye will notice a faint path on the opposite bank of Copperas Creek, near coordinates 37.8268530, -83.5759263. This is the trail that leads to Hopewell Arch. Crossing the creek is generally very easy. Water levels fluctuate with the seasons, ranging from ankle deep water in the spring to a completely dry creek bed during the fall and winter months. Once you've crossed the creek, the faint trail begins to steepen rather quickly, and 0.07 miles later, you'll encounter a sharp hairpin turn to the right. Beyond this point, the trail continues its ascent up a slope, eventually leading to the base of a small cliff.
From this point, simply follow the base of the cliff, making your way up the slope until you encounter a few moderately sized boulders. While some describe passing these boulders as a scramble, it's essentially nothing more than a matter of stepping up onto them.
Hopewell Arch can be found a mere 50 feet past these boulders, 0.2 miles and 190 feet in elevation gain from the creek crossing. Upon reaching the arch, you'll find a spacious sandy alcove within the cliff, providing an excellent vantage point for viewing the arch. During the spring and following heavy rainfall, a small cascade materializes and flows into the alcove from above. If the cascade is active, you'll hear its sound from the boulder area just before arriving at the arch.
It's possible to walk across Hopewell Arch, but should be done so exercising caution. To reach the top of the arch, make your way to the far side of the alcove and proceed around the bend. Once you've turned the corner, walk for no more than 50 feet, where you'll encounter two pathways leading up the very steep slope to the left. Typically, the second of these two paths is the easier route. However, if it has recently rained, ascending either one of these paths is futile. After exploring Hopewell Arch, simply retrace your steps back to where you crossed Copperas Creek and resume your hike.
About 0.5 miles past the spur trail leading to Hopewell Arch, the trail passes by an important marker - a large backcountry campsite with a stone fire ring beside Copperas Creek. To get to Snow Arch, find a suitable spot to cross the creek near the campsite and locate the small tributary that flows into Copperas Creek, roughly 75 feet to the right. Follow this tributary upstream until you reach a point where it noticeably splits, roughly 0.2 miles from where you crossed over Copperas Creek. From there, make your way uphill to the left of the stream for another 0.15 miles to coordinates 37.832108, -83579722, where you'll discover Snow Arch. The terrain leading from stream to the arch is quite steep, and you'll need to navigate through dense rhododendron.
Double Deer Arch, often a bit challenging hikers to locate, can be found slightly downhill from Snow Arch, near coordinates 37.832003, -83.580100. To reach the arch, you'll need to traverse a slightly exposed ledge area that might pose a challenge to those with a fear of heights. Double Deer Arch isn't the most scenic arch, but the approach to it is worth the effort to locate.
To reach Copperas Falls, return to the large backcountry campsite along Copperas Creek and continue hiking another 0.75 miles along the main creekside trail until it dead ends at the falls.
Once you arrive at Copperas Falls, you'll discover several spots from which you can enjoy the scenery, including a large sandy alcove behind the falls. Copperas Falls exhibits its most robust flow during the spring and the early part of summer. However, in the fall and during prolonged dry spells, the falls diminish to a mere trickle.
For those interested in an easy overnight backpack, there are several excellent tent and hammock sites within a few hundred feet of the falls. In my opinion, this is the area to camp if you're planning on spending the night along the trail. There are also several camping spots between the spur trail leading to Hopewell Arch and Copperas Falls, including the large site where you cross the creek to reach Snow and Double Deer Arches.