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Hood Branch Loop

Difficult
 4.6 (14) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Hood Branch is an incredible hike with a challenging climb to begin and stunning scenery.


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Map Key

4.0

Miles

6.4

KM

Point to Point

1,272' 388 m

High

783' 239 m

Low

635' 194 m

Up

614' 187 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

48%

Max Grade (26°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Natural Bridge State Resort Park regulations apply and this is also a state nature preserve. On weekends and holidays, the Rock Garden Trail West and the area around the arch can be congested with hikers.

Overview

The Hood Branch Loop has it all: stiff climbing, technical rock gardens, and nice flowy singletrack in a backwoods setting. It also takes you past the impressive Natural Bridge.

The Low Gap Trail and Rock Garden Trail West get high traffic, but the Hood Branch Trail is a nice change from the crowds of the state park.

Description

Begin at the Sky Lift Parking Lot. Tackle the beastly Low Gap Trail to gain Rock Garden Trail West. From Low Gap head right (south) toward Natural Bridge. Continue up through some insanely steep stairs (think Stairs of Cirith Ungol) that will make you think twice about returning the same way.

At the top of the rock steps the grade eases and you can settle into picking your line through rocks and roots along the edge of a cliff with a few smooth sections interspersed. You'll breathe a sigh of relief when you see the big arch ahead of you.

Look for the Hood Branch Trail just before being forced into a narrow passage (Fat Man's Misery). Hood Branch Trail is a nice quiet trail with some great views in wintertime of the surrounding cliffs. It winds back to the trailhead.

Flora & Fauna

All kinds of flora are visible along the trail. Watch out for copperheads and rattlesnakes. Bears have been spotted in the area and likely travel the further reaches of this trail and Sand Gap Trail.

Contacts

Shared By:

Chris Chaney

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 14 votes

#874

Overall
  4.6 from 14 votes
5 Star
71%
4 Star
21%
3 Star
7%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#6

in Kentucky

#874

Overall
25 Views Last Month
3,896 Since Jul 5, 2015
Difficult

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Photos

Sunrise from Natural Bridge
Jul 6, 2015 near Campton, KY
Natural Bridge
Jul 9, 2015 near Campton, KY
Walkway to Natural Bridge
Jul 9, 2015 near Campton, KY
View from Natural Bridge
May 10, 2018 near Campton, KY
Peering through the treetops from the riverbed.
Oct 28, 2020 near Campton, KY
View under Natural Bridge from Original Trail
Nov 24, 2017 near Campton, KY

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Check-Ins

Oct 16, 2021
Ryan McElroy
Jul 3, 2021
Stan To
May 17, 2021
Allison K
Start at campground up battleship trail then this loop back to bridge. Original trail back down 4mi
Jan 16, 2021
Justin Gillham
Really nice hike in the snow. Watch out for mud and slippery sections of the trail. 4mi — 3h 00m
Oct 2, 2020
Elinore Fancypants
4mi
Sep 27, 2020
Brant Schulz
Sep 12, 2020
Johanna Erbe