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Reviews > Books > Trail Guides > Hinterlands Unofficial Red River Gorge > Owner Review by Shawn Chambers

Unofficial Hiking in Kentucky's Red River Gorge
October 16, 2014


NAME: Shawn Chambers
EMAIL: sound_foundation AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 43
LOCATION: Lexington, Kentucky, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 177 lb (80.30 kg)

Backpacking Background: I love Appalachian hikes and being in the woods. My preference is for a hike that leads to a stellar view. Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina are my usual stomping grounds. I am a mid-weight kind of guy, but increasingly find myself enjoying longer, multi-day hikes and I am conscious about shedding some pack weight, but in a fiscally responsible way. I also climb and prefer clothing that can pull double duty.

Book Information

Author: Jerrell Goodpaster
Publisher: Lost Branch Productions
Publication Year: 2008
Edition: Second
Publisher's Website:
MSRP: US $22.95
Measured Size: 8.75" x 6" x 1" (22.2 cm x 15.2cm x 2.5cm)
Measured Weight: 1 lb 3.3 oz (0.55 kg)
Other details: Softcover, 336 pages, no ISBN listed

Between the Covers

Jerrell Goodpaster's trail book covers the hidden gems that are off the beaten path. This hefty volume contains directions and descriptions to over 100 trails representing a broad cross-section of the type of hiking found in the Red River Gorge. The book is broken down into easy to digest sections. The front material explains basic criteria for why certain trails were chosen with others left out, how to read the maps and charts, and it provides some general history related to hiking in the Red River Gorge.

The meat lies in the middle where each trail is covered alphabetically by name. Every trail listing includes an elevation chart, GPS coordinates for the trailhead and key places along the trail, and a great description of things to look for --or things to look out for! In addition, Goodpaster includes his own subjective ratings (explained in the front material) for trail quality and difficulty. Many listings also feature black and white photos of sights a hiker will encounter on that trail.

The final portion of the book is dedicated to maps and a full index. In addition, Goodpaster has provided convenient tables of all trails listed alphabetically, by length, by quality, and by difficulty.

The Good

I was thrilled to finally learn of this book after hearing tales of people on Half Moon, Indian Staircase, and Cloud Splitter -- places not on the "official" trail maps. Hinterlands makes finding these unofficial trails a snap. Goodpaster's descriptions of the trails are easy to follow with or without a GPS. His writing style is breezy and light with many humorous comments and quite a bit of self-deprecating humor. It is easy for me to imagine him hiking these trails and his writing style quickly made me feel as if he were an old hiking buddy. The book's organization allows me to find my favorite trails easily and also lets me plan a trip at a moment's notice based on time or my co-hikers' capabilities. I can tailor a hike based on mileage and/or difficulty easily.

View from Castle Arch Trail

The Bad

Don't judge a book by its cover!
There is not much I don't like about the book. One complaint is Goodpaster's use of Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates. Topo maps for the area are standard Latitude / Longitude and I find the constant conversion to the more conventional GPS coordinates burdensome. I was surprised to see UTM in a book that covers such a narrow geographical region.

The casual style and extraneous information is great when I am planning a hike from the comfort of my couch. However, when I am on the trail in a downpour and trying to figure out where the next trail junction is by his description it is sometimes difficult to pull the details from the narrative. I've learned to highlight certain bits of key information in the description in order to avoid wading through a long paragraph hunting for what I need.

The Ugly

The ugly? Just my trail-worn copy! It has been drenched at Pepe's Point, scuffed at Indian Staircase, and dropped down the side trail of Star Gap Arch, but the binding is still good and it has lots of miles left in it. No matter where I go, I like to get away from the tourist trap destinations and find the hidden treasures the locals know about. This guidebook definitely helped me explore deeper into the area known affectionately as "the Red".


Thanks for reading and happy hiking!

Shawn Chambers

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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