Early in July we took a trip to Natural Bridge state park. We went with two other couples and had a good time hiking the park and dancing on Hoedown Island. The summer weather was hot, so we sweated as we enjoyed the hiking trails.
One of the benefits of coming over the July 4th week was that we got to see and participate in two nights of dancing. The first night we experienced Kentucky Clog dancing; the next night was the regular Hoedown Island dancing. Clogging is the official state dance of Kentucky. We were fascinated watching the many people clogging. We did manage to learn a few steps, even though we did not have the fancy shoes.
The second night of dancing was more line dancing and some clogging. We were happy to dance until after nightfall. A long day of hiking and dancing led us to appreciate having a room at the lodge just up some steps rather than having to drive home after such an enjoyable day.
One of the reasons to come to Natural Bridge is to hike up to the Natural Bridge. Being adventuresome, we took the long way around, just to have fun. We went out toward the Rock Garden (trail 4) and around the back side of the bridge. We also hiked on top of the bridge and relished the skinny passageways up to the top of the natural bridge. It is big and wide.
We went on several other trails during our stay at the lodge. We liked the view from Lookout point and had a fun time walking down the steep Needle’s Eye and Devil’s Gulch on our way back to the lodge.
Travel with friends
We have been to Natural Bridge in the past and appreciated sharing the park with our friends who had not been to the park. The hiking is a better experience when you have others with you on the hike. You get to know some about them as well as getting another point of view on the trail.
Staying at Natural Bridge
The Hemlock Lodge was recently renovated. We like the balcony and the views from the porch. We have stayed at the lodge before and the room renovation was nice. The Hoedown Island fun ends around 10 PM and all was quiet in the lodge. One thing we like about the lodge is that it has several great places to just sit and watch nature, including the restaurant and a balcony overlooking the Middle Fork of the Red River, from the one side of the whole lodge. We took advantage of swimming in the pool, along with a lot of other guests. It was nice to have the pool available to cool off during the day after hiking.
Red River Gorge
The state park is near the Red River Gorge. It is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. According to their web site: “The Red River Gorge is a uniquely scenic area in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The area is known for its abundant natural stone arches, unusual rock formations, and spectacular sandstone cliffs. The Red River Gorge is designated as a national geological area by the U.S. Forest Service.” The visitor center for the area is the Gladie visitor center. We have visited in the past so we skipped it this trip in favor of going directly on the hike.
We took an enjoyable hike to the double arch (trail #201) in the Red River Gorge. We had a sunny warm day for our hike up to the double arch. After exploring the double arch, climbing up on it and eating lunch, we continued on the trail and saw Courthouse Rock and Haystack Rock. The area is really beautiful and not well known. The hikes in Natural Bridge were full of people, but the Red River Gorge, even on a big holiday week, was far less crowded.
Some of my friends from the area will tell you that after a long day of hiking and before dancing you need to stop at the best pizza place in Kentucky. So, we stopped at Miguel’s Pizza about 3 minutes from the park. The pizza hit the spot and was very tasty. We also went to the Daniel Boone Coffee Shop nearby and enjoyed a great cup or two of coffee and breakfast the next morning after dancing.
A few lessons learned:
Take a chance and go dancing. We had not tried clog dancing before and found it enjoyable, although we could not say we actually were clogging.
Sit on a rock and enjoy the view. The hiking is fun; spending time with your wife and friends is priceless, especially with a great view of the countryside.
No bike riding this trip. Just hiking and dancing.