Big South Fork, Kentucky is home to the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Big South Fork National River, and some of the most scenic and uncharted rock climbing opportunities in the state. The river basin itself is littered with massive boulders some 50' tall, offering tons of bouldering opportunities. The particular area of Big South Fork that is charted is called Blue Heron. Outlying is an historic preserved mining town, the sounds of coal trains and dynamite have all dissipated, leaving you the whispers of the beavers, wild turkeys, and blue herons that still roam the territory. That is unless you’ve brought your iPod along for the climb.
Legends of disappearing trees and occult activity are said to haunt Clack Mountain, or maybe they are just stories that the climbers have made up to keep the boulders to themselves. Either way, Clack Mountain offers some terrific bouldering opportunities and slabs that will test you and help you to define your greatness. Clack Mountain is primarily known for a bluegrass music festival that takes place there every summer. The most populous city near Clack Mountain is Morehead, home to Cave Run Lake and some of the best scenery at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Karst topography defines the climbing at Dismal Rock in Kentucky. Many karst regions display distinctive surface features with caves and sinkholes being the most common. While standing on the Nolin River Dam, one can look south and see the sandstone wall that has come to be known as Dismal Rock. Reaching up to 200 feet, the farther down river you go, the more difficult the climbs will be. This is federal land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers (Nolin Dam). Currently, there are no problems to access for climbing. The top of the cliff including the walk in on the cliff side (opposite the Park) is privately owned. Climbers may not park in the upper park, cross the road and walk in on the cliff-side of the rock. Instead, park in the upper lot and hike around the spillway to the other side of the river.
Settled about 5 miles east of the heart of an historic community, scattered with remnants of the Revolutionary War, a quiet 150 foot wall of stories is waiting to be told. Dawson’s Bluff, also known as Hunter’s Bluff is a small climbing area with routes ranging from 30 feet to 150 feet. Although small in comparison to other crags, this location boasts some of the most famous cracks in the Midwest and arguably in the United States. Neighbored by the Keene Wildlife area and loaded with amazing views of protected flora, fauna, and animals, the sandstone rock itself is sure to mesmerize you. This privately and state owned crag and is still being developed for all types of climbing and bouldering. As always please be mindful of this and clean up after yourself.
In my opinion, the best and most diverse climbing within proximity of the Midwest. This a large, beautiful area nested in and around the Daniel Boone National Forest with thousands of acres of sandstone and over 2,600 established routes - lot of sport and trad routes.
The Red River Gorge Rock Climbs guide is a must have for climbers heading to east Kentucky:
Camp at Miguel's Pizza for $2 per person per day (and most amazing pizza on the planet) or our favorite Lago Linda Hideaway well worth the $5 per person per day. Both have showers and other amenities.
The GPS Coordinates are to Miguel's Pizza. Once there, you can get trail guides and there are a lot fellow climbers to point you towards where you want to go.
Warren County, Kentucky is a dry, backwoods county seated upon Native American villages and burial mounds. The land in this area is predominantly flat, so the striking boulders and climbs that are hidden among the farmlands and along the Gasper River are considered treasures to locals and sightseers alike. This is a fun area to explore as all of the climbs are dispersed quite a bit apart and the majority of the land is privately owned. Be careful, watch for no trespassing signs and if there is ever a doubt, you can contact the Kentucky Rock & Sports Trust, Inc. (KRST) and they will have the latest information. The climbs are short, pumpy, and mostly overhanging on limestone and sandstone. There are several cracks, but most of the rock is edgy or pocketed. This is not a huge climbing area, but it is worth mentioning for those who like to explore uncharted territory.