Big South Fork: A Hiker's Paradise

Slow down and Explore the Big South Fork

Just a short drive from Nashville, Knoxville, Lexington, Asheville, Louisville, AND Chattanooga is the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

The Big South Fork protects 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, and is located in both Tennessee and Kentucky. Big South Fork is managed to promote its vast array of recreational opportunities and is a paradise for hikers.

The park's hundreds of miles of hiking trails lead hikers and explorers right by stunning rock formations and beautiful scenic landscaping. Waterfalls, wildlife (including whitetail deer, wild turkey, and black bear), natural arches, rock houses and cave-like structures are among the many great features of the Big South Fork backcountry. It is truly a four-season park for people to use and enjoy. Come often and see the different faces the park wears during each season.

A photo posted by Laura Wickman (@ljwickman) on

Hiking Trails for All

Hiking trails at the Big South Fork range from short, easy hikes to long-distance over night hikes. Leatherwood Ford, located on S.R. 297 just east of Laurel Fork Rustic Retreat, is the southern terminus for the Sheltowee Trace National Recreational Trail, which travels through Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and the Daniel Boone National Forest.

It is also the southern terminus for the famous John Muir Trail, another long-distance trail that travels through Big South Fork and Pickett State Forest. Get a better look at the range of hiking trails in the Big South Fork with this Hiking Trailhead Map.

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Popular Hikes

Some of the most popular hikes include Angel Falls Overlook (moderate/difficult), Angel Falls Rapids (Easy), John Litton Farm Loop (moderate), and Twin Arches Upper Loop (Easy/Moderate). For a complete list of the most popular hiking trails in the Big South Fork see our Popular Hiking Trails Quick Guide.

Hemlock Bluff Cabin

Lodging for Hikers

Get up and hit the trail early or soak in a hot tub after a long day of hiking at the Laurel Fork Rustic Retreat. Our retreat borders the Big South Fork National Park and many of our cabins have access to some of the best hiking trails in the park.

We have different cabin size options, making it easy to accommodate you and your hiking group throughout the year. Check cabin availabilities and find the perfect cabin for the perfect hike!