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Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

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Overview

Boasting miles of scenic sandstone bluffs and river gorges, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the natural beauty of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. Covering 125,000 rugged acres of the Cumberland Plateau and spanning the states of Kentucky and Tennesee, the park is rich with history and nature, and the land has been developed to provide visitors with a multitude of recreational opportunities. Enjoy the views of pristine streams and impressive chimneys, arches, and cliffs that have been carved from the sandstone of the plateau.

To learn more about Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, visit www.nps.gov.

Local Info

Visitor Centers:
Visitor center hours vary by season. Note that the park spans two time zones. To see current operating hours, visit the park's website.
  • Headquarters Building: Open 8 am to 4:30 pm ET, Monday through Friday.
  • Bandy Creek Visitor Center: Open 8 am to 6 pm ET, Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Open 9 am to 5 pm ET during the winter. Closed on Christmas.
  • Crossville Visitor Center: Open 9 am to 5 pm CT, weekends.
  • Rugby Visitor Contact Station: Open 9 am to 5 pm ET, weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.
  • Helenwood Visitor Center: Open 9 am to 5 pm ET, weekends.
  • Blue Heron Interpretive Center: Open daily from 9:30 to 3:30 ET, April 1 through October 1.
  • Stearns Visitor Contact Station: Open 9 am to 5 pm ET, weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.

Fees & Passes
There is no entrance fee to Big South Fork NRRA. However, there are several types of user fees. To learn more about these additional fees, visit the park's website.

Visiting Tips

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some facilities are closed or have reduced hours during the winter.

Camping & Lodging

Camping:
Big South Fork contains five developed campgrounds, including two equestrian camps. The various campgrounds offer a range of amenities and more information can be found here.

  • Bandy Creek Campground (TN): 96 hook up sites. 49 non-hook upsites. 2 group sites. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
  • Blue Heron Campground (KY): 45 sites. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
  • Bear Creek Horse Camp (KY): 23 sites. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
  • Alum Ford Campground (KY): 6 sites. Sites are filled on a first come, first served basis.
  • Station Camp Horse Camp (TN): 24 sites. Reservations can be made online or by calling (931) 319-6893.

Lodging:
Charit Creek Lodge is located in the Station Camp Creek drainage and offers a full range of amenities including cabin and dormitory rentals, meals, restrooms and showers. Access to the lodge is by foot, bike, or horse only. For more information or to make reservations, visit Charit Creek Lodge's website or call (865) 696-5611.

Food & Drink

There are no restaurants located within the park, but there are a variety of dining options located in the nearby towns. For more information on dining options in the Big South Fork region, click here.

Outfitters, Tours, & Shuttles

Guided Tours:
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area offers a wide variety of ranger-led programs designed to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the park. Programs are offered at various locations fro Memorial Day through Labor Day, and all ranger-led programs are free and open to the public. Visit the park's website to see the current events calendar and to learn more about special events.

Additionally, if you are interested in other guided opportunities, be sure to check out the park's recommended list of outfitters and guide services for a host of activities ranging from guided river tours to backwoods adventures to wilderness shuttle tours. More information can be found here. Another unique way to see the park is to take a ride on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. More information on the railway, rates, and purchasing tickets, can be found at the here.

Other Activities

The recreational opportunities in Big South Fork are seemingly endless, and visitors can choose from a long list of ways to explore the park and the surrounding areas. From hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and kyaking, there are many ways to explore all that the park has to offer. Be sure to check out the amazing mountain biking and rock climbing in the area. If you are looking for further recreational opportunities nearby, the Obed Wild and Scenic River, Dale Hollow Lake, Historic Rugby, and a variety of local state parks offer visitors additional opportunities to explore this great area. Visit Big South Fork's website for more information.

Maps & Guidebooks

To download a variety of free brochures to help plan your visit, click here.

