Nearest to Slade, Kentucky, the Auxier Ridge Loop scoots along a high and narrow ridge for five miles while offering up killer views of Double Arch, Haystack Rock, Courthouse Rock, and Raven Rock among others. While this might not be the best trail for those with a fear of heights, for anyone that can surmount them, the payoff is a feast for the eyes that’s well worth it. The trail was crafted for hiking only, so if you want a loop trail to experience sans bikers and the like, this one is it. The trail is open all year long (you’ll really find solitude if you visit in the chillier days of winter) and is completely free to use, unless you want to camp. Along the trail you can expect to connect with Courthouse Rock Trail (#202) and Auxier Branch Trail (#203). If you need assistance, stop by the visitor center in Stanton, Kentucky on Sky Bridge Road.
What Makes It Great
There are basic services at the trailhead, but the last four miles of it are a gravely paradise of blood-rushing heights and awe inspiring views. While the hike can be completed relatively quickly if you’re on a mission, it’s so beautiful that most people end up spending extra time just lazing around, having picnics, and generally enjoying the scenery. From the clearings along the ridge, you’ll be able to take in spacious views of Haystack Rock and Courthouse Rock (the former will be off to the left and the latter will be on the right towards the end).
Speaking of Courthouse Rock, climbing it is totally possible, so climbing fanatics will be pleased. Since there aren’t too many hikes that are just as much fun for those looking to get vertical, this makes the Auxier Ridge Loop really special. Another great aspect of this trail is the ability to combine it with the Double Arch Trail to crank the distance up to nearly eight miles if you’re on the hunt for something a little more strenuous.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s a lovely little stream along most of it that provides babbling brook sounds in the background.
Oh, one more thing: there’s a certain part of the trail that consists of iron grate stairs if you’re looking to get to Courthouse Rock. Keep that in mind if you’ve got pups with sensitive paws.
Who is Going to Love It
Pretty much anyone who loves a good hike through nature (i.e., everyone) will enjoy this moderate day hike. If you want to spend the day outside getting air in your lungs and taking in beautiful views, you’ll be super pleased with this place. Lunch spots are numerous. Climbers will also love this trail because climbing on Courthouse Rock is allowed, which is a fun little scramble to undertake even though it definitely needs to be taken seriously.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get to the trailhead, head east on Mountain Parkway until you reach exit 33 for Slade. Get off there, turn left, then right onto KY-15 for just over three miles to Tunnel Road which will be on your left. Follow that for about three miles until you land at the Auxier Ridge parking area at the end of the road. Once you’re on the trail, stay on #204 (don’t make a left at Courthouse Rock Trail around the one mile mark).