Amusement Parks
National Parks
Route 66 Cities Beaches


Rush Creek Loop

Red River Gorge


rock shelter pic

Auxier Ridge Martins Fork Grays Arch Rush Creek Pinchemtight KoomerRidge ChimneyTopCreek ParchedCornCreek SwiftCampCreek
IndianStaircase Castle Arch Osborne Bend Raven Rock Red Byrd Arch Indian Creek Revenuers Ridge Copperas Falls
The Rush Creek Loop is a very entertaining four mile hike beginning and ending at the Grays Arch Parking Area. You'll be in forest the whole way so you can leave your sunglasses and broad brimmed hat in the car. The first and last segments are on level ridges with occasional views down into House Rock, Rush and West Chimney Top valleys. The second segment is a steep and very scenic descent down to Rush Creek. The third segment is the hike's toughest. It is a strenuous climb back up to Pinch Em Tight Ridge. There are beautiful rest stops at a rock shelter and along Rush Creek. You might need a third rest stop as you reach the top of Pinch Em Tight Ridge. This is a great Spring (for the wildflowers) and Fall (for the leaves) hike. If you do it June through September, bring at least two bottles of water and prepare for heat and humidity. descent through gap pic
rush ridge pic

Start off by walking along Tunnel Ridge Road for 100 feet. The trail turns into the woods. Three tenths of a mile in, you come to Pinch Em Tight Trail turning to the right. You bear left on Rush Ridge Trail. This is an old horse and wagon route. The ridge continues on past the Rough Trail intersection and back in the 1800s there was a gradual descent down to the Rush Valley, where a few homesteads existed. When the loggers moved in, they used this route to haul timber from up here on the Tunnel Ridge Plateau down to the railroad, which ran along the river.

You'll notice sand beneath your feet here. Remember this whole area was long ago underwater. To your left, you can catch occasional glimpses of Grays Arch, and frequent glimpses down into House Rock Creek Valley. To your right you can catch occasional glimpses of Rush Creek Valley.

Notice these are mostly pine trees on top of the ridge. They do much better in dry, sandy conditions. As you drop down off the ridge, suddenly the pines will give way to deciduous trees.

Notice the small lizards scurrying across the trail, up and down the trees, and rustling the leaves. These are Fence Lizards and Five Lined Skinks. They live on insects, spiders, worms and other inverterbrates. The Fence Lizards are the Kentucky version of the Texas Horned Frog.

After a mile you'll come to the intersection with Rough Trail #221. Left would take you to Grays Arch. But you're turning right.

As soon as you drop off the ridge, the trail turns sharply to your right and r into a huge rock shelter. This is one of the finest rock shelters in the Gorge and archeologists have found evidence of four eras of Native Americans : the Archaic, the Woodland, the Adena and the Shawnee. Excavation of the soil under these shelters has unearthed arrowheads, pottery shards, beads, animal bones (some charred from cooking the meat on them), and rocks chipped into knives, needles and spoons. Radiocarbon dating places the Archaics at about 2000-8000 B.C., the Woodlands at about 2000 B.C. to the time of Christ, the Adena from the time of Christ to about 1000 A.D. and the Shawnee from about 1000 A.D. to the coming of Thomas Walker, Daniel Boone and John Filson in 1750. Notice this multilevel shelter could have housed an extended family or several families who were close friends.

From the shelter, the trail drops down through a narrow rocky gap and descends through a spectacular ravine. Be careful. The rocks here are usually wet and slippery and many hikers have fallen and been injured. As long as you take your time and watch your step you'll be fine. But be quiet and pause often to look up at the caves in the cliffs above you. Several Wildcats live here, and of all the places in the Gorge, there have been more Wildcat sightings here than anywhere else. Remember they're not going to make any noise. They won't scream and you won't hear them moving. You will have to spot them looking down on you from their ledges. But they're very curious, and very wary, and they will definitely be watching you.

rock shelter pic
pic of ascent

If you're into photography, plan your trip so you have enough time. You need to keep stopping and eyeing possible photo ops. There are ledges and rock shelters, high cliffs, trees tilting askew, ferns and fungi and mosses, and large squarish boulders often angled to one direction or another.

At the bottom, there's a large clear area with several fire rings and evidence hundreds of hikers have stopped here for lunch and some have camped for the night (never mind that's illegal; camping should be out of sight of the trail). There's also a maze of false trails going every direction as hikers and campers looked for firewood and refilled their water bottles. To stay on the correct trail, cross the stream immediately where the trail comes down, turn right, follow the stream, and as you approach the clear area look for the trail heading steeply up hill to the left.

This is a scenic segment if you can enjoy it instead of gasping for breath and letting your heart rate slow down. There's a rock shelter and a really nice box canyon.

You may have to rest for a while at the Rough Trail (#221) - Pinch Em Tight Trail intersection. But from there on, you've got an easy hike back to your car. Pinch Em Tight Trail is an old wagon road which men used to haul out the trees they were cutting down 1880-1920. Prior to that, this was a horse trail used by early settlers. The name came from a narrow gap out at the end of the ridge. People using the gap to get from one valley to the other had to turn sideways to squeeze through the narrow cleft. Anyone with a pot belly or love handles had to "pinch em tight" to get through.

The trail crosses a 60 ft. long swath of sandstone and in some cases actual sand deposits, reminding you that the Gorge was once under water. 4/10 of a mile brings you to Buck Trail, a connector trail running over to Koomer Ridge and Chimney Top Road. From that junction, you continue on a level trail until you come to the Rush Ridge Trail merging from the right,. You have now completed the circle. From here it's three tenths of a mile to the road, where you turn right and walk 100 yards to your car.

pic of rest stop on Pinch Em Tight Ridge or sandstone swath.
Like Us On Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OutpostUSA/) To Receive Daily Outdoor Adventure News and Notes And To Comment
This Year's Unique Visitor Tally : 1,003,492 Contact us at Omlordw@aol.com Meet our writers at Staff