Big South Fork Views

wsp_scott

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I'm catching up on trip reports. Here are a couple short trips from November.

Nov 1 - 4, 2020 (3 nights) & Nov 20 - 22, 2020 (2 nights)

1st trip
Kids soccer was over and I was getting antsy. My mother was still in town helping with homeschooling the kids, so my wife said go. I've been meaning to get back to Big South Fork and this seemed like a good time.

I decided that I would check out some of the view points that I had seen before as well as a couple new ones. The weather forecast looked sunny but chilly/windy at night (highs in 50s and lows down to mid-20s).

I started at Leatherwood Ford and headed north on the JMT aiming for an overlook that I remembered passing 4 or 5 years ago. I was hopeful that I'd find a flat spot for a tent that was close to some views.

I enjoyed the views along the way, but the wind was gusting into the 30s and it wasn't super comfortable to linger.

Looking south at Big South Fork


Looking west-ish up Falls Branch


Cruising along the JMT


I got to my overlook and decided it would work. After another mile or so to get water, I returned and setup camp and waited for sunset.


The sunrise was nice



The weather was perfect, a great day for hiking with a little bit of color left in the leaves.



Small cemetery off the trail.







Looking down at Charit Creek Lodge


Stitch of 4 vertical shots


Jupiter and Saturn low on the horizon


Almost Full Moon setting


Hatfield Ridge Arch


Hiking south on the Sheltowee Trace


These features in the sandstone always intrigue me


Falls Branch Falls



Lone grave just off the trail


Another boring sunset


Big South Fork of the Cumberland down below




Mars in the east and a hint of the Milky Way to the north




I cowboy camped and woke up with my quilt covered in a layer of frost. As it got lighter, it was obvious where the moisture had come from




The second glory I saw this year. It turns out the shadow part is called a Brocken Spectre



Angel Falls Arch



and then back to the car and home. So, a waterfall, a couple arches, an old cemetery, awesome weather and I only saw a couple people each day, but mostly felt like it was just me and the trees. Basically, this was a perfect couple of days.


*********************
A couple weeks later and my wife said go, so back to Big South Fork. This time I started on the west side on Divide Road. I headed towards the Muir Overlook hoping to find a place to set up camp, but it wasn't going to work, so I headed down to the clearing below.

I setup on the edge of the clearing near the creek, gathered wood for a fire and left my camera pointed at the stars for a bit.

Mars


Star trails experiment. I need to work on these.


The clearing is mowed by the park service to leave it like it was earlier. This is all that remains of the house.


Nearby is the family cemetery



Ranson Boyat's grave (a sad story here).




After packing up, I decided to go bushwacking in an attempt to find Anderson Falls. I ended up getting close, but got cliffed out and had to retreat. I've seen a photo from the bottom of the falls, so I will have to make another attempt from a different direction.

I headed down towards the river and ran into a terrible/muddy trail from all the horses. The view of the river was nice though.



I looped around to Maude's Crack and climbed up to the plateau hoping to find a view to camp near.

Looking up the crack (the rope was nice at a couple points, but I did not really trust it) ...


... and down the crack


View from the overlook






Woke up with tons of clouds, but for a brief moment, the clouds lite up. I wish I had had a view to the southeast.


After a couple minutes, the sky faded again.


One last look from the Muir Overlook (the first night I had camped down below).

And then back to the car and home.
 

wsp_scott

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Here is an interesting article about the area if you are looking for lunchtime reading
 

Janice

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We have a long weekend in mid-May and are hoping to do a 3-night backpacking trip, perhaps 20-25 miles total, in the WV, KY, TN region. We're considering Big South Fork, TN, or a few other spots we've learned about (Dolly Sods, Cumberland Gap, etc). @wsp_scott I enjoyed your photos and descriptions here, @OwenM I saw that you've done multiple trips in this area, and @BJett I saw your recent Cumberland Gap TR. @Reef&Ruins have you hiked this area, too? Anyone else??? Does anyone have a favorite place in this area at this time of year? A loop (or semi-loop) would be nice since we'll only have one car. We're coming from Southeast Michigan, so Linville Gorge and Smokies are a bit far for us to drive in that amount of time. Would Dolly Sods be really soggy still? We'd love any advice you can offer!
 

Reef&Ruins

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@Janice I have not been here but it is a place I would like to know more about. Especially after this great TR.
 

wsp_scott

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Grayson Highlands in SW VA would be good, especially if it wasn't a weekend. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2019/11/mt-rogers-nra.html

Dolly Sods in WV would also be great, but certain trails are always muddy but totally worth it https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2019/08/dolly-sods-w-kids-take-2.html or https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/08/dolly-sods-circumnavigation.html

Only been there once, but Savage Gulf (TN) is pretty interesting, biggest knock is you have to stay in specific campsites - https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2017/12/savage-gulf.html

In Big South Fork, you can find lots of quiet even on the weekends. Here are a couple suggestions.

