This remarkable state resort park, located adjacent to the Red River Gorge Geological Area, features the namesake natural bridge that is one of the Kentucky’s biggest. Composed of many attractions, Natural Bridge State Resort Park caters both to the serious outdoor enthusiast and for the summer family outing. Natural Bridge is one of Kentucky’s native wonders, soaring 65 feet high and spanning a distance of 78 feet.(1) At its widest point, Natural Bridge boasts a width of 30 feet and weighs 900 tons.(2) The sandstone arch is located in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest, a recreational gateway that includes not only this park, but the Red River Gorge Geological Area that is only a short hike away, and many other parks are within driving distance. Red River Gorge offers 60-miles of hiking paths that lead to over a dozen natural arches and serenity that is unmatched anywhere in the state.
Natural Bridge State Resort Park also boasts an 18-hole miniature golf course and Hoedown Island for the families and children — where “knee-slappin’, toe-tappin’, and swingin’” your partner is a “barrel of fun”! The island is located on the lake below Hemlock Lodge, and features an open-air dance patio that host weekly square dances. There is also a snack bar, picnic areas, and a nature center in this day-use area. A gift shop is located in the lodge, featuring Kentucky handcrafts and souvenirs. The famed 1/2-mile Skylift is also located within the park. Operating since 1967, it has provided visitors an easy, 11-minute trek to the top. From there, guests can walk 600 feet (1) to Natural Bridge. It also accesses Lookout Point, which provides a convenient location to photograph Natural Bridge and offers spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. A swimming pool is located in the day-use area, and features a kiddies pool near the lodge and paddle boat dock.
The only sizable lake in the park, Mill Creek Lake, is where fishers can use small boats to hunt for relatively small fish. Middle Fork has limited fishing opportunities, while Middle Ford has some rainbow trout. For boating opportunities, small boats can be launched at Mill Creek Lake, accessible from Kentucky Route 11. Paddle boats can be rented in the snack bar near the lodge for the small pond containing Hoedown Island.
This 1,900 acre park dates back to 1889,(3) when the Kentucky Union Railway Company established a logging rail line from the forests to the mills in Slade. The company also began developing a park with day-use areas, a campground, and trails to the arch and to Balanced Rock. In 1927, the first Hemlock Lodge was constructed of logs and shakes until a fire ripped through the building in 1969.(3) It had been replaced in 1963 by a modern lodge offering 35 modern rooms with a 150-seat dining room and gift shop. It overlooks a ledge down upon the lake.
Highlights include the brief Henson’s Arch Trail (T 7), Laurel Ridge Trail (T 9), Natural Bridge and Balanced Rock Loop Trail (T 1, T 2), Natural Bridge and Rock Garden Trails (T 1, T 4), Whittleton Trail (T 216), and the 12-mile backpacking Natural Bridge Loop (T 1, T 6, T 5, T 2).
- “Natural Bridge State Resort Park.” Kentucky Department of Parks, Feb. 27, 2007. May 31, 2007 Article.
- “The Skylift and gift shop.” Kentucky Department of Parks. Brochure. May 31, 2007.
- Bailey, Bill. “Kentucky State Parks.” Glovebox Guidebooks of America.