ONEIDA, Tenn. — With summer upon us, millions of Americans are looking for ways to get away from the hustle and bustle of their every day life and enjoy a time of relaxation. For an increasing number of people, that means partaking in some form of outdoors recreation.
In the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, hundreds of miles of trails await everyone from hikers to horseback riders to mountain bikers. There’s no better way to spend a summer day than by hiking to an overlook and enjoying the evening as the sun sets over the panoramic views that await.
Because of the deep, rugged gorges that encase the Big South Fork River and its major tributaries, the Big South Fork features a large number of these scenic vistas.
The best-known and easiest to access is East Rim Overlook, a handicap-accessible overlook with a protected observation platform that is located just 300 ft. from the parking lot. It is located on East Rim Road off S.R. 297, near the BSF park headquarters.
Sunset Overlook is also close by and is accessible via a 2.0-mile hike from the East Rim Trailhead. It is an unprotected overlook offering views of the river gorge.
There may be no single spot in the Big South Fork NRRA that is photographed as often as Angel Falls Overlook, a rock outcropping along the Grand Gap Loop Trail. The 6.0-mile loop trail is accessible via the 2.5-mile (one-way) John Muir connector from Leatherwood Ford on S.R. 297, or by driving to its start along a series of one-lane gravel roads from Bandy Creek Campground (take Duncan Hollow Road to Alfred Smith Road, and Alfred Smith Road to the trailhead).
John Muir Overlook (pictured) is situated along the John Muir Trail near the Tennessee-Kentucky border. It is accessible from Divide Road, a one-lane gravel road divides the Big South Fork and Pickett State Forest off S.R. 154.
Both the Angel Falls and John Muir overlooks are accessible by mountain bikes. Bikes are allowed on the Grand Gap Loop Trail all days of the week. The segment of the JMT along with the JMT Overlook is located is part of the Chestnut Ridge biking loop.
Honey Creek Overlook is easily accessible by vehicle. It is actually part of the Honey Creek Loop Trail, a 5.5-mile hike that is among the most popular in the Big South Fork. But vehicles can drive all the way to the overlook, which is protected.
There are a number of other overlooks scattered throughout the Big South Fork NRRA. Some of the best trails along which to find overlooks are the Grand Gap Loop Trail and the John Muir Trail segment that connects Grand Gap to Station Camp.