The last trail we embarked on was Hidden Arch (208) which neighbors the perfect family campground--Koomer Ridge. I can't believe it, but I vowed to come back this summer and camp there. The campsite offers plenty of camp pads that include a high hook for hanging food or wet clothes, a picnic table, and a pit fire. Public bathrooms are nearby, but the camping style is a little more rustic and private in nature, not the crowded communal camping I've eschewed across the state. A campsite can be reserved for $3 a night. But back to the trail--Hidden Arch was a mile from the trail head, but the loop was more like three. Much of the trail was along a secluded footpath where the silence was deafening. We didn't see any other hikers on the trail the entire time, which made the children feel like real explorers and engaged their imagination. There was a beautiful arch, plenty of rock caves and formations to climb on, gorgeous views and vegetation.
If your family plans on a trip to the Gorge, keep a couple things in mind: there are very few maps of the trails in Slade, KY, so stop at the Shell Station and pick up their complimentary trail map, and bring your own beer or wine, the forest floor may be wet, but the neighboring counties are bone dry. I highly recommend 5 Star Cabin rental, but there are other cabin rental companies nearby, as well as a lodge at Natural Bridge and plenty of camp sites. There are a few family activities such as a Souvenir Shop, Miguels Pizza, and a Reptile Zoo, but the main attraction is the forest--this isn't Gatlinburg; it's pristine, quiet, simple, and with it being a couple hours away--it is the perfect fall getaway for the family (or from the family, you choose).
Photos: Southern Living and Megan Seckman