Natural Bridge Resort State Park - Camping

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Summary

Natural Bridge State Resort Park camping is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts in the heart of the lushly forested Eastern Kentucky mountains, with 87 campsites and ample hiking, plus its iconic Natural Bridge rock arch.

Written by

Jacqui Levy

Distance

22.0 miles

Natural Bridge Park has approximately 22 miles of trails, ranging from half a mile to 7½ miles in length.

Destination Distance From Downtown

46.2 miles

Difficulty

1 of 5 diamonds

The campground is paved and right off the main highway, with restrooms, showers, hook-ups, and dump stations, and the lodge and cottages have full amenities.

Time To Complete

2 days

Seasonality

All Seasons

The park, lodge, and cottages are open year-round for visitors. Camping is available from March 31 through November 15. Come in the spring and summer to see the lush green vegetation and wildflowers, and in the fall to experience the brilliant autumn colors. Winter is colder but with minimal snow, and trails are still open and passable.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Dogs are permitted in the lodge, cottages, and campground, but not on the trails (except for the Henson Arch and Whittleton trails).

Fees Permits

Yes

There are no fees to enter the park or to park for a hike. Hemlock Lodge rooms (35 total) are $75-$85 a night, sleep two people, and are equipped with a TV and private balcony. Cottages, which sleep four and cost $115-$130 a night, each have a fully stocked kitchen, screened-in porch with a grill, and private bathroom. Campground fees range from $15 for tent campsites to up to $37 for an RV site with full hook-ups.

Topographical Map

Campground Map

Review

Intro

Natural Bridge State Resort Park is in the heart of the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and a landscape that so enchanted legendary American pioneer Daniel Boone that he moved his family to the area. Today’s visitors can follow in his footsteps and hike in the lush, deep forests and through craggy ravines and waterfalls. Trek or take the skylift to the Natural Bridge rock arch, a giant towering arch in the sky that overlooks forested ridges, sandstone bluffs, and deep valleys. And you can make it an overnight adventure with a stay in one of 87 campsites with utilities in two campgrounds, Whittleton and Middlefork, or, for a little more comfort, at the mountainside Hemlock Lodge, which has 35 rooms.

What Makes It Great

Located in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest, Natural Bridge State Resort Park is a nature and outdoor lover’s paradise. The park is most famous for the Natural Bridge Rock Arch, spanning 78 feet across the forest floor and some 65 feet high, a striking natural landmark believed to be more than a million years old. Hike a half mile up the mountainside from Hemlock Lodge to visit this spectacular arch, trekking through deep forests with abundant ferns and native birds. Climb on top of the arch for a view across the gorge at the sandstone cliff bands rising out of the forested ridgelines, and then head about a half mile north to a point called Lover’s Leap. As you look back, you’ll see a view of the spectacular Natural Bridge silhouetted in the sandstone cliffs. Not into hiking but still want to see the landscape? You can still soak up views of the park and the Natural Bridge from the Sky Lift gondola, open April through October.

The park is also adjacent to the popular Red River Geological Area, whose famous sandstone walls are popular with climbers. And for the newbies, Torrent Falls offers guided rock climbing and rappelling adventures, no climbing experience required.

After a full day of exploring, set up camp underneath the forest canopy, or stay in the mountainside Hemlock Lodge and soak up the wilderness from your private balcony. The lodge pool, between the lake and the cliffs just below the lodge, is ideal for a dip in the summer. In addition to hiking, you can also rent canoes or kayaks and paddle around the lake. For a real Appalachian experience, head to Hoedown Island for the Natural Bridge Hoedowns, featuring Appalachian square dancing with a longtime dance caller. The nearby peaceful Mill Creek Lake is a local fishing spot and has an abundance of bluegill, bass, sunfish, trout, and catfish.

Who is Going to Love It

Camping at Natural Bridge State Resort Park is perfect for the nature-lover of all experience levels. You can spend time exploring the outdoors without the hassles of backcountry camping, but advanced hikers will still find miles of steep, challenging terrain. Bird watchers, meanwhile, will appreciate the abundance of migratory and local birds on the trails around the park. This area is also great for families with children old enough to delight in the experience of a natural setting, and guided rock climbing tours, hikes to rock formations, or an afternoon of canoeing will keep adventure-loving types happy before a night under the stars.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The lodge is located at 2135 Natural Bridge Road in Slade. From Lexington, travel east on I-64 to the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway. Take exit 33, turning right/south on Kentucky 11. The park is two miles from the parkway, with the entrance on the right.

Check in at the lodge for a room or cottage reservation, but make reservations for the lodge, cottages, or campground online two days ahead of time. The pool is free to lodge guests, and $5 per adult, $3 per child.

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Location

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

37.777203, -83.680689

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