Big South Fork National River & Recreational Area

Incredible outdoor adventures await in the beautiful Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, a popular playground within the U.S. National Park System straddling the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. Its impressive sandstone arches, cliffs and chimneys fill a protected area offering an unmatched playground for hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, hunting, floating downstream, swimming, camping and, whew, so much more!

You’ll enjoy 125,000 acres of scenic gorges and mountain terrain spread across the awe-inspiring Cumberland Plateau, an area blessed with a wide range of natural and historic features.

Outdoor Adventure

Explore hundreds of miles of hiking trails and gear up for outdoor fun with several exclusively designated mountain bike routes. Gear up for scenic rides along open country backroads and down rugged multi-use horse trails. Saddle up for more than 200 miles of short, daylong and overnight horseback-riding trails, plus take advantage of two equestrian campgrounds and nearby stables.

Rock climbers will find quality traditional marked routes and boulder challenges scattered throughout Big South Fork. Air routes on cliffs up to 250 feet tall and hundreds of unexplored potential climbing routes across vast gorges and sandstone bluffs are just waiting for those willing to seek them out.

Water Recreation & Fishing

Water thrill-seekers can launch into the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its streams and tributaries for whitewater rapids ranging from Class I to major Class IVs. Or just paddle downstream for more family-friendly stretches along scenic tree-lined waterways.

Bandy Creek Pool, designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is available for swimming in season. Or you can cast off to reel in a variety of local fish species, such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, striped bass, rainbow trout, walleye, crappie, catfish and more.

The Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area is also one of the few National Park Service areas in the country offering a designated area for hunting. Trek through the wilderness to find plentiful big and small game species, such as whitetail deer, turkey, wild boar, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit and a variety a game birds.

Mining & Railroad History

History buffs will love visiting Blue Heron Mining Community to get a first-hand look around a former coal-mining town deep in the mountains. The best way to get there is to climb aboard Big South Fork Scenic Railway at the depot in Stearns for a memorable round-trip.

Camping & Accommodations

From rustic to developed, Big South Fork campgrounds offer plenty of options. Relax in quiet Blue Heron Campground, hook up with or without your four-legged trail-mates at Bear Creek Horse Camp or settle into a primitive campsite near the boat launch at Alum Ford Campground. No matter which camping spot you choose, you’ll find great picnic areas with tables, grills and awe-inspiring views in this spectacular region of The Kentucky Wildlands!

There are so many things to see and do in Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area! For local tourist information while in the area, check out the Big South Fork Ranger Station at 300 Wilburn K. Ross Highway in Stearns or call 606-376-5652.

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