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Red River Gorge



With its central location in Kentucky and its huge volume of routes, the Red River Gorge is one of the most popular climbing meccas east of the Mississippi. Spread out through a wide expanse of national forest land and privately-owned acreage, the Red's sandstone cliffs offer a lifetime of climbing opportunities at all levels.

As with many remote areas, climbing has been going on in the Red River Gorge since before people bothered to record any of their exploits. Proto-climbers were probably scrambling up Chimney Top Rock and the Caver's Route at Tower Rock in the 50s and 60s. The 70s saw some of the earliest documented route development by climbers like Tom and Ellen Seibert, Larry Day and Frank Becker, who also produced the area's first published guidebook. Other early pioneers included Tom Souders, Jeff Koenig, John Bronaugh and Martin Hackworth.

While the 70s and 80s saw increasing climber traffic, it was in the early 90s that a revolution of sorts hit the Red. Sport climbing took off in a big way with the arrival of Porter Jarrard, who began bolting overhanging walls that had previously been regarded as unclimbable. Other route developers followed suit, including Jeff Moll, Chris Snyder and Charles Tabor, among others.

As climbing grew, so did the potential for access issues, with strained relationships between climbers and the forest service or the oil companies that have drilling rights in the southern sections of the gorge. In large part as a response to new forest service land management plans, the Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition was formed. The efforts of this grassroots organization have been highly fruitful, most notably with the purchase in 2004 of the huge Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP) and the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP) purchased in 2012.

When people think of climbing in the Red, sport is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Crags like the Motherlode and the Dark Side are known for their ferocious bolted lines. World-class sport leaders gravitate to the Red to try their hand at testpieces like Thanatopsis (5.14b) or The Legend (5.13b). But hard overhanging sport lines are not all there is; Graining Fork Nature Preserve (a.k.a. Roadside Crag) and many of Muir Valley's crags have a plentiful assortment of routes for the 5.11-and-under leader.

Though it's best known as a sport destination, the Red actually has almost as many trad lines to be led. Fortress Wall, Pebble Beach and Tower Rock are primarily trad destinations, while others like Roadside have a mix of trad and sport. Some classic gear lines include Roadside Attraction (5.7), Bedtime for Bonzo (5.6) and Rock Wars (5.10a). As with sport, there’s something for trad leaders at all levels, though be warned -- the grades on many trad lines are "old school."

No discussion of Red River Gorge would be complete without mentioning Miguel's Pizza. Founded in the mid-80s by Miguel Ventura, Miguel's isn’t just a restaurant, it's the epicenter of climbing culture for the Red. When locals give you directions to a crag, chances are they'll be telling you how to get there from Miguel's. Many climbers take advantage of the cheap camping on Miguel's grounds, and after a day of climbing, the restaurant is usually packed with climbers enjoying great pizza and other nourishments. Miguel's also serves as a climbers' store, carrying a wide selection of ropes, shoes, harnesses and other gear.

As noted above, climbing in the Red River Gorge is spread out over a large geographical area. For purposes of organization on Mountain Project, most crags are listed here on the main page. The three exceptions to this are the large privately-owned areas, Muir Valley, Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP) and Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP); crags in these areas are listed in their respective subdivisions.

The prime seasons for climbing at the Red are spring and fall. High humidity and temperatures make for miserable rock conditions in the summertime, but that doesn't stop some climbers. Winter, aside from being frigid, has the added disadvantage of Miguel's being closed for the off-season.

Getting There

From Lexington, Kentucky take I-64 east about 15 miles to the exit for the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, just past the second Winchester exit. Follow the parkway for 33 miles to the KY 11 exit (exit 33). Miguel's Pizza, the unofficial headquarters for climbing at the Red, is about two miles south on KY 11. Continue south for crags in the southern region, or north on KY 11 for northern region crags.


