Trail: Natural Arch
Trailhead: Natural Arch
Distance: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 229 ft.
After a couple of strenuous hikes to Angel Falls Overlook and Honey Creek, the Twenty Week Hiking Challenge takes a big step back in difficulty this week, with an easy stroll to Natural Arch.
Located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Natural Arch is one of McCreary County’s most often visited natural areas. In fact, there are even campgrounds and day-use areas developed around the natural feature, which is the closest thing you’ll find to the Twin Arches in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.
The last two hikes of the Hiking Challenge were spectacular, among the best that this region has to offer. Honey Creek has been named as one of America’s Top 20 hiking trails, and the climb to Angel Falls Overlook is spectacular in its own right. But, combined, those two hikes led challenge participants along 11.3 miles of some of the toughest trails in the region, featuring a whopping 1,430 feet of elevation gain. So, the Hiking Challenge assumed everyone was ready for a break.
That’s where Natural Arch comes in. It’s an opportunity to visit a natural site that’s every bit as spectacular as anything you’ll find in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, but with an easy walk to get there.
From the parking lot at the Natural Arch Scenic Area, the hiking trail is officially a loop trail, though most of it is an out-and-back hike. It’s also mostly a paved walkway, which makes it a rarity: it’s perfect for young kids in strollers, though you won’t be able to actually approach the arch if you have a stroller en tow.
The paved portion of the trail passes by two scenic overlooks before reaching the base of the arch. At the base, the trail — which is actually Trail No. 510 — turns to dirt and climbs a set of steps before looping around the northwest end of the arch. At one point, Trail No. 508 (Buffalo Canyon) intersects with the trail. Continue on Trail No. 510 around the cliffline and you’ll return to the start of the loop, where the paved trail will return you to the trailhead.
Getting There: Take U.S. Hwy. 27 north into McCreary County and through Whitley City. Five miles beyond Whitley City, turn left onto Ky. Hwy. 927 (Day Ridge Road). Follow the signs for two miles.
Be Careful For: There are quite a few steps after the trail turns to dirt. Use caution with children.
Make It Better: After you return to your vehicle, continue west on Ky. Hwy. 927 (Day Ridge Road) to the next trailhead. This trailhead is for Panoramic View Trail (Trail No. 528). It’s an easy trail that takes hikers to the end of a ridge and a scenic overlook that awaits.
Remember To: Use the #20WeekHikingChallenge hashtag in your photos on social media, or email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the names of all members of your hiking party, in order to log your miles.
Don’t Forget: Obey the Leave No Trace ethic by “taking only memories, leaving only footprints.” If you pack it in, please pack it out!