First Time at the Gorge?

I originally made this video as a response to someone on TikTok who asked for hike recommendations as a first time visitor to the RRG, but I wanted to share on the Tread the Red website as well! I know how daunting planning a trip in a new area can be, and with SO MANY trails to pick from, I wanted to highlight a handful to check out.

1) Take a drive through the Nada Tunnel (pronounced “Nay-duh”) – I know, this isn’t a trail, but it is known as “The Gateway to the Gorge”, so it’s a must for a first timer to experience! This 900 ft long tunnel was made by blasting through solid sandstone, and used to function as a railroad tunnel.
2) Auxier Ridge Trail – This is an out-and-back trail (about 4.2 miles round trip) and features some of the best views of the RRG! The second half of this hike is exposed ridge-walks with iconic landmarks surrounding you (such as Haystack Rock, Ravens Rock, Double Arch across the way, and Courthouse Rock at the end). You can also combine other trails with Auxier Ridge Trail to make a longer loop or balloon loop!
3) Rock Bridge Trail – This is a 1.5 mile loop trail and features the iconic “Creation Falls” and “Rock Bridge”. Rock Bridge is the only sandstone arch that spans water along an official trail in the RRG! Despite some elevation change (hiking down on the way in and then back up on the way out), this trail is very popular among all age groups and kids and dogs will LOVE the sandy “beach” area next to the waterfall!
4) Grays Arch – The names of the trails in the official trail system are a little confusing, but just know you have to take Grays Arch Trail for 0.25 miles until its intersection with Rough Trail, and then you branch right/straight ahead and stay on Rough Trail until you take the prominent “side” trail to the underside of Grays Arch. If you hike in to see the arch and then turn around and hike back out, it is about 2.25 miles round trip. You can use Rough Trail and some others in the vicinity to make a decent length loop trail though! While this one can be a little difficult for some because of the elevation gain on the way back out, it is still a super popular spot that most people check out. Just make sure to pack enough water and snacks and hike at your own pace! The arch itself is HUGE, measuring 50 ft tall and 80 ft wide.
5) Skybridge Trail – This is a 0.68 mile loop trail and features Skybridge arch! This is an awesome arch that features cool views from the top and an impressive underside! My favorite is to save this hike for around sunset because the underside of the arch lights up with the setting sun rays! It is really magical. I would not rate this one as difficult by a long stretch, but it does have some metal stairs you have to tackle on the way in or way out. Just a heads up if you have a bigger dog (that you can’t just scoop up and carry) that dislikes them because they are the metal slat stairs and some dogs have problems climbing them with their paws!
6) Chimney Top Overlook Trail – This is a super short and more easily accessible overlook trail in the Gorge! It is only about 0.5 miles round trip (out-and-back) and at least half of that is paved. This overlook is PREMIUM. You can see Half Moon, Hanson’s Point, Pinch-em-Tight Gap + Revenuer’s Rock, Ravens Rock (it is way in the distance and I didn’t notice you could see it until I got new contacts – haha), and Cloud Splitter! Also, the Red River is winding down below you as well. This one is also easy to check out close to sunset. Just make sure you bring headlamps or flashlights if you think you’ll be there after dark!

I’m including a few “unmarked”/unofficial RRG trails to this list as well:
1) Copperas Falls Trail – This is about 3.52 miles round trip out-and-back trail and features the beautiful Copperas Falls. The trail pretty much winds back and forth following along Copperas Creek for the most part and ends at this waterfall. Even though this trail has gotten very popular, it still feels more secluded and “off the beaten path”.
2.) Hanson’s Point Trail – To reach Hanson’s Point, you have to hike Pinch-em-Tight until you turn left onto Rough Trail and then reach the side trail turn-off for Hanson’s Point before you make a hard left and begin descending downhill. Overall, out-and-back, it is about 5.5 miles. This trail is not super difficult and the views you get from Hanson’s Point are unmatched! You can get a new perspective of Chimney Top Overlook (straight across the way), and several of the other landmarks that you could also see from Chimney Top. If the trees aren’t too thick, you can usually see the gravel parking lot for the Sheltowee Trace Suspension Bridge below as well! This is also a very popular spot for backpackers because there are several large campsite areas along the way.

If you want more specific information on any of the trails listed, just check out my Trails of the Red section on my website! I also have them linked above as well. I also want to mention that you can always stop at the Gladie Visitor Center to pick up maps and chat with the folks there about the RRG official trail system!

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