There are currently four excellent guidebooks available for the Red River Gorge, each covering different crags and regions of this enormous climbing destination:

Best of the Red – Sport Climbing Crags of the Red River Gorge (2017 Edition) by Brendan Leader. $30.00 ISBN:9780994278456
Covers a huge selection of the best crags in the north, south and Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP).

Red River Gorge North – Volume 1 (2015 5th Edition) by Ray Ellington and Dustin Stephens. $28.00 ISBN:1938393201
Covers the crags north of the Mountain Parkway.

Red River Gorge South – Volume 2 (2017 5th Edition) by Ray Ellington and Blake Bowling. $33.00 ISBN:1938393279
Covers the crags south of the Mountain Parkway excluding Miller Fork.

Miller Fork Climbing (2015 Edition) by Ray Ellington. $39.95 ISBN:9780692471128
Covers Miller Fork though due to being published when the MFRP first opened, this edition is not particularly up to date.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Observed on the road to Miguel's...
[Hide Photo] Observed on the road to Miguel's...
Corbin Sandstone of the Red River Gorge
[Hide Photo] Corbin Sandstone of the Red River Gorge
Misty sunrise in the Southern region of the Red River Gorge.
[Hide Photo] Misty sunrise in the Southern region of the Red River Gorge.
Red River Gorge sunrise.
[Hide Photo] Red River Gorge sunrise.
Ahhh, a sight for sore muscles and an empty stomach...
[Hide Photo] Ahhh, a sight for sore muscles and an empty stomach...
Miguels at night with brake lights zooming past...
[Hide Photo] Miguels at night with brake lights zooming past...
Auxier Ridge
[Hide Photo] Auxier Ridge
Joe taking a rest on "A Wave New World" @ PMRP - Drive By Crag
[Hide Photo] Joe taking a rest on "A Wave New World" @ PMRP - Drive By Crag
Panoramic image of Miguel's Pizza on a nice, chilly morning (mail me for full size)
[Hide Photo] Panoramic image of Miguel's Pizza on a nice, chilly morning (mail me for full size)
Climbing up Plate Tectonics -
[Hide Photo] Climbing up Plate Tectonics -
Steep, pocketed jug haul abound...
[Hide Photo] Steep, pocketed jug haul abound...
you might think it's a tunnel but it's <br>
Nada Tunnel...
[Hide Photo] you might think it's a tunnel but it's Nada Tunnel...

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Chris Chaney
Stanton, Kentucky
[Hide Comment] For directions to individual areas and climbs there is a great online guide at:… or an excellent printed guide written by Ray Ellington called "The Red River Gorge." Sep 29, 2006
[Hide Comment] Red River Outdoors burnt down on Tuesday April 24th, 2007. Please everyone send your best thoughts their way. The owners and employees are all unhurt, however, they did lose their dog. Please note this if you are heading to the Red. Apr 25, 2007
Nick Stayner
Wymont Kingdom
[Hide Comment] I second Chris Chaney's endorsement of
Pretty amazing route database! Dec 10, 2007
Luke Stefurak
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] I am going to start adding the southern region to It will be a slow process but there are so many amazing routes there and is a great database that deserves to be updated. For complete route info for the RRG use the links to Ray Ellington's online guide. Dec 21, 2007
South Lake Tahoe, CA
[Hide Comment] If you plan on camping at Miguels in the spring check the weather cause if it is gonna rain you might wake up swimming. definitely get the high ground!! May 9, 2009
Jeff Welch
Denver, CO
[Hide Comment] Not sure I like the way regions and areas are organized here. The guidebook,, (ie, every resource I've seen for the RRG except this one) is organized by the traditional method. Yes, it is confusing at times, but this method is confusing at ALL times if you don't have a topographic map. In my experience, most climbers are much more likely to have a guidebook than a topo map for cragging areas, so organizing by the traditional method that the guidebook uses would make way more sense. Jun 23, 2009
Decatur, GA
[Hide Comment] I agree with Jeff's concerns about the layout of the RRG here, so I've done some major reorganization. If you have comments, let me know. Nov 2, 2009
Jeff Welch
Denver, CO
[Hide Comment] Thanks sax! Big improvement for sure.
I still think it should just follow the guidebook method (Gray's Branch, Upper, Middle and Lower Gorge, etc) but this works fine too. Nov 2, 2009
[Hide Comment] Any suggestions on where to camp in February when Miguel's is closed? Feb 4, 2010
Jeff Welch
Denver, CO
[Hide Comment] I believe you can still camp at Miguel's during the winter, but there's no water, bathrooms, or trash disposal. Fortunately, the rest area is not far away and has all those things. Don't quote me on that though. Feb 9, 2010
[Hide Comment] Thanks for the reply Jeff.
Just to let others know, I just got back from winter camping at RRG and I ended up staying at the Koomer Ridge campground. It had washrooms, a well with running water, trash disposal, and was $7/night for the site. I recommend this to others camping in the off season. Feb 21, 2010
[Hide Comment] hello

