10 Best Things to do in Big South Fork Tennessee

I discovered that there are a lot of things to do in Big South Fork Tennessee and in this post I’m going to be sharing 10 of them, a lot of which I have already personally done.

There is a lot of variety in what you can do in Big South Fork, from camping to extremely scenic short or long hikes, and even family friendly attractions and I’m going to be sharing what I consider to be the top spots for each of these categories.

Quick info on Big South Fork:

  • Full name: Big South Fork National River And Recreation Area (it is not a national park).
  • Location: Tennessee, west of Oneida.
  • Things to do: Hiking, horseback riding, train tours, camping, waterfalls, arches and more.
  • Family friendly place? Yes, but not every single activity on this list is good for kids.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Recommended place to visit? Yes! This is probably one of the best areas for nature explorations that you’ll find in all of Tennessee.

The 10 best things to do in Big South Fork:

things to do in big south fork 01

  1. Do the Honey Creek Loop trail.
  2. Hike to Twin Arches.
  3. Do the Big South Fork scenic railway ride.
  4. See Needle Point Arch.
  5. See the East Rim Overlook.
  6. Hike to Angel Falls.
  7. Horseback riding.
  8. Camping.
  9. Kayak on the Cumberland River.
  10. Do the Beaver Falls hike.

Every activity above is within a 20-30 mile distance and you can either drive to many of the spots above or even hike through trails that connect many of these places (if you’re experienced). If you’re just visiting Big South Fork for the first time, explore it the first way and it’ll be easy to check out multiple spots (and activities) on this list, even in one day.

1) Do the Honey Creek loop trail:

big south fork honey creek loop hike new 02

What is it?

It’s a 5-6 mile hike (moderate to hard) that is considered one of the best hikes in all of Big South Fork. I’ve personally done it and I highly recommend it.

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

In the southeastern region of Big South Fork, at the Honey Creek trailhead.


On my very first trip through Big South Fork, the Honey Creek Loop trail was the first hike I decided to try as it was highly recommended on places like Alltrails and other sites I found. This hike has an incredible combination of sights to explore on the loop trail which includes caves, waterfalls and incredible scenery that makes this one of the top 10 hikes I’ve ever done in the south east states.

I would not recommend this for kids or people who are unfamiliar with navigation because getting lost in the woods is common on this trail unless you have a map and know how to use it, so if you do go on this trail, yes it is incredible, but it is not easy.

I have included a link to my experiences hiking this trail and what to expect above, but there is also an overlook available if you don’t want to do the full hike. It’s actually not that impressive, but it does connect with parts of the hike, so it’s an alternative way to try shorter versions of it.

2) Hike the Twin Arches trail:

twin arches loop big south fork new 02

What is it?

A short hike and moderate hike (under 1 mile) that takes you to 2 huge natural bridges that are called the North and South Arch.

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

On the northwestern side of Big South Fork. You have to drive to the Twin Arches trailhead.


This is the second hike I did when I explored Big South Fork and though it’s short, the scenery and the views of these arches were incredible. It’s a hike that most people can do, but there is a lot of incline involved so know that beforehand. I also detail my hiking experiences with the Twin Arches loop trail here.

3) Big South Fork scenic railway ride:

big south fork scenic railway ky 03

What is it?

A very scenic trail ride through the south end of Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork.

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

It’s actually not in Big South Fork. You have to travel about 20-30 minutes north of the area to a place called Stearns Kentucky. Here’s their official site.


This activity is an awesome (and mellow) way to explore Big South Fork and just as well the connecting forest north of it (Daniel Boone). The train ride is a few hours but takes you through beautiful scenery of the south east and it’s a great family activity.

4) Check out Needle Point Arch:

big south fork needle point arch hike 03

What is it?

A long but short arch and beautiful hike (It’s pretty easy to do and is about 2 miles in and out).

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

It’s in the same area as where you’ll find Twin Arches. You have to go to the Sawmill trailhead.


This is another fun arch hike in Big South Fork worth trying. There are also connecting trails to Twin Arches and waterfall hikes nearby.

5) East Rim Overlook:

big south fork east rim overlook 05

What is it?

A short walk to an awesome overlook of the Big South Fork Cumberland River.

