SKY BRIDGE STATION BEGAN AS A GEAR SHOP FOR CLIMBERS, offering gourmet hot dogs and quesadillas, then turned into a popular restaurant spot for tourists and locals.
Owners Clifton Gifford and Brian Gillespie began the Pine Ridge business, served by Licking Valley RECC, on July 4, 2013. “We were a guide service, restaurant and gear shop, but when the restaurant became busier than the gear shop, we moved the shop out to create more seating,” says Gifford.
Gillespie, with a master’s degree in outdoor recreation, started Kentucky Rock & Adventure Guides. Gifford became certified as a climbing instructor. “We started looking for properties together and fell upon that business at Pine Ridge,” says Gifford.
“We sold gourmet hot dogs and quesadillas. We weren’t restauranteurs. Hot dogs were easy,” he says. “We partnered with a few friends, who were chefs, to come up with the menus.”
As the restaurant became busier, they added burgers, nachos and draft beer. “We only use Kentucky draft products,” he says.
The first thing you notice is the beautiful hand-hewn log structure, which was built in 1996. “It’s a place where people can hang out. It has the cabin feel and emulates the late 1700s cabins that were built in Kentucky out of poplar trees,” Gifford says.
Gourmet hot dogs and burgers receive the same toppings—City Slicker, Zee German, Epic Journey, Steakhouse, Garden, Barbecue and Chili Cheese. Fresh local beef comes from Halsey’s Meat Processing, just a mile up the road. “We get all our bacon and burger meat, ground fresh every Tuesday and Friday,” says Gifford. “You know you are always getting fresh burger and bacon.“
The menu offers five varieties of loaded nachos and quesadillas as well as chips, coleslaw, hummus, chili and grilled cheese.
Gifford says the Epic Journey Burger is by far the most popular item, followed by nachos and the loaded hummus. “It’s a large helping of nachos. People are surprised by the volume of food they get. We do everything big.”
Lunch or dinner, paired with one of several Kentucky draft beers the restaurant offers, hits the spot after a day of hiking, climbing or motorcycling. Don’t miss Tuesday night trivia.
Gifford says the clientele they serve are mostly tourists—people visiting the Red River Gorge area, backpackers and climbers. “The new adventure park, Hollerwood, is nearby. A lot of motorcyclists drive through the Eye of the Dragon (Nada Tunnel) in the Red River Gorge,” says Gifford. “We also have a well established, local clientele who are very loyal.”
He says the restaurant is located on what used to be called Sky Bridge Road, which is the entrance to the Sky Bridge Recreational Area, known for some of the most prominent features on the Red River Gorge.
The restaurant can seat 80–100 people inside and outside. During peak climbing and tourist season, the restaurant employs 12–14.
Sky Bridge Station opens in March or April and closes for winter hours in December (weather dependent). Hours are Monday–Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
“Because of staffing, we’ve been opening at 4 p.m. during the week, and closing at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends,” says Gifford.
However, the restaurant is open all winter for Tuesday night live team trivia at 7 p.m. “It’s a huge event. Jerry Stevens, a naturalist at Natural Bridge State Resort Park, is the host,” says Gifford.
Located off the Mountain Parkway, exit 40, find Sky Bridge Station at 8 State Route 715 North, Pine Ridge; (606) 668-9927