was on the route " bleed like me" at the vol. wall, me and my girl friend both had trouble with it we dont know if we were on the right route. both rrg guides said it came in at 12b and was 65 ft, the route we were on the crux started at 65 ft or so it seemed??? if any body can shed some light on this first set of bolts just right of the huge cave. it was day 6 on so my pereption of the climb is probably skewed.

thanx Apr 4, 2010
Ben Cassedy
Denver, CO
[Hide Comment] There is a wealth of primitive camping in RRG. You can camp just about anywhere in forest service land for about $3 or 4 a night. The problem is that even that stuff is going to be packed on Memorial Day weekend.

You can drive up Chimney top road, auxier ridge, basically wherever, and you will find primitive spots in the pull-offs right by the road. There is a large site between Left Flank and Military; it will probably be taken. Same deal with stuff near Funk Rock. There are hike-in backcountry sites, but those are generally a pain in the ass if you're climbing and if you don't know what you're looking for.

I would shoot for either Miguels or Lago Linda's. I don't remember either of those places being more crowded than usual last year. Of course, they were still packed, but no more than usual... May 3, 2010
[Hide Comment] What's up with the flooding and road closures this week. Which crags are inaccessible? I've been trying to figure it out and the best I can see is… May 5, 2010
Sandwich, NH
[Hide Comment] I just did my first trip to RRG this past week, what an amazing place. A couple things I would suggest are, a stick-clip, eating at Miguels as much as possible, drinking as much ale-8 as your can, and train for endurance. RRG is an amazing destination! Jun 11, 2010
Josh Cox
Andover, MN
[Hide Comment] In the Spring... how early does it get "good"? as in dry? I'm looking at the first full week of April. Of course, weather is unpredictable, but in general would this be a good time or should I try and push it back into May? Thanks. Dec 28, 2012
Michaela Peisger 1
Westchester, New York
[Hide Comment] Climbed at Curbside yesterday. There is a big hornet nest in the sand below a big rock next to the climb wild fire. We got away with a couple of stings thanks to the help of a great couple from Las Vegas but could have gone totally wrong. The nest is hard to see because it is in the sand. Aug 30, 2014
[Hide Comment] Did I miss a page,or has nobody decided to reveal the new Miller Fork area here at MP site, to hopefully include basic info on routes, access, location, parking, etc. ? Seems fair to share the info online sometime. Mar 3, 2015
[Hide Comment] ^^ You can find information about Miller Fork here: Mar 6, 2015
[Hide Comment] Does anyone have beta about getting a shuttle from the Louisville or Cinci airports?

Or can you rent a car at one of those airports and then drop it in town nearby the Red?

