Torrent Falls, KY
By Mary Reed, photos by Attila Horvath
So you want to be a rock climber but have no skills and no gear? No problem. At Torrent Falls, North America’s first via ferrata – an Italian import, it’s pseudo mountaineering, where you are always connected to a safety cable and often climb on iron rungs drilled into the stone – you can rock the lifestyle of a climber, even if only for a day.
Torrent Falls is a natural sandstone, horseshoe-shaped amphitheater near the Red River Gorge area of the Daniel Boone National Forest. With the help of a French team, the owners outfitted the area starting in 2001 with 3,400 feet of cable, a 70-foot swinging bridge plus a 40-foot “bird wire” 75 feet off the deck where you can walk, man-on-wire (but with safety cable!) style.
“It’s good for all ages and abilities. There’s something here for everybody,” says guide James Neukam, who has seen his share of Boy Scouts. The course, which can reach 100 feet high, has six sections, and you can tackle the whole thing at once (plan to allot two to four hours) or enter and exit sections individually throughout the day. This is a good thing, says James, because only about 25 percent make it through the harder final sections. “Four, five and six challenge you a bit physically as well as mentally,” he says.
Open March through November, Torrent Falls also offers guided rock climbing (sport routes in the 5.7 to 5.9 range) and rappelling. It’s open to ages 10 and up. If you have the time, combine this with other outdoor offerings – hiking, backpacking, paddling – in the nearby Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Park areas.
Where it’s at: Two hours from Cincinnati or Louisville; from I-64/I-75 in Lexington, KY, take the Mountain Parkway (exit 98) 33 miles to KY-11 (exit 33) and travel south 9 miles, Torrent Falls will be on the right
Contact: torrentfalls.com or (606) 668-6613
Digs: Red River Outdoors has cabins (and paintball) right next door, redriveroutdoors.com or (859) 230-3567
Grub: Try the pies at Eagle’s Nest Café (formerly Eagle Ridge), a couple of miles away on Eagle Ridge Road, (606) 668-6634
Gear and outfitting: Miguel’s Pizza, north on KY-11, sells a few items, mostly for rock climbing (606) 663-1975; True North Outfitters provides gear, guide services and even has a hostel ($14 a night), www.truenorthoutfitters.com or (606) 668-3745
Cost: $32/adult, some discounts available