ONEIDA, Tenn. — With August’s arrival, summer is on the wane. But just because kids are heading back to school and vacation days are spent doesn’t mean you have to bid summer farewell just yet — especially if you’re fortunate to live close enough for a weekend drive to Big South Fork Country.
While hiking, horseback riding and ATV riding will pick back up again as autumn’s cooler weather arrives, one of the most popular summer activities in the Big South Fork is mountain biking.
The Big South Fork national River & Recreation Area is home to five trails that have been rated as “epic” by the International Mountain Biking Association. All five start at or near the Bandy Creek area — making for a perfect opportunity for cyclists to combine a weekend camping trip at the Bandy Creek Campground with a day of trail-riding in the BSF.
The 8-mile Collier Ridge Trail begins and ends at Bandy Creek Trailhead, 5.5 miles of single track. The West Bandy Trail is a 3-mile section of single track that can be added to the Collier Ridge Trail. The Grand Gap Loop is a 6.8-mile single track loop with excellent views of the Big South Fork River gorge. A 7.5-mile section of the single-track John Muir Trail extends northward from Grand Gap Loop. The JMT can either be ridden as an out-and-back trail, or cyclists can ride the gravel back to the trailhead along the Duncan Hollow Road. Finally, Duncan Hollow Loop is a 5.3-mile trail with 2.3 miles of single track.
All five trails are rated “epic” by IMBA.
In addition, a group of trails on the northwest corner of the Big South Fork NRRA have been added for mountain bikers. Together, they represent 18 miles of riding with a combination of single-track and gravel roads. The Chestnut Ridge trail system includes the Rock Creek Loop and a section of the John Muir Trail in addition to the Chestnut Ridge Trail.
Riders wishing to enjoy the entire 18 miles can start at the Hattie Blevins Cemetery off Divide Road. The Rock Creek Loop Trail traverses Masse Branch, before connecting to the John Muir Trail. After crossing Divide Road, the JMT treks to the spectacular John Muir Overlook, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding No Business Creek valley. Riders can then backtrack to Divide Road along the Rock Creek Loop Trail, then take Divide Road back to the JMT crossing, and the JMT back to Rock Creek Loop and the Hattie Blevins Cemetery.
The Big South Fork Bike Club offers maps and detailed information about the Chestnut Ridge trails.