Rock climbing in the RRG can be traced back a far as the 1950’s when cavers (spelunkers) and climbers alike scrambled in and around the Daniel Boone National Forest.
The RRG started to gain some climbing popularity in the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s as early traditional climbers used stoppers (metal wedges), nylon slings, chocks, hexes, and carabiners to tackle the areas impressive sandstone cliffs. In 1975, the RRG’s first guidebook was published by Frank Becker (Red River Gorge Climbers Guide). This guidebook would lead the way for many excellent guidebooks to follow including the current Red River Gorge South, Red River Gorge North, Best of the Red, and Miller Fork Climbing Guide books (all available for purchase within the Red River Gorge).
In the early 1980’s sport (i.e. bolted) climbing began to gain notice around the world and it would not be long before its presence was felt in the RRG. The RRG area saw a few rappel - bolted sport climbs (often established with a hand drill) developed during the late 1980’s in the northern gorge.
Sport climbing in the RRG really started to take hold in 1990 when a few visionaries decided to bring their power drills to the Red and make use of the areas famous overhanging sandstone cliffs. In the northern gorge one of those visionaries, Porter Jarrard, established the areas first 5.13 - Porter and his peers also bolted many other RRG classics which, of course, remain famous and sought after today. By 1993 nearly 700 climbing routes (traditional and sport combined) were documented in the RRG and were subsequently published by John Bronaugh in his “Red River Gorge Climbs” guidebook.
The mid 1990’s would see many more spectacular climbing destinations develop in the RRG. Development soon started in the Motherlode along with several other areas in the Southern Region - with much of the access owned by various oil companies at the time. The Red’s first 5.14 sport climb was established by Dave Hume in the mid 90’s at the Motherlode (Thanatopsis), the Motherlode quickly became world famous for its overhanging routes. In 1996 local climbers Shannon Stuart-Smith and Kris Snyder founded The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC). The RRGCC would become a local climber's advocacy group who’s main focus has been from its inception, the protection and promotion of responsible climbing here in the Red. The early 2000’s would see the continued development of more rock climbing areas in and around the above mentioned oil fields in the Southern Region.
In 2004, the RRGCC purchased the PMRP area with payments financed from private donations and from support of The Access Fund  - a national climbing advocacy organization. These areas in the PMRP have become some of the most famous rock climbing destinations in the world and each year attract thousands of climbers from many countries.
Around the same time the PMRP was purchased, another climbing area was being developed by a pair of visionary land owners with a love and appreciation for rock climbing in the RRG, Rick and Liz Weber. This area, too, would soon become world famous and set a new standard for rock climbing access in the RRG - Muir Valley Nature Preserve. Rick and Liz purchased the approximately 360 acres and named the area Muir Valley - after John Muir (1838-1914), considered the “Father of National Parks,” a great conservationist and climber famous for his efforts in Yosemite National Park.
Muir Valley is one of the most beautiful and accessible natural areas in the Red River Gorge/Daniel Boone National Forest. Muir Valley Nature Preserve encompasses approximately seven miles of beautiful Corbin sandstone cliffs. This area is a wonderful example of what can be done with a vision and an appropriate plan. The Webers enacted a plan to protect and preserve this natural area while managing to provide excellent access to the climbing walls within. Thousands of work hours were logged by volunteers as MVNP was developed in those early years and those volunteer hours continue to be logged to this day. The Muir Valley Trail Day, held in September every year, has become an event not to be missed.
Rick and Liz financed, developed, and managed Muir Valley until 2015. Within that time frame, close to 400 routes were established, both sport and traditional. Of course there is more to a climbing area than its route development - the accompanying trails, parking lots, rest room facilities, and emergency infrastructure must be able to handle a climbing area’s visitors. In 2008, the Friends of Muir Valley (FoMV - 501c non profit) local climbing organization was formed by the Webers and a local group of climbers/volunteers. FoMV has since played a major role in the development of the MVNP.
In 2015, Rick and Liz Weber gifted MVNP to the FoMV non profit group (now known as the Muir Valley Non Profit Organization), this organization is dedicated to managing and preserving the property within MVNP. More than 40,000 visitors now visit Muir Valley Nature Preserve in a year! The current Muir Valley Board of Directors and it’s volunteers continue to provide an amazing experience for all 40,000 visitors and have a management plan in place that will preserve Muir Valley in perpetuity.
With thirty plus crags to choose from in Muir Valley most climbers have no issue finding a place to climb. Muir Valley has an excellent selection of high quality rock climbs available to beginners and hard climbers alike - guidebooks are recommended. The valley itself is well organized with an excellent trail system that is well maintained and well marked with signs. Three basic restrooms (pit toilets) are provided, and a gravel road runs from one end of the valley to the other (vehicle access is for permitted emergency vehicles only). The valley also is a wonderful place for a family hike and the many trails provide access to some incredible waterfalls, streams and rock formations (see guidebook and website), nature abounds! Visiting Muir Valley Nature Preserve can be done anytime of the year with each season providing many wonderful experiences, fall and spring being the most popular with rock climbers. Rock climbers must fill out a waiver available in the parking lot or online. There is a $10 parking fee per car for all those parking in the Muir Valley Nature Preserve parking lots, this fee goes towards the continued maintenance of MVNP.
click here to visit Muir Valley - Kentucky's Premier Climbing Destination!