Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area


Crossing the Tennessee – Kentucky border, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River cuts a 90-mile long gorge that was spared damming in 1974 when 125,000 acres were set aside by the federal government.  The area is renowned for its Class IV rapids and 400 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.  Seasonally, a concessionaire runs the Big South Fork Scenic Railway from Stearns Depot to the Blue Heron Mining Community, an outdoor museum.



Natural bridges, waterfalls, whitewater, train ride, trails, new film

Must-Do Activity

The film shown in the 6 visitor centers was released in 2016 and provides an excellent overview of the area.  You might want to ask for the subtitles to be turned on so you can understand the regional accents.

Best Trail

We enjoyed our 2-mile hike to Twin Arches (which are actually natural bridges formed by water).  We look forward to returning to this park to explore its other trails and waterways, especially to see Wagon Arch, Yahoo Falls, and Devil’s Jump Rapids.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Of the two Twin Arches, North Arch (93-foot span) is easier to photograph than South Arch (135-foot span) because there are fewer trees in the way.


Peak Season

Summer, though the Spring Planting Festival (April) and “Haunting in the Hills” Storytelling Festival (September) offer many free activities.



None, except to ride the concessionaire-operated Big South Fork Scenic Railway.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads we drove (Divide Road and Twin Arches Road) were passable for any vehicle.


There are many options, from full service Bandy Creek Campground in Scott State Forest to dispersed backpack camping along the trails.


Tiff on the way to Twin Arch

Scott on the "trail" to Twin Arch

Scott exploring a slot
Exploring a slot in the sandstone behind North Arch of the Twin Arches.
North Arch spans 93 feet with a 51-foot clearance, making me look small underneath it.

Explore More – How deep is the gorge cut by the Big South Fork River?




One thought on “Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s