This Unique Adventure Puts You Below The Earth To See A New Side Of Red River Gorge

The Red River Gorge, located in a remote part of east-central Kentucky in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, is a dream destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. The 29,000-acre geological area is known for its unique rock formations, like overhangs and arches resulting from millions of years of erosion. For generations, the Red River Gorge remained one of Kentucky's best-kept secrets, beloved by locals and frequented by outdoor enthusiasts in search of wilderness and natural beauty.

In the past few decades, it's become recognized internationally as one of the top destinations for beginner and experienced climbers. Visitors can relax in gorgeous rustic cabins or gravity-defying treehouses before heading out to hike more than 67 trails within the preserve.

Red River Gorge is quickly growing in popularity, and with the influx of visitors, an exciting array of adventure tourism and outdoor recreation outfitters are setting up shop. One of the most fascinating new experiences is offered by The Gorge Underground and its partners, SUP Kentucky. The unique tour allows travelers to venture deep under the Earth's surface into an expansive retired mine flooded with water, where you can take guided tours on group boats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.

Journey underground for an unforgettable experience

Beneath the stunning scenery of the Red River Gorge lies a hidden underground world carved into the limestone. One hundred years ago, the site was a limestone mine that has since flooded due to an underground spring. Inside the cave, the temperature remains about 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Hence, the tours can operate year-round, rain or shine. All the different tour options are considered suitable for beginners as there are no harsh currents within the cave, and an experienced guide trained in water safety will always be present. All tours last 1 – 1.5 hours, and you must arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled departure.

As you paddle through the crystal clear water, you'll have the opportunity to spot fish like Rainbow Trout. Bats are often perched along the rocky walls. Along the way, a knowledgeable guide will teach you about local history and highlight unique points of interest like quartz crystals and an underground waterfall. The tour company provides all the equipment you'll need, including headlamps, helmets, paddles, and floatation devices. It's a good idea to pack a few extra layers, as it can get chilly in the cave, and wear moisture-wicking clothing that dries quickly, as you may get a little damp. Make reservations in advance because tours are limited and can be booked quickly. You can book your tour online through the Gorge Underground website.

Planning your adventure

There are a variety of tour options available to suit every type of traveler. The Cave Boat Tour is an excellent choice for large groups or families with small children. Anyone over the age of three can participate, and you won't have to do any paddling. The tour can accommodate up to 20 people, lasts about an hour, and costs $50 per adult and $25 per child.

Kayak tours are available for groups of up to 12 people and are suitable for children five and up. For kids who don't have paddling experience, a tandem kayak is recommended. Kayaking costs $55 per person for the hour-long tour and the company offers a reduced rate of $30 for young children in the double kayak. 

The newest tour option features clear kayaks and stand-up paddle boards that allow you to see incredible water views. These deluxe "glow in the dark" tours last 30 minutes longer and feature cool LED-colored lights. Prices start at $75 per person over the age of nine and $55 per child riding with an adult. For each tour option, expect to pay around $10 more per person for weekend bookings.

The Red River Gorge is an hour from Lexington, Kentucky, and two hours from Cincinnati, Ohio. Both cities have airports with domestic and international flights, but the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is larger with more options. The Red River Gorge has unique private rentals, campsites for tents and RVs, and hotels and lodges with rooms starting at around $75 per night.