Big South Fork National River and Recreation area is full of activities for outdoorsy and nature types to enjoy. Here’s a list of some fun things you can do while visiting the area!
Take a Hike
There are 150 miles of hiking trails on both the Kentucky and Tennessee sides of Big South Fork. Some of the more popular trails in the area include the Twin Arches, Slave Falls/Needle Arch, Sunset Overlook, Angel Falls Rapids, Bear Creek Overlook, and the Yahoo Falls Loop. You can find more information on hiking trails in the area here and here.
You can also read a detailed photo account of our own hike to the Twin Arches right here.
Visit the East Rim Overlook
The East Rim Overlook offers a scenic vantage of the river gorge cut into the Cumberland Plateau. There’s a convenient parking lot right at the head of the connector trail, which is an easy 0.1 mile walk to the overlook.
The path is shaded and lovely and despite the fact that it was a misting fall day on our visit, it’s a pretty walk that most people will find to be an easy stroll.
You’ll find a couple of benches along the trail if you want to stop and enjoy the atmosphere.
There’s a section of decking at the overlook. Jasper wasn’t too sure about being so high up right at first, but I was able to reassure him enough to get him to walk out onto the deck.
The view is quite impressive despite it not being a clear day, and we could see peeks of fall color starting to develop. This area is a popular place for viewing some amazing fall color when it is at its peak.
Some fluttering pieces of paper caught my eye and when I got a closer look I realized that someone had attached some anti-suicide notes in a few places along the railing, protected by plastic.
Thankfully, Jasper can’t read yet so I didn’t have to go into detail about what the notes were for or why they were there.
Here he is being a brave boy right next to the railing! Baby Sister had fallen asleep on the way to the parking area, so Matt and I took turns walking out to the overlook so that she could snooze in the truck.
Visit the Oneida and Western Railroad Bridge
The Oneida and Western Railroad Bridge, or O&W, is a very rare example of one of the few remaining Whipple truss bridges that dates back to 1915.
The O&W Bridge is used by horseback riders to access trails from the Cumberland Valley trailhead. Hikers use the bridge as part of the John Muir Trail and the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail.
We had to set the camera on the bridge for a timed family shot standing on such an important piece of railway travel history.
The scenery was lovely despite the cloudy skies and misting rain. This section of the river is a popular endpoint for whitewater rafters and the bridge is also used as an access point for fishing and swimming holes on the west side of Big South Fork river.
We explained to the kids what the old bridge was used for, but at this age they really just wanted to clonk along the recently-replaced boards on the bridge and look down at the water below.
He’s such a goofball.
The chain link fencing was adequate for feeling secure, but man, it really was a perilous drop down to the waters below.
Go Horseback Riding
Arguably one of the most popular activities in Big South Fork, the extensive system of trails accessible by horseback provides a fun experience for riders of all ages and skill levels. Click here to view the horse trail brochure from the NPS for more information.
We didn’t do any riding during our trip, though a group of riders came through while we were visiting the O&W bridge and they were kind enough to offer to let Jasper and Shelby sit on one of their beautiful horses!
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