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

It’s close to the East Rim trailhead. You’ll drive on the road to the East Rim Overlook, park then walk about 100 feet to the overlook.


There’s a few things to do here, besides seeing the overlook itself such as hiking through the East Rim Trail.

6) See Angel Falls:

big south fork angel falls 07

What is it?

It’s one of the most popular waterfalls in Big South Fork.

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

It’s basically in the middle of the region, and you can get there one of two ways:

  1. Starting at Leatherwood Ford, then doing the 4-5 mile trail from there (better for beginners) and it’s also a nice spot overall.
  2. Starting at the Grand Gap loop trailhead which is about a 10 mile hike, not just to Angels Falls, but also to the most popular overlook in Big South Fork.


I’m recommending this hike because it’s very beautiful, the waterfall is OK but if you choose to do the harder version of the hike through Grand Gap Loop, you will see one of the best overlooks in the south east states. And overall, this is one of the most popular hikes in the area.

7) Horseback riding:

big south fork horseback riding 02

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

There’s several stables and horseback riding attractions (including carriage rides, mostly in the southern part of Big South Fork. Here’s a list:

  • Finley Farms Clydesdales (carriage rides).
  • Brandy Creek stables.
  • Kline Stables.
  • Honey Creek Horse camp (not far from Honey Creek loop trail).
  • Southeast Pack Trips.


If you’re into horseback riding, I included several different options above of where you can find them inside Big South Fork. Some of them take you close to the area, while others go deeper into the trails there.

8) Camping:

big south fork camping 03

Where is it located in Big South Fork?

There are many places for this. Here is a short list to consider:

  • Brandy Creek campground (same area as stables above). It’s the most popular.
  • True West campground.
  • Buck Run horse campground.
  • Puncheon Camp Knob.
  • See more on Big South Fork campgrounds (reservations too).


Most of the camping areas in Big South Fork are also the same places where you’ll find horseback riding attractions at. There’s several areas throughout the region to stay at and there’s also RV friendly places as well.

Note: Lodging in Big South Fork is also common to find. The most popular is Charit Creek Lodge.

9) Kayak the Cumberland River:

big south fork kayak 07

Where can you kayak on the Cumberland river in Big South Fork?

There’s several areas including Leatherwood Ford where you can disembark from, but keep in mind that the Cumberland River can become an advanced and potentially dangerous area for kayaking if you’re not experienced. Here’s information on kayaking in Big South Fork.


I looked for kayak rental places in Big South Fork, but honestly couldn’t find anything in the area. You may have to just bring your own kayak to this place, but there’s several river run trails to check out throughout the Cumberland River.

10) Check out Beaver Falls:

big south fork beaver falls 09

What is it?

A very nice hike to a 50 foot waterfall with swimming hole and cliffs (moderate level).

Where is it?

You have to start at the Burnt Creek Mill Bridge and take the the trail there to Beaver Falls.


This is actually a bit of a hard hike to find in Big South Fork, but if you start at the Bridge, you should see the signs and follow the trail markers to it (few miles of hiking in and out). Make sure to have a digital map that shows you where you’re going before you do this trail.

Here is a Big South Fork map showing you where each spot is:

big south fork map 07

Other questions about Big South Fork:

What is Big South Fork known for?

Big South Fork is very popular many reasons and they include having very scenic hikes through canyons, caves, arches and much more.

What towns are close to Big South Fork?

The main town close to Big South Fork is Oneida, on the east side of it. The next one is Jamestown which is on the west side of it.

How do I get to Big South Fork?

There are many ways to get to Big South Fork, but the main one is driving on road 297 which goes through it and provides access to many hikes and attractions there.

What animals live in Big South Fork?

There are bears, snakes, turtles and other kinds of animals that live within Big South Fork.

More places to see near Big South Fork national park:

1) Pickett Memorial Park: Great small park right next to Big South Fork with a natural bridge you can kayak into.

2) Smoky Mountain National Park: 2 hours from Big South Fork, great place for hikes and seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains.

3) Progue Creek Canyon Natural area: About 20 minutes from Big South Fork. Has similar canyons, great hikes and waterfalls.

4) Daniel Boone National Forest: I’m a big fan of this place because it looks basically the same as Big South Fork but is larger and has more attractions to check out, especially Red River Gorge.

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