The Honey Creek Loop is good, shorter than you are looking for but easy to add more miles. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2015/11/a-bunch-of-wetness.html

Sheltowee Trace south from Yahoo Falls (KY) is also a nice loop with some side hikes to waterfalls. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/05/yahoo-falls-ky-trail.html and this is the same area with lots kids so many fewer miles https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/06/creation-falls.html

There are also loop possibilities out of Blue Heron (KY) (note: you would have problems crossing the river in a lot of places in mid-May, but there are fords where you can usually cross) https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/11/blue-heron-big-south-fork.html

let me know if any of this sounds interesting and I can map out a 3 night trip
 

Janice

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Grayson Highlands in SW VA would be good, especially if it wasn't a weekend. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2019/11/mt-rogers-nra.html

Dolly Sods in WV would also be great, but certain trails are always muddy but totally worth it https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2019/08/dolly-sods-w-kids-take-2.html or https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/08/dolly-sods-circumnavigation.html

Only been there once, but Savage Gulf (TN) is pretty interesting, biggest knock is you have to stay in specific campsites - https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2017/12/savage-gulf.html

In Big South Fork, you can find lots of quiet even on the weekends. Here are a couple suggestions.

The Honey Creek Loop is good, shorter than you are looking for but easy to add more miles. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2015/11/a-bunch-of-wetness.html

Sheltowee Trace south from Yahoo Falls (KY) is also a nice loop with some side hikes to waterfalls. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/05/yahoo-falls-ky-trail.html and this is the same area with lots kids so many fewer miles https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/06/creation-falls.html

There are also loop possibilities out of Blue Heron (KY) (note: you would have problems crossing the river in a lot of places in mid-May, but there are fords where you can usually cross) https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/11/blue-heron-big-south-fork.html

let me know if any of this sounds interesting and I can map out a 3 night trip
This is really helpful - thank you so much! I'd love to take you up on your offer of help mapping out a 3 night trip. My husband and I will take a close look at all this and get back in touch soon. Thanks again!!!
 

BJett

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We have a long weekend in mid-May and are hoping to do a 3-night backpacking trip, perhaps 20-25 miles total, in the WV, KY, TN region. We're considering Big South Fork, TN, or a few other spots we've learned about (Dolly Sods, Cumberland Gap, etc). @wsp_scott I enjoyed your photos and descriptions here, @OwenM I saw that you've done multiple trips in this area, and @BJett I saw your recent Cumberland Gap TR. @Reef&Ruins have you hiked this area, too? Anyone else??? Does anyone have a favorite place in this area at this time of year? A loop (or semi-loop) would be nice since we'll only have one car. We're coming from Southeast Michigan, so Linville Gorge and Smokies are a bit far for us to drive in that amount of time. Would Dolly Sods be really soggy still? We'd love any advice you can offer!
Scott has some great recommendations.
Kentucky doesn't have the best backpacking, but if I were to choose I'd go with Cumberland Gap. Basecamp for two nights and explore everything on the Ridge.
Big South Fork has some good options, Blue Heron Loop is short and Twin Arches Loop just south in TN might be the best loop other than Honey Creek but I wouldn't backpack that one. Great day hike. There are options using the John Muir Trail (the other not so famous one) for longer out and backs or loops.

Cumberland Plateau...Scott's Savage Gulf tip is spot on. I've been 3 times and I'm taking my wife backpacking there next week on our 3 state backpacking tour. Lots of waterfalls and some overlooks. It will get very crowded on weekends and you have to reserve all campsites in advance, even backcountry sites. If crowds don't bother you this is an amazing area to explore. but a far drive to the middle of nowhere.

The best recommendation on his list is Grayson Highalnds in VA. 3 days would be a good taste. This place makes its own weather, like the Dolly Sods, but its a must-see. Another option is southwest VA is the Three Ridges Wilderness. Views and water.

NC has some of the best options but it sounds like the drive is too much. Joyce Kilmer, Shining Rock and Linville are world class.

My wife and I are backpacking Savage Gulf, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock in NC and finishing with Mt. Rogers/Grayson Highlands in VA starting next week, then driving back thru Cumberland Gap. Definitely a few of my favorites.
 

Janice

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Scott has some great recommendations.
Kentucky doesn't have the best backpacking, but if I were to choose I'd go with Cumberland Gap. Basecamp for two nights and explore everything on the Ridge.
Big South Fork has some good options, Blue Heron Loop is short and Twin Arches Loop just south in TN might be the best loop other than Honey Creek but I wouldn't backpack that one. Great day hike. There are options using the John Muir Trail (the other not so famous one) for longer out and backs or loops.

Cumberland Plateau...Scott's Savage Gulf tip is spot on. I've been 3 times and I'm taking my wife backpacking there next week on our 3 state backpacking tour. Lots of waterfalls and some overlooks. It will get very crowded on weekends and you have to reserve all campsites in advance, even backcountry sites. If crowds don't bother you this is an amazing area to explore. but a far drive to the middle of nowhere.

The best recommendation on his list is Grayson Highalnds in VA. 3 days would be a good taste. This place makes its own weather, like the Dolly Sods, but its a must-see. Another option is southwest VA is the Three Ridges Wilderness. Views and water.

