Follow the Bourbon Trail to Red River Gorge

Drink and climb in Kentucky

Mar 11, 2012
Outside Magazine

The Sell: Road bike to whiskey distilleries and climb sandstone sport routes at Red River Gorge.
The Grit:
In the late 1700s, Kentucky farmers shipped whiskey, converted from their excess corn and grains, in Bourbon County-stamped oak barrels down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. The long journey let the distinct flavor of the barrels set and Bourbon was born. Road bike The Kentucky Bourbon Trail to learn more about America’s sweetheart spirit—and get a buzz. Begin with Jim Beam Distillery and explore the rackhouse filled with 20,000 barrels, topped off with a tasting of two of its ultra premium bourbons. Twenty-five miles to the southeast, you'll reach the Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown, and Heaven Hill Distilleries. Be prepared to bask in a three-hour, appointment-only tour, including barrel filling, dumping, warehousing, and bottling operations. Drink more premium bourbon and return to Bardstown where you'll hole up for the night. Day two, pedal 23 miles to Kentucky’s countryside and Maker’s Mark Distillery, before a 46-mile hard push to the northeast to the 102-year-old Four Roses Distillery. Wind up with Wild Turkey Distillery’s 101-proof Wild Turkey Bourbon, and Woodford Reserve Distillery, Kentucky’s oldest and smallest bourbon maker. Dry out at the Red River Gorge, a canyon system that’s home to more than 1,800 traditional and sport climbing routes. Warm up on Military Wall, a crag that's home to a multitude of 5.9 to 5.12 trad and sport routes, and then tackle the iconic 5.11b endurance route, Fuzzy Undercling. The sport route’s crux is near the bottom and, after you pass that, it’s nothing but easy-to-grab jugs to the top. Refuel at Miguel’s Pizza & Rock Climbing Shop, where the Portuguese owner, Miguel Ventura, supplies hot slices, climbing gear, and camping space ($2 per person, climbers only) to chalk-covered transients.
The Verdict:
Just go, but figure out whether it’s best to climb first or last on your own.

Filed To: Kentucky