The Bears of Kentucky Hwy 11 (and other fun stuff)

Highway 11 runs north of Slade and joins Highway 15 near Campton, KY

Kentucky Highway 11 runs from Maysville to Barbourville, KY.  It is 182.5 miles in length and is planned to become a “macro-corridor” within Kentucky.  This post only covers a small section of the highway as it runs through the world famous Red River Gorge National Geologic Area and through Natural Bridge State Resort Park and into Slade.  This area is probably the most highly visited natural area in Kentucky and this section of Highway 11 is most certainly the most heavily traveled of anywhere along the nearly 183 mile stretch.

Being a major tourist draw, especially near Natural Bridge, this section features numerous eating establishments, many cabin rentals, a smattering of gift shops and even a a Reptile Zoo where visitors can see one of the largest collections of venomous snakes in the world.

Miguel’s Pizza – Slade, Kentucky – One of many eating establishments on Hwy 11

The area is full of wildlife, including bears, bobcats, deer, opossum, racoons and a gazillion different birds. One rarely sees any bears or bobcats unless they are hiking some of the less-traveled hiking trails.

Be Bear Aware signs are all over the area
Black Bear Info sign in Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge State Resort Park – Slade, Kentucky
Red River Gorge near Slade, Kentucky

On a recent visit I decided to do something fun.  We may not see any “real” bears along Highway 11, but in the nine mile stretch from Slade, where it meets the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, south to the community of Zachariah there are numerous wood-carved bears on display as a draw to bring customers to cabins, eateries and other establishments.   Following are photos I took of the bears along the road.  Their specific locations are noted in the captions.

5 Star Cabin Rental Bears at the junction of KY 11 and KY 15
Close shot of one of the 5 Star Cabin Bears
Cutout bear at Hemlock Lodge in Natural Bridge Resort
Cute cuddly bear at the Natural Bridge Skylift
Cozy Bear Chair on the porch of a the Red River Gorge Family Fun Center Gift Shop
Black Bear Lodge old bear leaning against the sign
Cute Bear at the Daniel Boone Coffee Shop
Old Bear on the side of Gorge Outfitters
This bear is falling apart, but still stands out in front of the Red River Rockhouse on the south end of KY 11 in the Red River Gorge
Some Hanging Around bears outside the Trails Gift Shop

As well, a stop in the gift shop at the Natural Bridge Sky Lift (and in other shops in the area), shoppers can find many bear tchotchke to take home and add to their collections.

Welcome bears are always popular
There are also cute welcome bears
A fun “Wipe Your Paws” bear
Rowing Bears
A whole bear family
Some fun bears
A more traditional artsy Pewter Bear
Another Bear Family

Along with the wood-carved bears, there are a variety of other wood-carved items on display, even some Sasquatch goodies!!  One can also find other quirky things along the road. Here are a few.

In the old wooden cigar store chief style. Located at the Trails Gift Shop
A wooden Mexican Waiter greets visitors to the only Mexican Restaurant in Red River Gorge. At La Cabaña Mexican Restaurant.
A Sombrero Chile sits in side the La Cabaña Restaurant
A Jeep Bench outside of La Cabaña Restaurant
Amazing carved front door at Miguel’s Pizza
Miguel’s Climb Shop sign. Located next door to the Pizza Shop
And don’t forget the Sasquatch!!

Highway 11 through the Red River Gorge / Natural Bridge area is actually a fun little drive.  Sometimes it is just a great thing to simply “Enjoy the Ride.”

Black Bear Lodge near Natural Bridge
No Grizzly Bears in the area, but there is a Grizzly Cabin

Did you enjoy what you saw here?  My books cover so much more.

Enjoy the Ride with Sumoflam!

You can get my books online!  The series now has five books and I am working on books six and seven. Book Six will be all about murals from all over the country!! Watch for them later in 2023 as I get time from my recovery.