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Exploring Kentucky | Get Away to the Gorge

After a full day of outdoor activities, settle in at Cliffview Resort

By Katherine Tandy Brown

The Red River Gorge Zipline, located on the Cliffview Resort property, features five different lines.

AFTER being sequestered due to a global pandemic, perhaps it’s time to find a place to relax with your family and/or friends—or maybe even solo—that’s surrounded by nature and lots of fresh air. A place where you can breathe deeply and gaze at a blanket of stars while serenaded by crickets and frogs, away from any interruptive city lights. A place with plenty to keep you busy all day, comfy chairs for unwinding on a long porch, a cottage kitchen to cook your own food or within an easy drive of some down-to-earth vittles to enjoy on outdoor tables.

Sound good? All you have to do is hop onto Eastern Kentucky’s Mountain Parkway, and wend your way to Cliffview Resort. 

Built in 1999, Cliffview has three, put-up-your-feet-and-chill overnight options, all recently updated in an upscale, beautifully crafted, rustic design with free Wi-Fi, a complimentary continental breakfast, and lush, woodsy views. The 7,000-s.f. lodge can sleep up to a 62 people in its 16 rooms, including two suites, and features a wide, welcoming wraparound porch. Two luxury “mega-cabins” are both 5,700 s.f., one with 11 bedrooms and the other with 12, and each with a full kitchen and an entertainment room. Each also has its own fire pit. S’mores, anyone?

Once in-person meetings are back in style, up to 80 corporate meeting attendees can convene in the 1,595-square-foot conference center with a tech staff for setup. For larger groups, a 7,000-s.f. reception hall with a commercial kitchen can seat 250, with full-service catering available. Cliffview’s professional planning staff can set up all-inclusive corporate retreats, including food, lodging, A/V setup and teambuilding, plus on-site and off-site activities.

As for immersing in nature, this resort is purely location, location, location. Tucked into the Red River Gorge Geological Area in the 700,000-plus acre Daniel Boone National Forest, Cliffview has easy access to its sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls and natural bridges and  600-plus miles of hiking trails.

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The Red River Gorge Zipline is one minute away, on Cliffview’s property. With professionally guided two-to-three-hour tours, the zipline offers four canopy bridges and five different lines, including two side-by-side racing lines. Imagine speeding along 300 feet high, across the breathtaking vistas of the gorge and national forest. Nothing virtual here. This is the fun kind of zooming! Be sure to reserve your zip ahead of time.

“The Red,” as rock climbers fondly call the gorge, is one of the world’s top climbing destinations. Guided climbs are available for all levels of experience. And the area even offers “via ferrata”-style climbing, in which a climber is secured to a cable system while traversing a cliff face with the aid of iron hand and foot rungs. The style can feel more secure for less-experienced climbers.

You can establish big-time bragging rights on a guided boat tour, a kayak tour or standup paddleboard tour for four guests to 20, all underground in a 100-year-old flooded mine. Professional guides relate the cavern’s history, while recently stocked rainbow trout follow along (though these guys are not fishing material).

However, anglers will find plenty of water to drop in a hook. Cliffview has its own lake stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish, where swimmers can cool off as well. Gear is furnished but fisher-types must bring their own bait. And there are fishing pools galore along the Red River.

Only 30 minutes away, Clay City sports two public golf courses, a dragway and Furnace Mountain Zen Buddhist Center. Something for all tastes.

Though Cliffview has no food or drink available except for catered groups, a number of restaurants in the area can fill your belly nicely with everything from barbecue to burgers to pizza pies. A favorite in the gorge since 1986 is Miguel’s Pizza, the hub of rock climbing culture here. Miguel’s rustles up made-to-order, fresh-baked pizzas with ultra-friendly service for hungry visitors. These days, you can order by either phone or online, and they’ll deliver to your car or to an on-site picnic table.

The eclectic Red River Rockhouse specializes in burritos and hamburgers, all with sustainably and locally raised, ASH-free (antibiotic-, steroid- and hormone-free) meats and cheeses. All this plus superb pastries, intricately decorated cakes and Nutella chocolate brownies. Yum!

Should you have any pandemic concerns, a word from Joyce Belcher, executive director of Cliffside Resorts, should ease your mind. “While we are trying to operate with as much normalcy as possible, there are still necessary precautions we are taking for the health and safety of our guests,” she says. “Please know, we are following COVID-19 safe-at-work guidelines to provide a safe and healthy environment while you spend time with us.”

To find out more about Cliffview Resort and Red River Gorge Zipline in Campton, call  (888) 596-0525 or visit cliffviewresort.com.

What’s Open In and Around Cliffview Resort as of June 1

• Cliffview Resort and Red River Gorge Zipline

• Gorge Underground Kayaking

• Natural Bridge State Resort Park – Hemlock Lodge and nature trails

• Daniel Boone National Forest – hiking trails

• Most area restaurants, with social distancing.

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]