Things To Know Before You Come

Here are some things you might want to know about Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area before you visit the area.

  • Big South Fork protects 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, is located in both Tennessee and Kentucky and joins or contains portions of six counties.

  • The Eastern/Central Time Line runs through the middle of the park. Most park offices and concessionaires operate on Eastern Time. If, however, your travels do take you across the time line, make sure you plan your time accordingly.

  • Big South Fork is managed to promote its vast array of recreational opportunities. It is truly a four-season park for people to use and enjoy. Come often and see the different faces the park wears during each season.

  • Big South Fork preserves and protects a huge variety of natural and cultural resources, there is something to interest almost anybody.

  • Blue Heron Mining Community tells the story of life in a company owned coal mining town in the 1940's and 50's. You can drive into Blue Heron, but a fun way to get there is to ride the Big South Fork Scenic Railway.

  • Big South Fork is bisected by only three highways. While there are several points of interest and overlooks along the highways, much of Big South Fork can only be reached by parking your car and walking, riding, biking or floating into the park.

  • When driving HWY 297 through the Big South Fork River gorge, you will encounter steep grades (up to 13%) and sharp hair-pin curves. Drive slowly, use a low gear and check turns before you enter them. Similar steep road conditions also exist when driving into Blue Heron on Hwy 741.

  • While most lodging opportunities exist in the communities surrounding Big South Fork, the park does have developed and primitive campgrounds and a back country lodge that you can only access on foot or horseback.

  • Hunting is allowed within Big South Fork. There are safety zones around most areas of high visitor use, but if you are planning on being in the back country, particularly in the fall and early winter, we recommend wearing bright colored clothing or hunter orange.

  • The Grand Gap Loop Trail has been designated for hiking use with mountain bike use any day of the week. Be prepared to share the trail. View descriptions and maps of mountain bike trails.

  • Weather on the Cumberland Plateau can be very different from near-by cities which are not on the plateau. Check the local forecast and come prepared for weather which can change very quickly.

  • Following development of a Special Regulation as required by Executive Order #11644, the only trails open to ATV use will be those marked as multi-use trails. These multiple-use trails will only be open to ATV use by licensed hunters while they are actively engaged in the legal hunting of either deer or wild boar. For the recreational ATV rider, there are no authorized ATV trails within Big South Fork at this time. There are, however, several areas near Big South Fork where a person may ride ATV's. Please contact either of the parks visitor centers for additional information on these areas or on the ATV usage within Big South Fork.
Big South Fork River with huge boulders
Big South Fork River gorge is littered with huge boulders.

Chuck Summers

Last updated: April 6, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

4564 Leatherwood Road
Oneida, TN 37841


(423) 569-9778

Contact Us