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The Zoo

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Bird Cage Sector 
New Zoo, The 
Old Zoo, The 

The Zoo  

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Location: 37.73404, -83.66188 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: Jason Halladay, saxfiend, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Jason Halladay on Oct 4, 2006  with updates from Will Wright
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Lee Hansche starting up Hippocrite (5.12a) the onl...


The Zoo is a bit of a misnomer as the real zoo atmosphere is across the highway at Graining Fork Nature Preserve (a.k.a. Roadside Crag). If you're looking for fewer crowds and a good variety of climbs, this zoo is for you.

The Zoo is probably best know for a pair of short, classic 5.12a routes at the The Old Zoo right next to each other with each route climbing markedly different from the other. Hippocrite involves big moves on mostly all big good holds. Scar Tissue serves up steeper, more sustained climbing on smaller but still great holds.

The Zoo has seen a bit of a revival in recent years with a flurry of development at two new walls north of the older area thus necessitating a renaming of the original Zoo area, here on Mountain Project, to The Old Zoo and adding the two new areas: The New Zoo and the Bird Cage Sector.

The middle portion of The Old Zoo has some fun, long 5.11s on somewhat lesser but still plenty good rock.

The The Old Zoo area is a large amphitheater that faces mostly north but because the wall curves, you can chase sun/shade pretty well. Many of the better routes stay dry in rain.

Getting There 

From Miguel's Pizza head south on KY 11 to a large, gravel parking area (37.750808, -83.664008) on the west side of KY 11. This parking area is the shared parking area for The Zoo and Graining Fork Nature Preserve (a.k.a. Roadside Crag).

From the parking area, hike west/southwest towards the river. Apparently there used to be a log crossing over this river but that no longer exists. Take your shoes off, ford the river and find the climber's trail on the other side. Scramble up a very steep, rooty section of trail just right of a side drainage/ravine and continue steeply uphill for another five minutes.
When you reach a small arch at the top of the trail pass through it (or around it to the left) and walk along the base of the wall a short bit and you're there. This area, to the left of the small arch, is the most well-known and established area, The Old Zoo.

If you go to the right when you reach the small arch, you get to The New Zoo. The New Zoo is a collection of newer routes. The New Zoo area begins with the route Sidewinder (5.12b).

If you continue along the wall beyond the The New Zoo, down the hill and down around the cave area, you get to a newer area called the Bird Cage Sector. The Bird Cage Sector begins with the route Sons of Perdition (5.12a).

Climbing Season

Weather station 7.9 miles from here

27 Total Routes

['4 Stars',1],['3 Stars',10],['2 Stars',10],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Zoo:
Put Me In The Zoo   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   The Old Zoo
Chimp   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Old Zoo
One Brick Shy   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   The Old Zoo
Armadillo   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   The Old Zoo
Edgehog   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Old Zoo
Barrel Full of Monkeys   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 80'   The New Zoo
Monkey in the Middle   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   The Old Zoo
Geezers Go Sport   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   The Old Zoo
Scar Tissue   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 45'   The Old Zoo
Hippocrite   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 45'   The Old Zoo
Browse More Classics in The Zoo

Featured Route For The Zoo
This gives you an idea of how steep the route is. ...

Monkey in the Middle 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c  KY : Red River Gorge : ... : The Old Zoo
Start off on the steeply overhanging (35 degree) line of jugs and pockets, cranking through relatively powerful moves on great holds. after a few bolts, the angle lessens and decent rests can be found. Though there aren't any ledges, there are a couple places where good body positioning will be rewarded with taking nearly all your weight off the forearms, which will undoubtedly be pretty pumped unless you climb 5.13. Efficient climbing, good footwork, and the ability to find rests are the secret...[more]   Browse More Classics in KY

Local Information for The Zoo
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Upcoming Events
Oct 9Rocktoberfest oct 9-11
Photos of The Zoo Slideshow Add Photo
Leah in the arch at The Zoo.
Leah in the arch at The Zoo.
Apparently the "felled tree bridge" ment...
BETA PHOTO: Apparently the "felled tree bridge" ment...

Comments on The Zoo Add Comment
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By Tony B
From: Around Boulder, CO
Feb 10, 2007
The Zoo was a late developing sport crag at Red River, perhaps as it is not as obvious from the road, but with a moderate approach to the dozen or so low to mid-range sport climbs, 10's and 11's. It is a small wonder it is not a crowded destination. It is a perfect place for a small group of climbers at varying levels of ability to visit, particularly on a warmer day, since the crag is mostly shaded during the hot parts of the day, facing primarily East and North.

The climbing here is almost exclusively sport, but a few hard-looking cracks await ascents, and at least one ("Jailbird, 10d") has been climbed. Cracks on either side of "Chimp, 10b" look like they would go with only moderate difficulty, if even that, though it might be most prudent to clip the first bolt or two on "Chimp" to approach them.
At the far left and of the cliff, there are a few cracks and corners that give the appearance of offering harder lines if someone were to undertake the effort to clean and climb them.

The popular climbs here seem to be the warm up, "Put Me In the Zoo (9+)", The lower end routes "One Brick Shy (10c)" and "Chimp (10b)" and the moderately difficult routes "Geezers Go Sport (11b)" and "Monkey In the Middle (11b)."
"Scar Tissue (12a)" and "Hypocrite (12a)" both seem to get the best 'reviews' but I never saw anyone else get on them. Since both are short and not hard at the grade, perhaps they would make great projects for climbers more generally fit for the average grades at the cliff.

They sound more complex and difficult to follow than they really are. The approach might be about 10-15 minutes in all. Park as for Roadside and look back behind you, opposite of roadside for a trail. Follow it.
More specifically, Hike toward the stream from the south end of the parking lot and continue up the trail as it crosses the creek on stones, or from what I hear- now a fallen tree. Either way, you continue uphill for a few hundred yards to the right of this stream toward a rock band and eventually reach the base of a wall. Follow the wall left as it grows into a large amphitheatre, where all of the established routes are.
By Austin Harris
May 10, 2015
The fallen tree crossing is not there anymore. You can rock hop across the stream though. Shortly after crossing the stream, when you come to a fork in the trail go right up a very steep hill.
We almost stepped on a rattlesnake right in the middle of the trail under the steepest and biggest overhang of the cliff in the climbing area. It was hiding in the sandy area amongst some boulders.
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