Hiking to Red Byrd Arch in Red River Gorge
An off the beaten path day hike offering loads of solitude and views of one of the most underrated natural arches in Red River Gorge & Clifty Wilderness. The entire hike, including the trailhead, is unmarked, but easy to follow. If you're looking for a trail in the gorge to have to yourself, Red Byrd Arch is definitely one to consider.
Trailhead elevation 1,148'
Water from a weather dependent stream near the arch
Don't miss the view of the arch from the back of the adjacent rock formation
Hiking to Red Byrd Arch
There are two routes that lead to Red Byrd Arch, one that requires crossing the Red River and one that does not. This article focuses on the latter. It is also the route that you'll find on the AllTrails app. The unmarked trailhead is located at a bend in Calaboose Ridge Rd near coordinates 37.796300, -83.557186. Trailhead parking can accommodate one to two vehicles.
In the unlikely event that parking is unavailable at the trailhead, there is plenty of parking on either side of Calaboose Ridge Rd 0.15 miles prior to the trailhead. If you intend on using Google Maps or AllTrails for directions, both will lead you to the secondary, non-trailhead parking area.
The initial two hundred yards of trail are mostly overgrown, but easy to navigate. Expect nothing more than mid calf-high grass. Around 0.15 miles from the trailhead, you'll encounter an old metal gate, which is a good marker that you're heading in the right direction. Beyond the gate, the trail remains easy to follow, however there is a bit more overgrowth to contend with.
Around 0.6 miles from the trailhead parking area or 0.75 miles from the secondary parking area, you'll reach the trail's only split where you'll want to turn right. The trail leading right can be fairly challenging to locate, therefore I recommend downloading a trail map from either AllTrails or GAIA Maps to your phone for reference. After making the turn, there are no more intersecting trails until you reach the arch.
During the hike, you'll encounter numerous blowdowns - in 2023, I counted no less than 19, though all but one were very easy to navigate. The only remotely challenging blowdown occurs shortly after the split and consists of about a half dozen trees, which require you to climb over or briefly venture off trail to navigate around.
Apart from encountering the blowdowns along the way, the hike is generally easy-going and features little change in elevation until you start descending towards the arch. The trail doesn't provide sweeping vista views or interesting rock formations along its route. Instead, it guides you through a mixed hardwood and pine forest with tons of moss-covered logs. There are a couple of backcountry campsites along the trail, one around 1.6 miles and another at 1.9 miles, but neither are terribly desirable.
Around the 2.1 mile-mark, the trail becomes engulfed in rhododendron and begins to descend rather quickly. Soon after, a small, rocky area presents itself that will require you to either slide down on your butt or lower yourself down using a tree branch. After this, the trail continues to descend roughly 100 more feet over 0.1 miles before reaching the underside of Red Byrd Arch.
In my opinion the best perspective of the arch unfolds beyond it, near the back end of the adjacent rock formation. From this vantage point, you'll have an excellent view of Red Byrd Arch and the imposing formation that bears a striking resemblance to a pothole arch right beside it.
After substantial rainfall, a small waterfall takes shape towards the rear of the formation and forms a small pool along the ground, near the bottom right corner of the photo below.
Once you're ready to return, simply retrace your steps back.