Explore the most popular Bird Watching trails in Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

The arches are the highlight of the hike but there's so much more to see. Lots of rock houses and cliffs. Go hike this one for sure.

This trail lived up to - no, it exceeded the hype. Fantastic trail and I look forward to getting back to it soon.

hiking
bridge out
rocky
12 days ago

This trail is amazing! It is always changing scenery, from flat walking through a forest to rock climbing, boulder scrambles, ropes to assist up and down rock faces, and huge ladders. this trail has it all. We actually found all 3 waterfalls, the Indian Rock House and Honey Creek Overlook. Hard is a fair rating as you will kick rocks, the trail will loosen out from under you, and finding the trail markers (clockwise) will be a chore. This may be my favorite hike in the state of Tennessee. As much as I hate it... kids may want to stay at home on this one and my kids have been all over the Smoky Mountains

Great easy trail that is mostly flat. If you start the loop going down the road instead of through the woods, you will go down the only step part of the trail. The old farm, waterfall, and rocks make the trail very worthwhile and neat!

hiking
20 days ago

Beautiful trail. I feel it could be a lot better marked in places, especially one particularly rocky area as it took is awhile to figure out if we could get through them. The arches are beautiful and this really is a beautiful trail.

hiking
scramble
23 days ago

I am surprised that I haven't done this hike after living in Tennessee so long. I believe it to be one of the gems of the entire state. I have been hiking a lot of the country (you can check out my recorded history if you'd like) and this one competes with some of the best. It reminds me of The Subway in Zion if you are aware of that one. Anyways, I wish this hike was a better kept secret because there is graffiti on the rocks and quite a bit of trash. I packed out a full plastic water bottle, 3 beer bottles and 6 beer cans. This was just the stuff that I could safely reach. Show some respect people......such a shame. However, this did not deter me from enjoying the hike. I consider myself an excellent hiker and I fell 4 times. It had just rained the day before and the rocks and roots were extra slick. Just be aware that this is not for your average hiker and that wet conditions make for very difficult/treacherous time. Like others have said, this was more like a 6-7 mile hike. Be prepared and bring food and water if you're gonna do the whole thing. After doing it, I would recommend going clockwise (opposite of the way that the AllTrails map suggests) just so the views/features progress better. It might make for more of a physical challenge though. The last couple of mile for me were pretty uneventful going anti-clockwise. I did get off track a couple of times but honestly, considering the nature of this trail, I think it's pretty well marked. This hike has a little bit of everything and I am shocked that I haven't gotten to it sooner. Will be going back

hiking
muddy
rocky
scramble
25 days ago

I recommend going counter clockwise around the loop. This is my favorite hike but 6 miles of rocky terrain takes much longer than you think. A difficult hike but well worth it. This time was dry and the creek bed scramble was easier without the rushing water. Very slippery rocks so be extra careful. Next time I’ll camp here. There are numerous fire rings. Gorgeous rock formations throughout.

hiking
26 days ago

This is a well marked trail with more than one feature to see. The walk to the waterfall takes you past a long rock wall with very interesting water erosion patterns. There was not a lot of water falling but the hike was well worth the effort. I would agree with the easy rating for the trail. From the trail head to the falls is about 1.3 miles out; so if you didn’t want to walk the whole loop you could still see the water fall for a 2.6 mile effort.

hiking
rocky
26 days ago

This is one of the coolest trails I have been on! But I would definitely use a trail map or gps on your phone because it’s not marked the best and even with this map on app we still got turned around a few times. Pretty tough at times but definitely one to check out! We will be back.

The hiking bridge that crosses the river from Leatherwood Ford is not useable. Hikers must walk up to the road and cross the river from there and take the steps down to the trail that are located on the right, just after the road bridge. The trail is in good condition. A fair number of blowdowns, but all passable. The views from the overlook were fabulous.

hiking
1 month ago

Great Hike. We hiked it during a time when there was little to no water moving through the gorge making this a fairly easy to moderate hike. Several of the people on the hike regularly shared harrowing stories of falls and spills due to the water that is normally in the gorge. I am sure when the water is moving through the trail area it would bump up to a moderate to hard hike. All this to the side I have to say this is one of the most geologically unique and interesting hikes I have ever been on. For what this hike lacks in overlooks (there is one very nice one) it is made up for in the multiple high bluffs, large rock overhangs, cascades, narrow gorges, rock hopping and interesting geologic formations. The trail is as tough to follow as described and I clocked it at about 7 miles.

hiking
off trail
rocky
scramble
1 month ago

WOW! This was the most adventurous hike I’ve been on to date. Used pre loaded GAIA map on iPhone and this helped tremendously when (not if) you become confused about where the actual trail is. There were plenty of trail markers but you had to search closely for them in some spots. The rock formations are incredible. Highly recommend going counter clockwise and using trekking poles.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Easy is as easy does, this loop, if you cover all is over 6 miles and lots of rock as well as steep descent,if you go counter clockwise,which I recommend. makes the last couple of miles a more manageable ascent. expect stairs and great rock formations in the upper elevations, not much to see in the lower elevation unless you are going to the lodge at the bottom. this trail is longer than listed. I'd hike again and recommend.

