Pushing Your Boundaries at the Red River Gorge: Eagle’s Nest

Part 2: Eagle’s Nest

This is the second trail in my day of challenging hikes at the Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest in South Eastern Kentucky.  The Eagle’s Nest Trail is an unofficial trail that features a decent amount of rock scrambling.

The real challenge of this trail is in staying on the trail. There are many intersections and it is quite easy to get off trail. When I first hear of about trail it was from a co-worker who was telling me how he and his friends got so lost on their “short evening hike,” that they ended up spending the night in the woods, ran out of water and ran out of food.  I’m not quite sure how they got that lost, but needless to say, it is easy to get turned around, and if you go completely off trail, you can get seriously lost.

So please be careful and enjoy one of the wonderful unofficial gems of the Red River Gorge.

In case you missed it – Part 1: Indian Staircase – Please check it out!

Trail: Eagle’s Nest Loop

Trailhead: Sky Bridge Rd (715) – Road is frequently closed due to washout, check conditions on the gorge website. – 37.82036, -83.57501

Fees: No fee for day hiking; backcountry camping – $3/day; $5/3 day; $30/annual.

Miles: ~3.7 Miles depending on how much you get lost. (In my case 4.5 miles, Haha!)

Trail Notes: The trail can be completed in either direction but in my opinion it is best if hiked counterclockwise. GPS and a map are recommended.

Trail Map of Eagle's Nest trail in Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
Eagle’s Nest Trail Map

This is one of the prettier hikes that I have done in Red River Gorge and it is well worth the trail finding and rock scrambling challenges. You start off walking the main trail for ~0.2 miles before coming across some rather impressive rock features and an old cave. From here you head down towards the river and divert off the main trail. If you miss the turn, as the Girl and I did initially, you will hike along a cliff wall with several camp sites. This is the wrong way and you need to turn around. On our way back from our detour (I’m a firm believer of “you are never lost, you are just taking an alternative route”) we ran into a few other hikers that were off trail as well. At least we weren’t alone in this regard.

Expansive rock formation along the Eagle's Nest Trail, Red River Gorge
Expansive Rock Formation and Cave entrance.

From here you will follow along the river bank for approximately 0.5 miles.  The trail is often eroded from flooding and the going may be a bit difficult. This section is quite beautiful, take your time and take plenty of pictures.

Following the Red River along the Eagle's Nest Trail in Red River Gorge
The Red River – Looking fairly green today

After leaving the river’s bank you will start your climb up towards Eagle’s Nest. Along the way you will pass a tall water fall. This was a rather pretty section. On this particular morning the water had frozen at the base of the falls. The early morning light scattered on the ice and was a very pretty site to see. After spending a bit of time here we made our way up to the Eagle’s Nest.  This bit of trail involves a fair amount of rock scrambling. Some people may find this rather challenging. (If you have mobility issues or if you plan on hiking with small children, this may not be the trail for you.) You gradually make your way up following a water runoff until you find a large landing in the rock face.  Stay to the left here and you will come along a trail that will take you to the lookout.Be careful in this area, it is easy to slip and fall. Do not climb down into Eagle’s Nest. People have died here and it simply isn’t worth the risk.  Relax, take in the views and enjoy being out in nature.

Waterfall along the Eagle's Nest Trail
Waterfall with frozen water at the base – The Girl in the photo providing some scale.

Once you head out from here the trail heads through old pine forest along single and double wide trail. This section is not particularly note worthy other than the fact that there were many down trees and muddy areas that made hiking slow going and at times difficult.

Once you intersect with and head back on the Osbourne Bend Loop Trail the scenery starts to pick back up and the downed trees were no longer an issue. From here the hike was pretty easy and didn’t take long to get back to the trailhead.

Wooded section of the Osbourne Loop Trail as part of the Eagle's Nest Trail in the Red River Gorge

This was my first time on this hike. I can’t wait to go back and check this route out again.  In the future I would consider doing it as an out and back to avoid the downed trees and muddy areas but this would make for some difficult rock scrambling coming down hill. 

Have you completed the Eagle’s Nest? What was your experience like and let me know how you approached it? I love to hear from everyone.

As always, please be courteous to others out on the trails, take care of yourself, and if you can, take care of someone else.

Published by Natural Wanderer


2 thoughts on “Pushing Your Boundaries at the Red River Gorge: Eagle’s Nest

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