Hike the Indian Staircase Loop and Cloudsplitter

Kentucky Red River Gorge

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:


  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    10 Miles

Easy Parking
Food Nearby

The hike to Indian Staircase and then to Cloudsplitter is quite the adventure! Climb a staircase allegedly etched into stone by Native Americans years ago.If that's not enough, keep going and make your way to Cloudsplitter for a real thrill! Cloudsplitter is a definite adventure. You also backcountry camp in many areas along the trails as we did. We camped on the top of Indian Staircase and wow, did we have a view for the sunrise and set!

Starting at the Bison Way Trailhead #210. You'll take this until you come to the intersection of the Sheltowee Trace Trail #100. Go left. You're going to turn right on the unmarked trail just past the sign that says stay on trail. This is quite the incline. Keeping going until you get to the base of Indian Staircase. Make sure to use extreme caution in climbing this! You'll be able to see the etched stairs to go up. After the scramble up to the ridgeline, you'll see a magnificent overlook. You can follow the trail about another 6 miles or so to Cloudsplitter. This is going to intersect again with the Sheltowee Trace Trail. You'll know for sure by the white diamond markings on the trees. You'll eventually come to a giant carin on your right with a marked tree. Follow that up until you get to the base of Cloudsplitter. You'll see a couple ropes to use to climb up. You can also opt to climb up the side instead. Again, use caution. The is also a small cave that you can venture through leading to the "window". The views are awesome from the top! To get back to the Bison Way Trailhead, you'll have to continue following Sheltowee Trace Trail to the road and walk back to Bison Way. We recognized some hikers and hitched a ride back. This ends up being about a 10 mile hike so be prepared!

Be sure to reward yourself with pizza at the famous Miguel's pizza!!

If backcountry camping, be sure to stop at the Shell Station or the Gladie learning center to get a permit.

Pack List

•Daypack•lunch/snacks•at least 2-3 liters of water/person•good hiking boots/shoes•rope (just in case)•first aid kit•compass/map of the area (you can get one at the Shell Station at the Red River Gorge entrace)

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The Indian Staircase loop has long been one of my favorite hikes in The Gorge. There are also some really nice campsites in the area.

4 months ago
4 months ago

Three rockshelters can be found along this loop where archaeological digs have unearthed rock tools and cultivated seeds. At least one of these rockshelters are blocked off for restoration and protection of the White-haired Goldenrod, the only place in the world you can find this plant, so be careful when exploring! This hike is a very special and magical place. If you camp on top of Cloudsplitter under the right weather conditions you will be handsomely rewarded at sun rise!

11 months ago
11 months ago

Nice write up. the RRG offers many great adventures that take you beyond basic backpacking and/or hiking. The scenery offers spectacular views and photograph opps. I have been exploring the RRG and Clifty Wilderness areas off trail for the past 10 years and still have plenty off things to see. Look for a write up from me on the Star Gap Arch/Double Arch/Auxier ridge area soon. I will include GPS coordinates of many off trail "hidden gems" of the gorge. Thanks for the article

11 months ago
11 months ago

Very difficult, but super fun hike. The cave at Cloudsplitter is incredible. One of my favorite spots in the Gorge.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

I hiked this area a few years ago with my brother and father and it was honestly the most amazing adventure of my life, absolutely unforgettable. Topping the Indian Staircase just after sunrise and yelling into the box canyon below, an experience that just can't be beat. So many caves and creeks to explore and play in, a great hike for anyone. Everyone I met along the trail was amazing, such friendly people. 5/5 would do again!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Thanks for creating this! I've done this loop and it affords some of the best views in the gorge! I set up a hammock on top of Cloud Splitter for the night this fall.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Jen Kachinski

I absolutely love the outdoors and adventure. I just can't stop. I enjoy inspiring others to get outside and see the world differently. To see everything our Earth has to offer. It just may change one's life.

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