NC has some of the best options but it sounds like the drive is too much. Joyce Kilmer, Shining Rock and Linville are world class.

My wife and I are backpacking Savage Gulf, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock in NC and finishing with Mt. Rogers/Grayson Highlands in VA starting next week, then driving back thru Cumberland Gap. Definitely a few of my favorites.
This is so helpful - thank you very much! I'm excited to explore all these options and made a plan. :)
 

wsp_scott

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My wife and I are backpacking Savage Gulf, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock in NC and finishing with Mt. Rogers/Grayson Highlands in VA starting next week, then driving back thru Cumberland Gap. Definitely a few of my favorites.

That sounds like an awesome trip, I hope the weather cooperates for you.
 

Janice

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I looked into the options you all suggested - thank you so much! They seem great, but unfortunately some are too far away for us on this trip. We're thinking it would be nice to include some waterfalls, and it's my impression that Cumberland Gap doesn't have any near the trail. (Is that correct?) We've decided we'll check the weather forecast and make our plan based on that - either Dolly Sods (we've read lots about that backpacking loop) or Big South Fork. @wsp_scott, you had mentioned mapping out a 3-night route. If you're still willing to do that for Big South Fork, we would love to hear your recommendations!
 

wsp_scott

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I looked into the options you all suggested - thank you so much! They seem great, but unfortunately some are too far away for us on this trip. We're thinking it would be nice to include some waterfalls, and it's my impression that Cumberland Gap doesn't have any near the trail. (Is that correct?) We've decided we'll check the weather forecast and make our plan based on that - either Dolly Sods (we've read lots about that backpacking loop) or Big South Fork. @wsp_scott, you had mentioned mapping out a 3-night route. If you're still willing to do that for Big South Fork, we would love to hear your recommendations!

@Janice I'm happy to help. I'll follow up with a PM to avoid clogging up the main forum.
 

BJett

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I looked into the options you all suggested - thank you so much! They seem great, but unfortunately some are too far away for us on this trip. We're thinking it would be nice to include some waterfalls, and it's my impression that Cumberland Gap doesn't have any near the trail. (Is that correct?) We've decided we'll check the weather forecast and make our plan based on that - either Dolly Sods (we've read lots about that backpacking loop) or Big South Fork. @wsp_scott, you had mentioned mapping out a 3-night route. If you're still willing to do that for Big South Fork, we would love to hear your recommendations!
One thing the Big South Fork lacks is big waterfalls. Yahoo Falls is one of the tallest in the state, northern section of BSF and can be part of a loop hike. If you get there right after heavy rains waterfalls abound but only briefly.

if you want to see waterfalls, another option is the Sheltowee Trace trail starting at Cumberland Falls following the river to Dog Slaughter Falls. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s one of the best in KY...it’s the pic in my profile. Further down the trail is Bark Camp Creek cascades. You can camp in shelters along the trail or anywhere really, you’d have water along the entire trip.
 

Janice

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One thing the Big South Fork lacks is big waterfalls. Yahoo Falls is one of the tallest in the state, northern section of BSF and can be part of a loop hike. If you get there right after heavy rains waterfalls abound but only briefly.

if you want to see waterfalls, another option is the Sheltowee Trace trail starting at Cumberland Falls following the river to Dog Slaughter Falls. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s one of the best in KY...it’s the pic in my profile. Further down the trail is Bark Camp Creek cascades. You can camp in shelters along the trail or anywhere really, you’d have water along the entire trip.
Thanks for your help, @BJett. Your profile pic is great! Maybe I'm giving the wrong impression by saying we'd like waterfalls. We really just want nice views, interesting trails and terrain, a chance to enjoy some spring backpacking - which I had assumed could include waterfalls while levels are higher than later in the year. Since we'll only have one car, a loop (or partial loop) would be really nice, rather than an out and back (unless a shuttle can be arranged without too much hassle). Am I correct in thinking Sheltowee Trace doesn't lend itself easily to a loop from Cumberland Falls to Dog Slaughter and back?
 

BJett

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Thanks for your help, @BJett. Your profile pic is great! Maybe I'm giving the wrong impression by saying we'd like waterfalls. We really just want nice views, interesting trails and terrain, a chance to enjoy some spring backpacking - which I had assumed could include waterfalls while levels are higher than later in the year. Since we'll only have one car, a loop (or partial loop) would be really nice, rather than an out and back (unless a shuttle can be arranged without too much hassle). Am I correct in thinking Sheltowee Trace doesn't lend itself easily to a loop from Cumberland Falls to Dog Slaughter and back?
Yes the Sheltowee is tough to find good loops. Most are out and back or thru hikes.
Sheltowee Trace Outfitters is a local company that does shuttles.
 

Janice

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Yes the Sheltowee is tough to find good loops. Most are out and back or thru hikes.
Sheltowee Trace Outfitters is a local company that does shuttles.
Great to know about the shuttle possibility. Thanks!
 
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