In order to make things easier for first-time visitors to the Gorge, I’ve put together a handful of “pre-planned” routes. The following routes are posted on the Red River Scramble REVER group, GPX Files are stored in a Google Drive Folder and paper maps are available for download HERE. Per comments on the FAQ page, we want everyone to have a good time, meet fellow riders, and enjoy the local roads. Please remember, “Ride your own ride” at all times!
The Sky Bridge Loop
First-time visitors to Red River Gorge should not miss out on the opportunity to see one of nearly a hundred natural arches hidden around this part of Kentucky. While Natural Bridge is unquestionably one of the most popular tourist destinations in these parts, I recommend Sky Bridge to the motorcycle crowd. Natural Bridge is larger, and may arguably have a better view (arguably…), but if you’re dressed in motorcycle gear, the one-mile hike to the top, or even the sky lift may be a bit warm. Sky Bridge, on the other hand, means you get a chance to take in a nice twisty ride around Kentucky Highways 15 and 715 and take a short walk out to the Sky Bridge to see majestic views of the gorge. Headed back down 715 you turn down 77 and take a trip through Nada Tunnel before heading back to the start point to meet up with other riders and head back out for another adventure.
Red River Gorge North Loop
If you’re looking to skip the tourist stuff and get straight to the canyon carving, this is a good start. Headed east out of Slade, KY-15 will take you over KY-746 where you can enjoy a fine “Kentucky two-lane” through rural backwoods farms, scattered forest, blind rises, sweeping s-turns, and unmarked curves. From 746 you’ll take a short jaunt across US-460 to KY-77, my favorite road in the gorge. KY-77 heads south from Frenchburg down into Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF) and through Red River Gorge. Up on the “Tarr Ridge”, 77 flows along the ridgeline with wide, banked, sweepers you can see through; those sweepers start to give way to blind rises and tighter curves until 77 drops into the gorge and under the tree canopy. Once inside the DBNF boundary, the curves get tighter and blinder as you twist your way past 715, along the cliff-line and through Nada Tunnel. If you’re only going to ride one paved road while you’re in the gorge, 77 is that road.
Red River Gorge Southeast Loop
Road warriors that are looking for a grand tour of the bluegrass should load up the southeast loop. Again, headed east front Slade and out beyond Campton, riders will arrive at KY-1812. Possessing no less than four hairpin turns, 1812 starts out somewhat benign as it gently traces along creek beds and farms; as you progress south, 1812 winds deeper and deeper into the Appalachian foothills. Before long you find yourself riding up a steep elevation change which gives birth to twin switchbacks; be warned, there’s a driveway hiding about mid-turn in that last one.
Once down from the top of 1812, riders can catch a bathroom break in Jackson at one of the local service stations. From there the route heads west across a scenic section KY-52 which runs parallel to an old rail line for several miles. Not far from Beattyville you turn north on KY-2016; easily my second favorite road in the area. Twelve miles of (almost) completely unmarked Kentucky two-lane, KY-2016 slithers across “Big Andy” Ridge and has been referred to as a “roller coaster” by a few folks in my riding circle.
Red River Gorge Southwest Loop
(GPX File and REVER Route)
If desolate, narrow, rural mountain roads are your flavor, the Southwest loop is probably your best bet. KY-1057 takes riders “down through the holler” toward Furnace Junction, and then on to KY-52 for big sweepers along the mountainside. Keep your lids peeled when you hit KY-213, as you might see an old iron furnace. Much of this route is barely two lanes, riders should be on guard for nonsensical road contours, the occasional gravel washout, wild turkeys, and even dogs sleeping in the roadway.
Covered Bridge Loop
(GPX File and REVER Route)
There are just over a dozen covered bridges left standing in the entire state of Kentucky. If you’re looking for a casual scenic ride through the bluegrass, the Covered Bridge Loop will take you back in time to see seven of the covered bridges within range of Slade. This route is just over 200 miles, so be prepared to find fuel in Flemingsburg or Maysville, but with so few bridges left in Kentucky, don’t miss out on this chance to enjoy the best of the rolling hills of bluegrass region.
Iron Furnace Loop
(GPX File and REVER Route)
Eastern Kentucky has a rich heritage associated with the early pioneer days; they don’t call it “Daniel Boone National Forest” for nothing. With that, there are a number of iron furnace relics scattered around the area. For history buffs that are looking for twisty pavement, and are prepared to traverse a couple gravel access roads, the Iron Furnace Loop will take riders on a tour of five of the local ironworks blast furnaces.
From single-lane paved “goat paths”, to elevated mountain sweepers, the east loop out of Beattyville takes riders deep into rural Kentucky.
Beattyville South Loop
Beattyville West Loop
Arguably the “kitchen sink” of the paved routes, the “west” loop out of Beattyville sweeps up along the narrow mountain roads toward Slade, before jumping on some of the most immaculate sweepers in the area on KY-213 and KY-89.
Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway (DBBB)
(GPX File and REVER Route)
For folks familiar with sights of Rosie the Scrambler in the Kentucky backwoods, most of these photos were taken on the DBBB. About a hundred miles in length, the DBBB offers challenges for (virtually) all off-road skill levels. After concerns about difficulty at last year’s event, I have sectioned off the DBBB into multiple “options”, labeled as “DBBB Option #” in the GPX library. While still following the prescribed loop, I have attempted to link these sections together from “easiest” to “hardest” to make the DBBB less intimidating to newer adventure riders. Early options are pretty manageable gravel county roads, with trail challenges and technical difficulty increasing as you ride. I have also created a “DBBB Bypass Loop”; for any reason riders decide they’ve either had their fill of off-road riding, or want to skip the next option and catch a breather, they can load up the bypass loop and continue the ride on pavement which will eventually take them back to the gas stations in Slade. Ultimately the intent here is for adventure riders to have the option to jump on an off the DBBB as they feel comfortable riding. With the “Bypass Loop”, riders have the ability to link up with their friends elsewhere on the loop if they decide to skip a section. For more information on the DBBB, see my full write-up Here.
DBNF Forest Service Roads
(GPX file and REVER Route)
For first-time off-road riders, especially those looking for ultimate scenic experience, I’ve put together a route that includes all of the gravel forest service roads inside Red River Gorge. These forest service roads primarily provide access to the various hiking trails throughout the gorge, but the gravel is typically in immaculate condition and offers a well-manicured surface for novice adventure riders to get a taste of the unpaved backcountry. At the same time, most of these forest service roads are dead-end trails, so the route will take you to the end of the trail, and doubles back to the tarmac to form a loop which eventually drops you off in Slade. Highlights of this loop include Chimney Top Rock, Half Moon Rock, and Skybridge; some of the must-see destinations in the gorge for non-hikers.
Novice Adventure Loop
(GPX file and REVER Route)
For novice or casual adventure riders looking for something a little more challenging than the gravel inside the gorge, I’ve put together a hundred-mile loop around Slade and Beattyville that includes narrow rural pavement and several unpaved county roads. This loop contains some of the easier sections of the DBBB, and other well maintained gravel, offering novice adventure riders a chance to get further out on the backroads without having to be concerned with the challenges of more technical riding.
Intermediate Adventure Loop
If you’re looking to test your skills a little more than gravel and forest service roads, the Intermediate Adventure Loop will take you on a similar loop to the Novice ADV route, but with that addition of “intermediate” level roads in lieu or in addition to the better novice options.
Other Riding Opportunities:
Red River Scramble Extreme Loop
For riders on lightweight dual sport bikes looking for more challenging trails, I’ve merged the most challenging sections of the DBBB with select, nearby, hard sections of the Kentucky Adventure Tour (KAT). This loop is intended for “Advanced” off-road riders; be warned, these trails contain significantly rutted, muddy trails, steep inclines, and ledges in excess of 12 inches. The buddy system and adequate tools and water are highly encouraged.
RRS Southwest Extreme Loop
For riders that didn’t get their fill with the first Extreme Loop, I’ve merged sections of the KAT Main Loop with select “Hard” sections of the KAT into one GPX route for a 125-mile loop out of Beattyville. Per my previous comments, this loop is also intended for Advanced riders on lightweight dual-sport bikes, previous warnings also apply.
White Sulfur OHV Trail
Last year I received a handful of inquiries about dedicated off-road riding. Unfortunately, with the presence of the National Forest, off-road only riding is somewhat difficult around the gorge, however, there are a few opportunities not far away, specifically White Sulfur OHV Trail just north of Frenchburg. About 20 or so miles of wide single track, folks interested in less traveled dual-sport riding can pick up a permit at several of the local outlets and enjoy an afternoon of riding around Cave Run Lake. More information on White Sulfur OHV Trail can be found HERE.
Red Bird Crest Trail System
Part of the DBNF, similar to White Sulfur, Redbird Crest has over 100 miles motorized trails including large sections of designated motorcycle single track. The nearest trailhead is about 45 miles south of Beattyville. Again, like White Sulfur, riders will need to purchase a riding permit from a designated location before taking to the trail. More information for Redbird Crest can be found HERE.
The Kentucky Adventure Tour
While attendees will unquestionably not complete the entire ride in a weekend, off-road and adventure enthusiasts should still check out the entirety of Kentucky Adventure Tour (KAT). The KAT is a 1,000-mile dual-sport route around eastern Kentucky including parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. The DBBB and the KAT overlap for a short section in the north, but the KAT has the previously mentioned “bonus” (hard) sections that are easily within range of the Red River Gorge area. If folks have the vacation time, this weekend is as good a time as any to start out in Slade and tackle the KAT the following week. At a minimum, off-roaders should download the KAT GPS tracks from Adventure Rider so they have access to the hard sections.
- Red River Scramble Event Page
- Red River Scramble FAQ
- GPX File Folder
- Paper Maps
- REVER Red River Scramble Group
- Evaluate your ADV Skills