We enjoyed the limestone bluffs, vegetation, and mostly dry creek beds and falls. Maps posted at Trailhead did not include a you are here and we found the trail difficult to follow. We circled clockwise and got to about 2 miles and felt we had lost the trail so retraced our steps back. Saw a beautiful black snake who was pretty cold/docile. Not venomous. Hope to return and try and complete the entire loop.

hiking
1 month ago

Pretty good trail overall, would recommended going after a rain though. It's a beautiful trip through the woods, trail was free of debris and no mud since there's a mild drought at the moment. The last hill after The Charitt Lodge was a fairly quick uphill ascent with plenty of stairs but not tough to navigate. We're going to go back after the leaves fall so we can see the arches better.

hiking
scramble
2 months ago

One of my new favorites in Tennessee! This was my first time in Big South Fork and I think this trail shows a lot of different features -- huge sandstone overhangs, hiking through giant boulders, some caves you can access with ladders, and great view of the canyon. Trail is very well marked, there was only one time when we missed a trail marker after coming down from the overlook offshoot. There was some water in the creeks but not a lot -- we didn't have to get our feet wet to cross areas. My tracker said 5.3 miles total, and with stopping for lunch we took just under 4 hours.

hiking
2 months ago

Amazing trail. my best friend and I took my 7 yr old girl on an overnight backpack thru this trail. it was amazing. the views are fantastic, the trail was difficult and so much fun . my 7 year old led 2 old guys thru the whole thing. I found it fairly well marked, we got confused a time or 2 but really, it just made it a fun challenge. we had a blast the campsite we found was awesome right by the river. it was a must see trail. the view from the overlook (walk it don't drive it) was amazing. worth the sweat and burning quads! amazing place. absolutely amazing

Relatively easy. It would be a good trail for you trail runners. We are in our 60’s and had no problems. Make sure you take the 0.2 mileish in/out to Needle Arch. You can either bail out on the road back to the trail head, or continue to the Rock House. It’s worth the extra effort! We logged a little over 4 miles according to All Trails

hiking
2 months ago

will never forget this hike or the view from the overlook. took my 7 yr old daughter and my best bud. it's not for the faint of heart it was a challenge but if you are up for a walk I highly recommend. I love uphills and stairs and all those challenges, so it was totally picturesque and amazingly enjoyable.

hiking
2 months ago

This is a hard trail also because, in some points, it is not well marked. I hiked with an expert friend who knew the trail and we went off trail a couple of time making a 9.4 km loop (3 more than indicated). At this time of the year (beginning of September) the waterfalls are dry and some of the most challenging creek passages are easier and less dangerous because of lack of water. I can see these places being muddy and harder during other months. We took 3 hours to complete the modified loop (9.4km; 5.8 miles) but we all are physically fit and trained. This trail is definitely not for everyone not for family with little kids. Trail is completely in the shade and there are plenty of rocks and beautiful natural caves and hidden passages. The first half of the trail is downhill and then it goes again up with a steep climb towards the end for a total gap of almost 300 mt (984 ft). The trail is dog friendly (on leash) and have several campsites.

hiking
bugs
2 months ago

This trail is hazardous for children under the age of 10. Recommend doing the Arch Loop Trail clockwise once you have viewed the arches. It is easier to do the steep stairs down than up. Plus you get splendid rock formations at the end of your trip...the assent is more gradual. At the bottem of the trail ( a little over a mile) you will reach Charit lodge. A good place to lunch, use a bathroom, buy drinks and food.

hiking
2 months ago

Worth every step! We are not seasoned hikers but still felt the trail was more than doable. The arches were amazing and we had fun climbing and exploring underneath them. Plenty of shade. We didn't encounter any wildlife or bugs. We had ages 5-65 on the hike with us. The 5 year old made it- barely! 65 decided to not go down the steps and see the arches but I think he could have done it!

Ok- just finished this today, close to 10 years from the last time I completed it. Yes, it is a technical hike and it is hard. If your looking for a casual stroll then this isn’t your hike. If you’re looking for a challenge then this is for you. I recommend going clock wise, seems to be blazed better...why they used green blazes on a dense forest hike with a lot of moss amazes me. If your pressed on time then start at the Overlook, there’s also bathrooms there. Lastly, if your ever in doubt then the trail is probably going between 2 boulders. Have Fun

Nicely maintained trail to a popular swimming hole. Some cold nights recently made it a pretty chilly dip today. Though steep, I had no trouble navigating down and back without my usual trekking sticks—not bad for an out of shape senior! No briars, ticks nor poison ivy if you stay on the trail. There are public restrooms and a portapotty in historic Rugby. Locals report some recent bear sightings in the village but noise from swimmers make this trail a safe bet.

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