Eagle Point Buttress Trail

Eagle Point Buttress, or as some call it – Eagles Nest Trail – is an iconic unofficial/unmarked trail in the Red River Gorge Clifty Wilderness. The Clifty Wilderness is a 12,646 acre area with many stream valleys, a dense hemlock forest, and ridges with amazing views. Odds are if you’ve done much hiking at the RRG, you’ve *probably* hiked, or at least driven through the Clifty Wilderness areas.

Anyway, before we get into this, I do want to add a disclaimer about this trail: The area of woods you traverse that leads from Osborne Bend Trail (an official/marked trail) out to the Eagle Point Buttress overlook is a place many hikers have become lost or even needed Search & Rescue. If you are very accustomed to hiking “off trail” in the Gorge, you may not have issues following the “unmarked” trail, but I would definitely not recommend attempting this trail if you are newer to hiking or not familiar with the Gorge. I would also 100% recommend securing a hard copy of a map (and know how to read it!) and consider downloading a GPS app such as “Gaia GPS” – (I actually recently learned that the local SAR team has utilized this app for rescues!). So yeah, that’s my spiel – take it or leave it!

Now lets get into the good stuff. This overlook is one of the best in the Red and if you hike this as a loop trail – combining Osborne Bend, EPB, and Douglas Trail, it is one of the best hikes out there, in my opinion! If you hike the loop, you’ll see arches, overlooks, caves, and a waterfall (although most of the time it is mostly just mist). The videos below only outline the route to this overlook from the Osborne Bend parking lot and then connecting back down to the Douglas Trail. Stay tuned for a #TrailTalk Douglas Trail video!

Anyway, you begin this trail by hiking the Osborne Bend Trail about 1.66 miles to the righthand side turnoff (and beginning) of the unofficial Eagle Point Buttress trail. This is where things get a little hairy. There have been *an amount* of deadfall along this trail every time I’ve hiked it. Be prepared to climb over and through some of these. There is also a point where the trail kind of forks – proceed “right” here, and you should be on the correct path. I’m a little hesitant to try and provide written directions here, because as I said before, this section of this trail can be hard to follow and easy to get off track. The trail continues to weave through the forest (it is faint, but if you look, there are signs of other hikers having passed through). Eventually, the trail will gradually bend upwards (nothing drastic, just a little bit of an upwards trend) and if you see a huge rhododendron bush ahead, you are in the right spot! The trail I’ve taken most recently pops out with the rhodo bush straight ahead and slightly to the left. If you move to the LEFT around the rhodo bush, you’ll pop out at a campsite heading to the overlook! If you stay on course instead of going left around the rhodo bush, there is another campsite.

Anyway, this overlook is PREMIUM. The Red River is directly below you and bending in a horseshoe shape. I have not camped out in this area yet, but it is on my bucket list. I would LOVE to see the stars reflected in the water below. This is a great place for lunch or snacks (and rehydrating – DRINK WATER!!) – and then you can continue on your way to connect to Douglas Trail.

You head left from the overlook along the ridge line until you reach the point where you turn right and head downhill with the cliff line to the right side. This part is a pretty crazy scramble the rest of the way down, but it isn’t exposed. The biggest challenge is just watching out for loose rocks when you are choosing your path. I feel like if you take things slow and aren’t afraid to do some crab walking or butt sliding, you’ll do perfectly fine! I feel like for the most part, people kinda just make their own paths here, but I usually tend to follow the cliff line with it to the right for most of the way down, but at some point I’ll start cutting to the left across tree roots and end up going between a group of big boulders with a rock shelter below. Then, I’ll curve back to the right and pick my way across the clearing and end up at the base of the Eagle Point Buttress “waterfall”. This space in the RRG is BREATHTAKING. It is like a scene out of a fantasy novel – huge boulders covered in moss, ferns everywhere, and then the waterfall. Even when it is just a mist, it is so majestic.

Anyway, you go past the waterfall, continue to follow the cliff line, and then you’ll see the trail going left and down. Follow that and then it will take you right and down to connect to Douglas Trail along the remnants of an old logging road. Once you connect to Douglas Trail (right next to the Red River), you can head to the right to follow the Douglas Trail along the river and back to the Osborne Bend Trail parking lot to round out the loop trail. Overall, it is about 4.5-5 miles round trip. It isn’t the longest loop, but definitely account for the type of trail when you are planning out your day, because the 4.5 mile hike takes longer than expected to complete because of how technical the trail is.

I want to mention that if you are using the Hinterlands book by Jerrell Goodpaster as part of your trail guide pack, he outlines this trail beginning at the Douglas Trail and connecting back to Osborne Bend Trail (so opposite of what I do here). Just something to keep in mind! I’ve never hiked this trail the opposite direction, so I can’t give much insight on that.

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