Carter Caves State Resort Park is known for its geology. The Three Bridges Trail highlights some of the best bridges the area has to offer. As frequent visitors to the Red River Gorge area, we may be a little jaded when it comes to bridges and arches. Even so, we found this trail to have some spectacular features.
This trail is a loop and can be started directly from the campground, the Welcome Center, or the Lodge. As campers, we like being able to leave for a hike without having to drive anywhere. We hiked the trail in the clockwise direction. This had us heading downhill for the steepest sections and made our final climb more gradual. Those with bad knees may prefer the opposite direction. The official length of the trail is 3.5 miles, but our GPS clocked us at just under 4.
From the campground, the trail dropped to just above the Welcome Center and then follows the main road out of the park. While the trail is very pretty in this area, the noise from the traffic is rather distracting.
The first of the bridges pops up about a mile into the hike. Fern Bridge at first seems like another rock shelter. It is only when one gets closer that the full expanse of the bridge become apparent.
About halfway between Fern Bridge and Raven Bridge, the trail finally diverges from the park road and the woods begin to feel a bit more secluded.
Raven Bridge is visible from the Three Bridges Trail, but a quick .1 mile detour took us around the top to gain another perspective.
From Raven Bridge, the trail descends to Smoky Valley Lake. The spring buds already obscured the view of the lake, but I imagine the winter views along this section would be rewarding. Soon the trail passes by the lodge. Crowds along this section picked up a bit. But the Smoky Bridge was certainly the most spectacular of the rock formations.
The final half mile of the trail was a gradual climb back up to the campground. This was a perfect sample of some of the geology of the region.
We were also fortunately enough to do this hike in April and the spring ephemeral wildflowers were in full bloom! This was an excellent wildflower trail.