Established in 1974, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area encompasses roughly 125,000 acres in some of the most rugged terrain of the Cumberland Plateau and makes for some amazing backpacking experiences. Within the trail system there are a full range of opportunities available, from a short easy hike along the Big South Fork River to long and strenuous multiple day hikes and backcountry camping. There is even a section of the John Muir National Recreation Trail that passes through the park.
The Big South Fork is also the home of the Charit Creek Lodge, which is owned by the same people who own the Mt. LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Similar to the Mt. LeConte Lodge, the Charit Creek Lodge is located deep in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and you have to hike in.
There some amazing sights to see in Big South Fork. Just a few of them include Twin Arches, Slave Falls/Needle Arch, Sunset Overlook, Angel Falls Rapids, Bear Creek Overlook, and the Yahoo Falls Loop.
Some of the best backpacking can be found at the Bandy Creek Visitors Center, where you will have to get permits from.
Our suggested Loop hike to see it ALL would be starting at Bandy Creek Visitors Center and drive a short distance to the Jacks Ridge Loop Trail. This loop can be turned into a 18.2 mile loop hike. Take the Jacks Ridge Loop Trail to the Laurel Fork Creek Trail (where you will cross Laurel Creek). From there connect with the Black House Branch Trail where you will run right into the Fork Ridge Trail. Make a left to connect to the Chariot Creek Trail and run right into the Chariot Lodge. (Great place to have a snack, lunch or even stay in a old cabin) Keep heading North and connect to the Twin Arches Loop Trail where you will see some beautiful Arches that you can climb and view. Don’t do the full loop, Instead, Camp at Jakes Place (an old homestead) The next day, take the Slave Falls Trail and see a beautiful waterfall that you can go behind. Connect back to the Laurel Fork Creek and head back to your car.
Water Sources are usually plentiful. But always check with the Ranger.
Trail Difficultly: Moderate. There are some climbs and some creek crossings.
Permits are required for Backcountry Camping.
Plenty of camping spots to choose from.