The Whittleton Arch Trail, located in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, offers hikers of any experience level a pleasant walk to one of the Gorge’s most massive arches. Toss in a beautiful creek, interesting rock formations and plenty of local history and you have a wonderful half-day experience. We brought our 13-year-old daughter along with us for this hike, and she loved every minute of the experience.
Park at the Whittleton Campground, which is on Natural Bridge Road in Slade, Kentucky, just across from Natural Bridge State Park. The Whittleton Arch trail, which is also the Sheltowee Trace, follows an old railroad bed, which is always good news for hikers who don’t like steep grades.
As the trail parallels the meandering path of Whittleton Branch, many paths veer off to the creek, offering plenty of opportunities for exploring nice pools and interesting rock formations along the way. One rock was the size of a large house, with a smaller creek flowing under it as it joined Whittleton Branch. My daughter and I climbed up under the rock and followed the small creek uphill a few yards.
About three-quarters of a mile in, the trail departs from the creek, going uphill until it meets the junction of trail #217, which takes you to Whittleton Arch. The approach to the arch is breathtaking, with a massive stone wall greeting you as you enter its amphitheater. A thick tangle of rhododendron climbs the walls on either side of the small trickle of stream that flows over the edge of the arch, some 50 feet above the ground.
Be careful exploring the upper reaches of the arch, especially where the stream flows over the edge. The rocks are mossy and slick and unforgiving of a misstep. That said, a climb to the top is well worth the effort, with plenty of small rock houses and interesting formations for explore.
Re-trace the path in to return to Whittleton Campground, but know that at the trail junction, you can turn right/north and head up the Sheltowee Trace towards Koomer Ridge, a great way to add miles to the hike.
We recommend the Whittleton Arch Trail and hope to return in the summer with our whole family for a longer hike on the Sheltowee Trace and more time exploring the upper reaches of this beautiful natural wonder.
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Getting there – from the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway
- Take exit 33 and turn south on Kentucky 11/Natural Bridge Road
- Drive 2.3 miles until you reach the entrance of Whittleton Campground on your left