Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2017 - 22
The GOOD WALK
Natural Bridge Resort
State Park, Kentucky
This easy walk to the park's signature formation is expandable in many ways,
including walks by other formations and past the park's restaurant and lodge.
Text and photos by Leonard Adkins
It's the cheeps and chirps of a flock of finches in a feeder
box a few yards from my room that awaken me. The
bedside alarm won't go off for at least another hour, but
that's OK. The finches have given me an early start on
the day. Early enough to watch the grainy gray atmosphere of twilight retreat.
I'm staying in Hemlock Lodge at Natural Bridge Resort State Park, one of four original state parks that Kentucky opened in 1926. A hearty breakfast of eggs, freshly
baked biscuits and made-in-Kentucky sausage gets me
headed outdoors, ready to burn some calories.
The day's objective is the park's namesake rock formation, reached by one of the state's oldest continuously used pathways. Constructed by the Lexington and
Eastern Railroad a few years before the turn of the 20th
century, the Original Trail (once called Trail No. 1) is
wide and only .5 mile long, but gains several hundred
feet of elevation in that short distance. Several trail shelters (three of which were constructed by the Civilian
Conservation Corps in the 1930s) and an abundance of
lady slippers in the spring provide ample excuses to stop
and catch your breath if needed.
Fifteen minutes later I'm standing under the sandstone arch stretching 78 feet across and soaring 65 feet
above. As impressive as it is, a woman leans over and, in
almost a conspiratorial whisper, says, "I live in Virginia.
We have a natural bridge that has a river underneath
it, ya know. Technically, you have to have water run22 BlueRidgeCountry.com
ning under something before it can be called a bridge,
ya know." I'm not sure if she was just really proud of her
natural bridge or trying to disparage this one.
To get to the top I must squeeze through Fat Man's
Misery (surely a politically incorrect name in today's
world), a cleave whose rock walls are so close together
that two people cannot walk side by side. Another .1
mile, and it's a different world on top of the span, with
views extending far and wide. On one side is the valley created by the Middle Fork of Red River surrounded
by lush green ridgelines receding far to the north. The
Upper Middle Fork Valley dominates the view from the
I could easily turn around and retrace my steps to
the lodge, but thanks to the finches, I have many more
hours of daylight left to discover additional wonders.
From the span, I could follow the Balanced Rock Trail,
passing by its namesake formation as the .75 mile pathway descends 600 stairsteps. There is the option of taking the Rock Garden Trail whose 1.75 miles are relatively
flat, with the exception of three sets of steeply descending stairs carved in the rock. A third option would be
walking the .75-mile Battleship Rock Trail back to the
lodge and restaurant. All of these trails, and others, interconnect, so maybe I'll just walk all of them before
returning to the lodge for a dinner of Kentucky Hot
Brown and fried green tomatoes-and another chance
to wake up to cheeps and chirps tomorrow morning.