Looking to beat the summer heat in Red River Gorge? Follow HikingRRG to an awesome swimming hole! One of the best parts about hiking in Red River Gorge is the ability to pull those boots off and dip your feet in a nice cool creek. With so many trails/creeks to choose from it could get a little confusing as to which one to go to. We will break down a few of the top spots along with a couple of our personal favorites for wading/swimming in Red River Gorge.
A few questions to think about:
Do you really want to swim or are you just looking to wade?
Who is swimming? Kids/Adults/Both?
Would you rather be in a pool or a nice cool creek?
Do you prefer easy access or do you want less crowed and remote?
Free swimming vs paid for?
We will try to answer all of these questions in our recommended Red River Gorge swimming below.
Natural Bridge Pool
We will start off easy. While most of us at HikingRRG prefer the remote swimming spots, there are some of us (we won’t mention names) that would rather be at the pool. If you are like Landon, errrr, I mean, ok moving on… Natural Bridge State Park has a really nice swimming pool. The pool itself is located just below Hemlock Lodge and FREE to guests of the lodge. It has an amazing place for kids to play and offers a zero-depth entry so you don’t have climb up and down steps. Our boys absolutely love the pool and it gives momma bear a chance to work on her tan. The pool is reasonably priced at $5 per adult, $3 per child ages 3-12 and open from 11AM to 7PM.
Mill Creek Lake
So you’ve gotten your feet wet in the pool and you want to be a little more adventurous. Next stop, Mill Creek Lake. Well, actually, the little creek that runs beside the parking area. The creek is within a few steps from your car so no big 10 mile hike for you or the kiddos. Most kids love this area as it is shallow by the lake and offers small waterfalls. The upper end certainly isn’t deep enough to swim in but as you make your way downstream and towards the bridge you’ll find a larger waterfall with a small swimming hole. It can get a little crowded here but is still a fun place to take both the big and little kids.
Rock Bridge and Creation Falls
Time to go on a hike! Our trail guide, Mike, enjoys taking kids and adults of all skill levels on this short 1.5 mile loop. After about 1 mile of hiking you will reach Creation Falls. The water here is shallow and perfect to wade in. The smaller kids can swim a little here depending on rainfall. A few feet downstream you’ll find Rock Bridge. This is the only arch in Red River Gorge with water flowing under it. The water around Rock Bridge is a little deeper and can offer some swimming. After you finish your day in the water it is a short half mile hike back to your car. On hot summer days we don’t even bring a change of clothes as we are usually dry by the time we get back to the car. Oh and did we mention there are picnic tables and grills at the trailhead? After your short hike and swim you can grill hamburgers and hot dogs. Let one of our guides take you on a hike to Creation Falls.
40 foot waterfall! Do I have your attention yet? To be clear, you can’t really swim here. This is an awesome trail to hike in the summer though. In total it is almost 4 miles in and out on an unmarked trail that follows the creek. We find many hikers that are unable to locate the trailhead. Once on the trail it follows the creek up stream to end at Copperas Falls. The trail crosses over the creek multiple times so having water shoes is a must. Since it isn’t an official trail we would encourage anyone to seek out a guided hiking service like us or talk with someone that knows the area.
This little gem can get crowded on the weekends. Indian Creek Road is about 4-5 miles of gravel road that is loaded with several great swimming holes and about 30 or more campsites. Hello car camping! Bring that giant 12 man tent out of the closet and set it up in style. The campsites along Indian Creek are near the gravel road and allow for easy access to your vehicle. To park/camp here between 10PM and 6AM you must purchase a pass. You can pick these up at many local places and even J&H Lanmark for those city slickers in Lexington. As mentioned earlier, it can get a little crowded on holiday weekends especially, but there is still a good amount of room for everyone to spread out.
Want that cool Instagram video to impress the ladies? Welp, strap on a GoPro and go jump off that big rock like an ol’ manly man. As the name suggests, Jump Rock, is primarily a location where people go to swim and jump off of a rather large rock protruding from the Red River. The easiest way to access it is by parking in the Sheltowee Trace Suspension Bridge gravel parking lot off of KY 715. With it’s easy access, this spot too can become a little crowded. We certainly wouldn’t recommend small children attempt this feat. To be honest it really isn’t that safe to jump into any murky creek/river but hey if you have to be “that guy” then by all means go ahead.
Swift Camp Creek
Mike says we have to keep this one vague. What a party pooper! All for good reason though. This is our personal favorite swimming hole in Red River Gorge. Also the reason we mentioned it last in the list. Maybe you already got bored and stopped reading. FINGERS CROSSED!! Swift Camp Creek Trail #219 follows along Swift Camp Creek and is part of the Clifty Wilderness. The entire length of Swift Camp Creek trail is 7 miles and while marked can become difficult to navigate as it is part of a wilderness. That being said there are some additional restrictions due to it being a wilderness. One of those is the group size being limited to 10 people or less. Along this 7 mile stretch of solitude are several amazing spots to camp and swim. Some deep swimming holes and many shallow wading areas make this one of our favorite places to go in Red River Gorge. We highly recommend that you contact us to go on a guided hike through Swift Camp Creek Trail. Let us show you the secret spots in this remote location and beat the summer crowds.
Photo Credits: Thank you to Jessica Riddell, Becky Brewer and Sarah Benningfield for allowing us to use your picture(s).