By Jeremy Patton
Auxier Ridge Trail #204 is located in Red River Gorge Geologic Area, Powell County, Kentucky.
From Slade, drive east on the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway then take Exit #33. Head east on KY-15 for 3.2 miles then turn left onto Tunnel Ridge Road. Continue for about 3 miles until the road dead-ends at the Auxier Ridge parking area. Plenty of parking is available, along with a glorified outhouse.
Auxier Ridge Trail heads north on an up-and-down ridge for 2.1 miles then terminates near Courthouse Rock. From its terminus, you can join Courthouse Rock Trail #202 or Auxier Branch Trail #203; both meander through the wooded canyon below.
You can use these trails to make a loop back to the parking lot. Courthouse Rock Trail reconnects with Auxier Ridge Trail further south. Auxier Branch Trail connects to Double Arch Trail #201 across the canyon (a must-see). Following it south leads to the parking lot. A large part of it is gravel and not particularly exciting. A decent map with topography can be found at www.fs.usda.gov.
Auxier Ridge Trail gets spectacular after about 1.5 miles when it reaches a series of major rocky outcrops. These tree-less overlooks provide jaw-dropping views of prominent formations, including Raven Rock, Haystack Rock, Courthouse Rock and the distant Double Arch.
At about the midway point, the trail passes over a knife-edge ridge with sheer drops on either side. Think twice before bringing children or pets. It is not a place to goof off during rain or snow or while drunk.
Auxier Ridge Trail is easy, but the difficulty of your hike will increase dramatically if you descend into the canyon.
I have avoided Red River Gorge over the years because I like to hike in remote solitude. Russell Kersey convinced me to try it in the winter to skip the crowds. We still encountered quite a few people, but the experience was enjoyable. Thank you for introducing me to this area on New Years Day.