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How to climb and kayak the Red River Gorge: The Ultimate Guide

by Alex Hales

For most of our lives, we’ve known the Red River Gorge as a scenic, remote location. But once in a while, we get an opportunity to explore it—and explore it we do. You don’t have to go all the way to North Dakota to enjoy whitewater rafting or kayaking. 

The best climbing & kayaking red river gorge you can visit. It’s also a great place for those who want to explore another side of nature than that found in a typical National Park.

Where to Kayak and Climb in the Red River Gorge:

Kayaking and climbing are two different types of outdoor activities that the Red River Gorge has to offer. The main river in the gorge is a Class 1 whitewater river with few opportunities to engage in either activities. However, there are a few places where you can kayak and climb if you want to venture into the wilder areas of the gorge.

The Red River Gorge Canoe Trail

The Red River Gorge Canoe Trail is a 2.5-mile trail along the east side of the river from the Missouri River boat landing to the George Guess National Wild Uew near Moorcroft. The trail offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the Red River. 

The trail is well maintained and comfortably graded (4+ on the difficulty scale). The trail offers three different access points—the Missouri, George Guess, and Moorcroft—each with its own characteristics, including limitations, restrictions, and fees. 

Each access point offers a different experience. For example, the George Guess access point is known for wild, cold-water canoeing while the Moorcroft access point offers gentle, easy-moving canoes.

Remarkable Rock Canyons

The Remarkable Rock Canoe Trail is a 6-mile loop that runs along the south side of the Missouri River near Moorcroft, Missouri. The trail offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the Missouri River. 

One of the most amazing and unique aspects of the Remarkable Rock Canoe Trail is the Remarkable Rock Canoe Riffle. This is a large, concrete riffle that can hold up to a dozen people and is over 100 feet long. The Remarkable Rock Canoe Trail is well-trodden and easy to access, making it a popular choice for beginner and intermediate level kayakers. 

The Remarkable Rock Canoe Trail is also very long, so family and small group paddlers should consider it for their next adventure in the gorge.

Scenic Paddlesnake Riffle

The Paddlesnake Riffle is a scenic river that runs through the bottom of the gorge. The Paddlesnake Riffle is one of the most popular whitewater rafting and canoeing destinations in the country. The Paddlesnake Riffle is also home to some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the country in May. 

You can easily encounter wildlife along the Paddlesnake Riffle, including the critically endangered Paddlesnake Catfish. This is a species that only lives in the freshwater parts of the river system. 

The Paddlesnake Riffle is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the gorge, supporting a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial species. Wise-watchers will tell you that the best time to raft the Paddlesnake Riffle is in May, when the flowers are in bloom.

Great Outdoors for Family Photo ops

Climbing and kayaking in the Red River Gorge is a different type of adventure for families because you’re with the kids all the way. You can actually let them ride along on the paddleboard or sit in the canoe and explore on their own. 

The best time to go is in the hot, humid weather. On the off-season (late May through early October), the gorge is mostly dry and hot, so it’s perfect for a family getaway. During the summer, when the weather is humid and hot, the caves are particularly steamy, which makes for some very photogenic photos.

Where to Stay in the Red River Gorge:

The Red River Gorge is a very popular destination for families, and finding a cabin or a hotel that suits your family well can be difficult. Typically, there are a few different options for families. The first is the independent paddleboat rental at the Port of Moorcroft, which is about a three-hour drive from St. Louis. 

Another option is the Red’s Rest hotel, which is about a two-hour drive from St. Louis. This hotel is a little older and doesn’t have the charm of the older cabins, but it’s a good option if you’re on a budget. If you want to stay in a hotel, the Best Western Plus Port of Moorcroft is a good option.

How to kayak and climb in the Red River Gorge:

If you’re a beginner or you’re just feeling a little hesitant about getting in the water, there are a few requirements you should have in order to enjoy a kayak or a climbing adventure in the Red River Gorge. 

You should be able to swim or navigate to shore at all times when in the water, and you should be able to handle being in the water for a few minutes. Your gear should be able to support you for a few hours of swimming or hiking without too much weight coming on top of you, or you’re likely to get tired and frustrated. 

And finally, you should be able to adapt quickly to new situations and circumstances, which is especially important when you’re dealing with nature and the outdoors. If you can all of these things, then you’re ready to go!


The Red River Gorge is a beautiful place to visit. Whether you’re a paddler, a climber, a kayaker, or a diver, you’re sure to enjoy the beauty and serenity of this place. The best time to visit is in the hot, humid weather, and you should definitely go with your family members so you can enjoy the peaceful feel of the place together.


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