From a climbing standpoint, you can define the Bluegrass state with that one word.
From Morehead, through the Red River Gorge and the Rockcastle River watershed on down into Tennessee via the Big South Fork (of the Cumberland River) out to the coalfields of Western Kentucky, the dominant exposed rock is sandstone.
By far, the best quality rock overall is in the Red River Gorge. That's not to say that the rest of the state is choss, just that the greatest concentration of quality developed climbing happens to be there.
If you're not climbing sandstone in Kentucky you need your head examined. There really isn't anything else to climb except some unconsolidated limestone. The geology of Kentucky could almost be called boring. But it really isn't.
The Eastern end of the state is all Cumberland Plaeteau. What most people, locals and visitors alike, call "mountains" are actually the topmost edge of a vast plateau. The exposed cliffs and valleys are a result of aeons of erosion down into that plateau. If you don't believe me look at the horizons. Flat. There are no peaks, no high chains of summits dividing the landscape. Oh, there's local relief, but the scale is small.
The scenery is distincly different from that of the Blue Ridge, the Smokies and other chains along the Appalachians. Different in relief, but similar in ecology and climate.
Western Kentucky is unique in it's own way. It's the same general type of rock, but different consistencies and arrangements.
Most climbing in the state is easily accessible from major highways. I-75 funnels most visitors to the Mountain Parkway and then on to the Red River Gorge.
The Big South Fork is a little further off 75 and parallels it at a distance.
Western Kentucky access varies, but doesn't suffer as much from the crazy gravel backroads of the Eastern end of the state.
Climbing Season For the All Locations area.
Weather station 7.7 miles from here
1,645 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',231],['3 Stars',713],['2 Stars',513],['1 Star',144],['Bomb',5]
Classic Climbing Routes in Kentucky
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Kentucky
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Kentucky:
Featured Route For Kentucky
B3 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
: Red River Gorge
: Long Wall
A hard climb with some interesting gear. While I have seen this described as a handcrack in some versions of guides, I beg to differ. It is more a series of pods and flares with some crack between, and even then not really such a size so as to be called a handcrack.Locate the pair of climbs, Perforator and B3. Perhaps 5 meters left of Perforator, boulder/climb some pockets up and at the bottom of a crack (5.10, PG13) and get some gear ASAP. Climb the "crack system" with interesting jams and ho...[more] Browse More Classics in Kentucky
Latest Regional Forum Messages
From: Piqua, OH
Jan 19, 2015
Hey. Need a TRAD partner. Inexperienced and looking to learn more! Always a good time at the RRG. Let me know if interested, thanks.
By Rob Montgomery
From: Lexington, Ky
Oct 10, 2016
Hey Aaron, quite new (really new) to climbing but always up for new things. Shout my way sometime and we'll figure it out. Rob Montgomery~
By Josh Pearlman
Feb 13, 2017
My lady and I will be cruising through KY and W VA on an upcoming trip. We plan to stop and do some clippy clippy and Red River and New River but have heard stories of amazing limestone caves in the area, or within a few hours.
I'm an experienced big wall climber and guide from Ca with some caving exp. I would love to be shown or told about one of your gems whilst not thrashing or pissing off the locals. I can even bring my 100m static 9mil cord and technical gear if needed. I'm not too interested in stairs or sidewalks, I like to get dirty.