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Sand Gap Loop is a 9.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Slade, Kentucky that features a great forest setting and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible year-round.

Distance: 9.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1,295 feet Route Type: Loop

hiking

forest

views

bugs

no dogs

Our most challenging trail, Sand Gap requires 4-6 hours to complete. There are no shortcuts once youve started, so allow adequate time to make this trip before dark. Sand Gap Trail begins near the upper end of the Balanced Rock Trail about 500 feet from the top of Natural Bridge. For the next 3.5 miles, Sand Gap follows an old logging road and is easy to moderate walking along the ridgetop. The first section of this trail is a part of the Sheltowee National Recreation Trail. At approximately 1.5 miles from the beginning, Sand Gap Trail makes a sharp right turn and the Sheltowee Trace Trail splits off of the Sand Gap Trail and heads south. Here you will turn right continuing on the Sand Gap trail which heads northeast. About 3.5 miles from the beginning, the trail descends steeply into Lower Hood Branch. It will level out in the vicinity of a bog, then turn right across a bridge and begin to meander below the cliffs through rhododendron thickets. At about 6.5 miles, the trail descends to a bridge over the Lower Hood Branch. From here, the trail climbs up the side of the valley for about .25 mile following a skid road built by loggers in the 19th century. As you climb this section, watch carefully for the sharp left turn where the trail leaves this old road. From here, youll wind around a couple of ridges then follow a fairly level grade for about 1.5 miles to the Hood Branch Trail. You will take a left onto the Hoods Branch Trail and walk downhill for approximately .25 mile which leads to the sky lift and miniature golf parking area. Elevation change of 450 feet.

hiking
over grown
13 days ago

This trail is really fun. START at Hoods Branch!!! It’s way easier that way, because you can get the hilly, rocky part out of the way first and then the rest of the trail is just a chill cruise through the woods. I had some trouble finding my way back once I got to the Natural Bridge area, but the hike itself is definitely worth the day.

hiking
over grown
21 days ago

Great trail! Some overgrown on parts but not horrible. Counter clockwise is definitely easier.

hiking
3 months ago

I came over to NBSP after a sudden shutdown of the adjacent National Forest due to COVID. I did the loop counterclockwise-climbing on Sand Gap. An interesting trail that follows old lumbering skid grades before finally climbing into a pleasant ridge walk. Pretty typical Appalachian forest walking till you hit Natural Bridge. Didn’t see another soul till Natural Bridge, then it seemed like the whole world was out. I added an out and back to the overlook on Laurel Ridge, then descended via the Rock Garden Trail-which was crowded-but showcased a lot of the interesting sandstone formations typical of the Red River Gorge. Hike this after you have spent some time in the Daniel Boone National Forest-hopefully it will be open :-)

hiking
muddy
rocky
3 months ago

I absolutely love this combination in Natural Bridge State Park. Parking in the skylift parking lot, and making the loop is perfect. The bogg is muddy, but the foliage is beautiful. Making your way to the end of the sand Gap, and headed twords natural bridge the path narrows. It turns into a nice mix of sand and evergreen/spruce trees. This is just a beautiful area. Using the rock garden to get back to the skylift parking lot is great. Will for sure do this combination of trails again.

3 months ago

I went up the natural bridge original trail. I was lucky it was a pretty cool day there were no people on the trail. my entire time at the park I saw zero people, complete solitude. the sand Gap trail was full of a lot of leaves from winter and fall so it was hard to see the trail. Some of the markers were hard to spot, and in one area it took me awhile to find my way. This was before I discovered this app. It was honestly one of the coolest experiences of my life, I'm not sure if it was because of the solitude. I'm debating going again next Thursday and it's a 2.5 hour drive for me. Enjoy it!

hiking
4 months ago

If you want a long long hike this is the one. Not much Along the way to take pics of. We parked at natural Bridge by the gift shop. This hike will Bring you out down by the chairlift. It is a few more miles back to the lodge so allow extra time & miles. It is well marked and easy to follow.

hiking
icy
4 months ago

Beware of falling Ice after freeze! Do not take rock garden back if there is ice present!

hiking
blowdown
bridge out
icy
muddy
rocky
snow
washed out
4 months ago

Trail is long and strenuous but definately worth checking out. The views from natural bridge and the rock garden trail are amazing. Went on a warm day in winter and ice sickles were falling from the canyon which made for a cool experience.

hiking
muddy
6 months ago

hiking
blowdown
over grown
washed out
8 months ago

Decent trail away from heavy traffic... but pretty unmanaged. Fun either way!

hiking
over grown
rocky
10 months ago

hiking
bugs
10 months ago

Beautiful trail with amazing rhododendrons and mountain laurel. Fair amount of downed trees that just made it fun to navigate. The trail head initiates near the putt putt golf but the only signage is for the hood’s branch trail. You have to climb a bit to reach the marked Sand gap trail to the right (counter-clockwise) We hiked to the natural bridge and took the chair lift down to our car. Great plan that took us a little under 4 hours for the 7.5 miles (chairlift was really great too) $10 one way A few lessons: long pants would have been helpful for the poison ivy and ticks and yellow jacket attack. Also thinking high ankle hiking boots might’ve been advisable for snake protection.

hiking
blowdown
bugs
muddy
over grown
Sun Jun 02 2019

Lots and lots of trees down and boy it was tough in spots (but I’m overweight not very active and a smoker) but was definitely an adventure! Flys and gnats where horrible! Wash mostly shaded throughout which was nice! Definitely will do it again completed ours in 4 hours and 30 mins ended up being 10 miles total with a slight detour!

hiking
Tue May 14 2019

My wife and I are in our mid to late 50s. We are both in good health and are physically fit. We enjoyed the hike. We thought the trail was easy and would have liked something a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, there are some beautiful woods along the trail.

hiking
Mon Apr 15 2019

great day

hiking
Sun Mar 24 2019

I would give this trail a Difficult rating. The portion that uses Rock Garden trail from the parking lot to Natural Bridge is easy. The portion going along the ridgeline isn't challenging but you need to pay attention to where you're going. Sometimes it's marked well and other times its not. Now when you're on the portion of Sand Gap between the ridgeline and the trailhead (Northern bit on the map with a bunch of turns), it is essential that you pay attention to where you are going. The map they provide at Natural Bridge is misleading and you are constantly going up and down slope, in and out of drainages. This part is also not as clearly marked as it should be. This App and my compass were essential in navigating this portion. This all being said, I LOVED this trail. Its a hell of a challenge but so worth it and its downright beautiful. If you're feeling adventurous and have plenty of water, give it a shot!

hiking
Mon Sep 03 2018

Not exactly picturesque, but a nice easy trail. Some spots trees falling made it a little easy to lose the path, but nothing alarming.

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