The gorge is best seen from Rocky Knob's summit, where one can look into the valley 1800 feet below. An old road parallels the creek through the gorge. Initially a trail and later a wagon road, the old road has reverted to its former use as a hiking trail.
Six-sided crystals of colorless quartz occur here. The crystal shapes reminded settlers of castle towers, hence the name "Rock Castle."
The first settlers came before the American Revolution to farm the steep hills. The rocky soil yielded oats, corn, buckwheat, sorghum and apples. Chestnuts provided a cash crop for the farmers, as well as food for foraging hogs.
Frame houses replaced log cabins when sawmills began operating in the late 1880s.
At one time the gorge community boasted 30 families. By 1935, when the federal government began buying the land, only 12 families remained.
Although an occasional homestead remnant can still be seen, Rock Castle Gorge is slowly returning to its primeval state.