I'm going to be meeting a buddy but need one way transportation.
Aug 19, 2015
Jeremy C
Golden, CO
[Hide Comment] If you opt to camp out behind Miguels and are over the age of 28 you'll probably want to distance yourself from the restaurant as much as possible. theres a pretty heavy party scene that went on until about 4 am on a tuesday when I visited. None of the staff will do anything to silence people. I'd recommend staying at another campsite if youre the kind of person that just wants to get up and go climbing the next morning. But if you came to Kentucky to get trashed behind a pizza place in the middle of the woods and play uno super loudly for hours on end, this is the place for you. Oct 18, 2015
David Tennant
Denver, CO
[Hide Comment] Area/first time recommendations thread:

MP Thread 1 Dec 16, 2015
[Hide Comment] Anyone know any good areas to climb at when it is raining out? It can be trad or sport up to 5.12+. Dec 23, 2015
[Hide Comment] ^^^
Start with this -… Dec 25, 2015
[Hide Comment] I will be traveling to the red in April and would like to purchase the guidebooks. I picked up the North guidebook, but cant find the South guidebook anywhere online. This is the version I am looking for:…

Does anyone know of another guidebook I can use for the south area or where I can purchase the ellington book?


Brian Dec 9, 2016
[Hide Comment] In response to Brian Lockard's question:… Dec 10, 2016
Aaron Fensterheim
Rockville MD
[Hide Comment] Does anyone know if camping is still allowed at Miguels even in winter( December?) Dec 18, 2016
Cole T
Cincinnati, OH
[Hide Comment] Yes you can still camp at miguels in the winter, best time to, just make sure you still pay online Dec 21, 2016
[Hide Comment] On Saturday, June 10th, the annual Rebolt The Red day will be taking place at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.
We will be replacing bolts at the following walls and visitors should be prepared for potential closures of classic routes in order to make them safer for everyone in the community.
· Drive By
· Bob Marley
· Military Wall
· The Solar Collector/Dark Side
· Beer Trailer
· Wall of Denial
If you wish to help out with the annual project:
· Donate to the FGI at:
· Report Bad Bolts and donate to:
· Follow FGI on Facebook:…
If you would like to join the event, please register at:…
Or just show up at The Red River Rockhouse at 8am on Saturday, June 10th. We always need climbers to set up fixed ropes and move supplies. Jun 5, 2017
[Hide Comment] On October 6,7 and 8 the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition will be holding their annual fundraiser Rocktoberfest at The Land of the Arches camp ground. Please come out and join us for Water Balloon slinging, Gear deals by sponsors, food trucks, beer trucks, BD sponsored Climbing competitions and MORE!

Please visit here for more info.

Here to signup up


here to volunteer! Sep 6, 2017
Caleb Spradlin
Asheville, NC
[Hide Comment] For those looking for a great rest day cafe with faster wifi, the Art Factory Coffee Shop located in downtown Beattyville is a sweet spot with cheap coffee/food (Coffee for 1.75 and Grilled Cheese and soup for $5). Super friendly staff and a chill place to camp out for a bit! Nov 8, 2017
[Hide Comment] Hey!
Does anyone know free camping spots for a truck with a slide-in-camper in the RRG?
Thanks! Jul 30, 2018
[Hide Comment] Howdy, thinking about flying in for a weekend. Necessary to rent a car to get around to the different areas? Sep 16, 2018
Callum Mayer
Canberra, Australian Capita…
[Hide Comment] Hey! I'm hoping to climb in red River Gorge in early November, around the 3rd to the 9th. However, I'm from Australia and am light on gear as I'm back packing, so don't have a car, rope or quick draws!

Hoping to find a partner to send with, happy to share petrol money etc! I climb 5.12, hoping to push my grade to 5.13-! Been climbing for a decade, and I bring the stoke for climbing. Happy to also climb easier grades for mileage if that's what you want to work :)

If you're interested in climbing together, text me on (+1) 510 484 1456. Oct 21, 2018
Abishek Kadur
Champaign, IL
[Hide Comment] Planning a trip to the Red this weekend, was wondering if anybody had any information if/what campgrounds are open. Dec 27, 2018