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SLADE, KENTUCKY  (WDKY)– For more than a half century, visitors to an eastern Kentucky state park have been surprised to see a ski lift in a place where no one skis.

The Natural Bridge Skylift is an adventurous way to get to the park’s namesake, an 11-minute ride that is pure joy for some people  and pure terror for others, especially as it nears the top,

“It goes pretty much straight up a cliff.,” said operator James Rose. “That’s the part that causes nervousness for a lot of people, the last little climb there.”

It’s difficult for many people to believe the balanced chairs clamped to a cable can handle 1,500 pounds each.

“It’s safer than riding in a vehicle,” Rose said. “Some weekends, holiday weekends, we can ride upwards of 1,500 people per day.”

Terry and Linda Clatch of Michigan are typical riders. They describe taking the lift as “awesome” and “thrilling,” though Terry admits he’s afraid of heights.

“He just closes his eyes,” his wife said.

Even those who have their doubts say it was worth it when they reach their destination. It’s just a short walk from the sky lift to the 65-foot-tall natural bridge, a sandstone arch you can walk on and under, squeezing through some tight spots along the way.

There’s beauty in every direction.

“I think a lot of people around here take it for granted,” Rose said. “The views we have here are pretty awesome.”

It is possible to buy a one-way ticket and take  a mile and a quarter trail back to the parking lot.  Rose said that’s a popular option for a lot of people who want to do some hiking but have limited time or find climbing to be too strenuous.

Cashier Makayla Owens said she loves meeting people from all over the world.

“It brings a lot of different people and cultures,” she said.

People who realize half the fun of any trip is getting there.

Breath-taking is a term that describes both the journey and the destination.


The Natural Bridge Skylift has been in operation since 1967. It runs daily from April through the last Sunday in October.