By Jeremy Patton
Chimney Top Overlook and Princess Arch are located in Red River Gorge Geologic Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Wolfe County, Kentucky.
Take Exit 33 off Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway in Slade then drive east on KY-15 for approximately 7 miles. Turn left onto KY-715. Drive about 2 miles then turn left onto Chimney Top Rock Road (gravel). Continue for about 3.5 miles to its terminus. Parking and an outhouse are available at the turn-around loop.
The trailheads for Chimney Top Overlook and Princess Arch are accessible from there, so I decided to write about them in a single article. They are short, easy and can be completed in a single day with time to spare.
Chimney Rock Trail #235 is a paved, quarter-mile stroll to a developed overlook that juts out over the gorge. Two crevasses divide the rocky prominence. You must cross a sketchy wooden plank to reach the overlook, which was nerve-racking when Russell Kersey and I visited on 1/7/17. The plank was covered in snow.
According to Russell, a young man died attemping to leap across the second crevasse below the overlook to the section known as the “chimney.” Similar fatalities have occurred throughout the gorge thanks to this sort of monkeying around.
The overlook is oriented west, so morning or midday are the best times to take photographs due to the blinding sun. There are several side paths that branch off from Chimney Rock Trail; they lead to rocky outcrops offering alternate views to the south, mainly of Half Moon Rock. They are not developed, so be cautious if you explore them.
The panorama from Chimney Rock Overlook includes sights such as Half Moon Rock (southeast), Pinch-Em Tight Gap (west) Hanson’s Point (southwest) and the Red River.
Princess Arch Trail #233 follows a ridge for half a mile, ending at a prominence northeast of Chimney Top Rock.
A monument near the trailhead memorializes a man who fell to his death from Princess Arch. The arch stands only 8 feet, but a fall from its northeast side plummets down a cliff of much greater height.
The dirt trail is easy, but more difficult than Chimney Rock Trail due to its longer length and ups and downs. It passes over Princess Arch, which can also be considered a natural bridge. A side path descends below the bridge then converges with the higher trail, forming a loop.
Take time to explore the cliffs in the vicinity where interesting geologic features abound. Watch closely as you walk along the lower path toward the end of the trail. A series of smaller arches reside there, known as Little Princess Arch. They remind me of Bear Rock Arch in Bell County.
A rocky outcrop is located at the end of the trail, that I call Princess Arch Overlook. Stand there and gaze at the Red River valley to the north, but be careful because the spot is undeveloped.
Princess Arch spans about 30 feet. Russell and I agreed that it was not the largest arch that we had seen, but something about it was endearing.
Added 1/9/17 – Updated 1/10/17