The Big South Fork National Recreation Area is one of those parks I have passed by in my car going 70 m.p.h. many times. Every time I saw the brown sign pointing to the exit, I wanted to check out the park. I had hiked for an afternoon once in college, but I wanted to stay longer and backpack overnight.
I finally made the trip a couple of years ago, and I ended up hiking for three days in this beautiful recreation area. It is aptly named as there is just about everything under the sun one can do in the Big South Fork. You can of course backpack as their is hundreds of miles of trails, but there is also horseback riding (180 miles of horse trails), canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, hunting, and fishing to name a few.
The Big South Fork is located on the Kentucky and Tennessee border, so it is not far from the most visited park in the United States: The Great Smoky Mountains. Because of its proximity to the Smokies, the heavily visited neighbor takes a lot of stress off the Big South Fork. I hiked for three days and saw only a handful of people.
Having hiked many times in the Great Smoky Mountains, it was interesting to check out the similarities and contrasts between these two scenic parks. The Big South Fork is located in the Cumberland Mountains, which is not nearly as majestic as the Smokies, but they are both tree covered older mountains.
Although the Big South Fork elevation may not be as high, there is a lot of picturesque cliffs and interesting rock formation along the ravine overlooking the river and located throughout the trail system. In the Great Smoky Mountains, you sometimes go miles without much to look at besides the forest. In the Big South Fork there are interesting rock formations all over the place.
Anyone who has hiked or been in both parks would say the Great Smoky Mountains is the superior destination, but Big South Fork fans would say the place deserves your visit the next time you are driving on I-75 near the Kentucky and Tennessee border. Hope that these pictures inspire you to make a visit next time instead of flying past.
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