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Natural Bridge State Park features a massive arch made of sandstone, 20 miles of hiking trails, lodges, and various other geological features that fans of the outdoors will surely appreciate. The park is located at 2135 Natural Bridge Road, Slade, KY 40376. / Image courtesy of Kentucky State Parks. / Published: 10.31.16

A Bridge, A Sphinx, & The Fat Man’s Squeeze Await You At This Kentucky Park

A small warning about Natural Bridge’s 20 miles of trails: not all of 'em are easy.

Situated next to the famous Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge State Resort Park is the Middle-Earth of state parks. In other words, it’s varied, gorgeous, and challenging to traverse.

Whether you’re winding around boulders, squeezing between enormous slabs of stone, or ascending vast rock formations, when you hike these trails, you’re gonna feel it.

With that in mind, let’s get into some of the attractions:

This natural sandstone arch towers 65 feet above the landscape and gives the park its name. Formed by natural weathering over the course of millions of years, the bridge is the park’s central attraction and the main feature of its original hiking trail, which formed more than a century ago. The view from the top of the bridge in autumn is one of the best views in the country.

Technically called “The Balanced Rock,” this unusual sandstone formation looks as if it’s an enormous rock balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff. In fact, it isn’t balanced at all. Rather, the rock is an example of a pedestal rock formation — a single piece of stone that has weathered such that its midsection is narrower than its base. But here’s the payoff: from a certain angle, the rock crudely resembles a Sphinx. So there’s that.

Descending the natural bridge, you can descend a narrow (and I mean narrow) rock formation that leads to the bottom of the arch. At its narrowest point, you’re gonna feel a pinch. But the descent is worth it because the view from directly below the arch is almost as spectacular as the panorama above.

Don’t let the name of the park fool you. There are as many trails that lead away from the enormous sandstone bridge. These range from moderate to difficult, and they’re fantastic if you’re seeking something a bit longer or less rigorous than the original trail.

You can rent a Natural Bridge cabin or delight in the mountainside beauty of Hemlock Lodge, one of Kentucky’s 17 state park lodges. The Hemlock Lodge rooms have private balconies and the lodge itself is open year-round. The lodge also has a restaurant you should definitely check out to replenish all those calories you burned hiking around the park.

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Want to know more about Natural Bridge State Resort Park? Check out its website.