Hiking challenge explores BSF and the Cumberlands


For the second time in three years, an Oneida newspaper is challenging residents and visitors of Big South Fork Country to get out and explore the region’s spectacular places by traveling where their feet will take them.

The Independent Herald‘s Twenty Week Hiking Challenge tackles a new trail each week, totaling nearly 90 miles over a five-month period. Hundreds of participants are taking part in the challenge, which visits such scenic vistas as Northrup Falls at the Colditz Cove State Natural Area and the Twin Arches at the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

Ben Garrett, publisher of the Independent Herald, said the challenge is designed to be beginner-friendly, easing novice hikers into the popular form of recreation.

“Our first hike was to Angel Falls in the Big South Fork, which is two miles in and two miles out along a flat, easy trail,” Garrett said. Some of the other hikes totaled around two miles, round-trip.

“The trails will progress in difficulty as the challenge goes along, and we’ll eventually have hikes that are quite a bit longer,” Garrett added. “By that point, some folks who were beginners when the challenge began will be seasoned hikers, and they’ll be able to tackle longer hikes that they weren’t able to complete earlier in the spring.”

The trade-off for the longer and more difficult hikes, Garrett said, is seeing awe-inspiring scenery that is otherwise inaccessible.

“We have people who have lived in this region all their lives, or who have visited our area all their lives, and they don’t know that some of these places even exist,” he said. “They come back amazed, every single time.”

While most of the hikes are in the Big South Fork NRRA, which features hundreds of miles of hiking trails, the Twenty Week Hiking Challenge also visits Colditz Cove, Pogue Creek State National Area, Pickett State Park, Frozen Head State Park and Daniel Boone National Forest.

Each week, the newspaper profiles the trail of the week on its Outside page, giving participants directions to the trailhead and a thorough description of the trail, including hazards and interesting points along the way. Prizes are awarded weekly. Hikers log their participation by tagging photos on social media with the #20WeekHikingChallenge hashtag.

The challenge began in March, but late-comers can play catchup by finding all the trails listed online.

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