One of the Best Hikes in the Red River Gorge: Hanson's Point

One of the Best Overlooks in the Red

The hike to Hanson's Point is stellar, and it ends with one of the best overlooks in Kentucky's Red River Gorge. I highly recommend this hike.

Directions to the trailhead

The Red River Gorge is located about an hour southeast from Lexington, Kentucky. The most common way to get to the Red River Gorge is to take the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway and get off at exit 33 at the tiny town of Slade. From there, take Route 15 east 3.5 miles. Next, take a left onto Tunnel Ridge Road. At .6 miles you should come to the Pinch-em Tight Parking Area, where you will park. Now you are in the right place to begin hiking to Hanson's Point.

The Hike

The hike to Hanson's Point starts on the Pinch-em Tight Trail. The Pinch-em Tight Trail is part of the Sheltowee Trace so do not be confused. The trailhead is on the right side as you enter the parking area, and if you exit the parking lot on this trail you will be heading north and on the right trail. You will be following white diamond and white turtle marks for 1.7 miles of fairly level and pleasant walking until the trail intersects with Rough Trail. At this intersection, turn left and continue about 400 feet to where the unmarked Hanson's Point trail exits straight from the Rough Trail, just before the Rough Trail drops down off of the left side of the ridge. Although the Hanson's Point Trail is unofficial and unmarked, it is easy to see if you keep your eyes open.

Due to a forest fire a few years ago, the trail was surrounded by fresh undergrowth and wild flowers when I hiked it. The trail is mostly level, soft, and in good condition. You will pass one or two campsites along the way, until you come to a large campsite. When you reach this obviously well used campsite, you have a choice. The main trail turns a bit right and continues east along the main ridge to Hanson's Point. If you have the time, I suggest you first take the other major trail that exits the campsite farther to the left. This trail goes a short distance out to overlooks above Pinch-em Tight Gap and provides some worthy additional views. You should not try to descend all the way into Pinch-em Tight Gap unless you are a skilled rock climber with a plan for getting back out.

After the appetizer of the Pinch-em Tight Gap overlooks, it is time for the main course. As you continue east on the main trail mentioned above, you will come to another campsite with an unnecessary side trail leading to a lesser overlook. Skip this side trail and continue onward. Soon the trail will become rock and the trees will thin, and then you will emerge to one of the finest views in the Red River Gorge. Surrounded by beauty, one can see Pinch-em Tight Gap, Cloud Spitter, Chimney Top, and Half Moon. Enjoy the vistas, and resist the temptation to be a moron who adds to the unfortunate carvings that vandals have left in the rock.

The Red River Gorge is an amazing place. If you are looking for a place to stay while hiking there, you should read this article. If you want to fuel up before or after your hike, then you should read this article. If you would like to know about the other fun activities that the Red River Gorge offers, then you should definitely read this article.

If you are looking for a guidebook to hiking in the Red River Gorge area, then I highly recommend Hinterlands, as well as Red River Gorge Trail Guide, both by Jerrell Goodpaster. They cover the unofficial and official trails of the Red River Gorge, respectively. These fine books are available at most local businesses in Slade and around the Red River Gorge, or they can be ordered online from www.lostbranch.com. The trail distances in this article were taken from these two books.

Published by Daniel Beck

I majored in English and wrote a thesis on Shakespeare. Somehow that led to guiding dog sledding, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting. I am an ISSA certified fitness trainer, and I have worked as a perso...  View profile