Gems in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area - 2

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gem Favorite Crack in the Rock

Crack in the Rock

(2) Stearns, KY
gem Favorite North arch

Twin Arches

(6) Oneida, TN

Recommended Routes in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area - 7

Hiking Project is built by hikers like you. Add Your Recommended Routes

Favorite Secluded Falls
Difficult

Honey Creek Loop

4.2 mi 6.7 km 565' Up 172.29 m Up 571' Down 174.17 m Down

Huntsville, TN
Favorite Yahoo Falls cascades over the trail tucked into the shelter of the cave.
Intermediate

Yahoo Falls Loop

1.1 mi 1.7 km 176' Up 53.5 m Up 176' Down 53.51 m Down

Whitley…, KY
Favorite Going down a long flight of stairs.
Intermediate/Difficult

2019 NB100 Training Camp: Day 1

21.6 mi 34.8 km 2,391' Up 728.74 m Up 2,373' Down 723.43 m Down

Oneida, TN
Favorite Angel Falls overlook in Big South Fork Rive and Nature Area.
Intermediate/Difficult

Angel Falls Overlook to Grand Gap Loop

12.0 mi 19.3 km 1,145' Up 348.93 m Up 1,143' Down 348.26 m Down

Oneida, TN
Favorite Secluded Falls
Intermediate/Difficult

Sheltowee Trace NRT: Big South Fork NRA

49.2 mi 79.1 km 4,831' Up 1472.36 m Up 4,859' Down 1481 m Down

Oneida, TN
Favorite The back end of the Slave Falls Loop Trail takes you to the Indian Rock House.
Intermediate

Slave Falls Loop Trail

3.2 mi 5.1 km 378' Up 115.15 m Up 368' Down 112.19 m Down

Jamestown, TN
Favorite Secluded Falls
Intermediate/Difficult

John Muir Trail: Big South Fork NRA

49.9 mi 80.3 km 6,267' Up 1910.14 m Up 5,972' Down 1820.33 m Down

Huntsville, TN

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Hiking

  • 745 Miles 1,200 Kilometers of Trail
  • 15 Recommended Routes
  • 2 Gems Gems
  • 23 Easy Trails Easy Trails
  • 63 Intermediate Trails Intermediate Trails
  • 5 Difficult Trails Difficult Trails
Hiking Project is built by hikers like you. Share what you know about this area!

Weather Averages


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Trails in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area - 76

Hiking Project is built by hikers like you. Add Your Trails

3.9 mi 6.2 km #1Twin Arches Loop Trail
Intermediate
Oneida, TN
Intermediate
Oneida, TN 19 
0.9 mi 1.5 km #2Twin Arches Trail
Intermediate
Oneida, TN
Intermediate
Oneida, TN 12 
1.0 mi 1.5 km #3Honey Creek Overlook Access
Easy/Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
Easy/Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
0.9 mi 1.4 km #4Kellogg's Crack Loop
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
2.0 mi 3.1 km #5White Oak Trail
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
1.3 mi 2.1 km #6Allerton Ridge Trail
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
0.9 mi 1.4 km #7Massengale Loop Trail
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
Intermediate
Huntsville, TN
0.4 mi 0.7 km #8Cliffside Loop Trail
Intermediate/Difficult
Whitley City, KY
Intermediate/Difficult
Whitley City, KY
0.4 mi 0.6 km #9Marker Arch Trail
Intermediate/Difficult
Whitley City, KY
Intermediate/Difficult
Whitley City, KY
0.4 mi 0.7 km #10Cox Branch Trail
Easy
Huntsville, TN
Easy
Huntsville, TN

Photos of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area - 145

Hiking Project is built by hikers like you. Add Your Photos

Secluded Falls
Feb 18, 2020 near Huntsville, TN
Winter Evening Skies - The scene at the end of the Angels Falls Trail of Big South Fork River in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
Apr 7, 2016 near Oneida, TN
Angel Falls overlook in Big South Fork Rive and Nature Area.
Apr 12, 2016 near Oneida, TN
Just off the John Muir Trail, Beaver Creek Falls is fantastic in February.
Feb 25, 2017 near Huntsville, TN
Some rocks to climb through.
Jun 3, 2019 near Huntsville, TN
Yahoo Falls cascades over the trail tucked into the shelter of the cave.
Mar 12, 2017 near Whitley…, KY
Little bit further up from the symbol/stone bench.
Dec 1, 2016 near Oneida, TN
The Big South Fork from the Angel Falls Overlook.
Apr 17, 2016 near Oneida, TN