View Full Version : Big South Fork Campsites?

04-09-2017, 23:43
Looking for someone who is very knowledgeable about the Big South Fork Area.

Planning a three night trip starting April 20th. We have a group of 6 guys going. The plan is to start at the west entrance TH and hike to slave falls then spend the night around Jake's place (Thursday night).

**My first question is: are there suitable places to camp on the south side of the twin arches loop trail between Jake's Place and Charit Creek Lodge? I would like to camp somewhere between. I will need to walk to Charit Creek Lodge once we arrive at camp but I do not want to stay right beside the place.

Friday we will leave camp and hike to Twin Arches then take the station camp creek trail towards the Cumberland River and hit the John Muir trail. We will take the John Muir trail south towards Grand Gap Loop but plan to stay somewhere half-way between the JM trail junction and GG Loop. Looks like we have two options where there is water: Duncan Hollow and Joy Falls. I would prefer to stay near Joy Falls.

**My second question is: is anyone familiar with the Joy Falls area and if so will the creek have water and is there a suitable place for three tents?

Saturday we will continue south to the GG Loop and then take the John Litton Farm Loop back towards Bandy Creek CG.

**Where would be the best place to camp between GG Loop and where the John Litton Farm Loop Y's off to take you to the farm. Looks like there are several small creeks along the trail and I know Fall Branch Falls is at Y junction. With it being Saturday night I wasn't sure how crowded this area would be.

Any help with campsites and other information regarding BSF is appreciated. I have never hiked this area and we be coming from central Alabama. I am found several posts on this forum about BSF which has been very informative but little about the above questions.

Thanks guys - Tyler

04-10-2017, 02:27
At this time of year all of the streams should be running well.

"With it being Saturday night I wasn't sure how crowded this area would be."

I doubt that you will experience overcrowding. I have backpacked approximately 2/3 to 3/4 of the trail mileage that you anticipate covering. I did that during the course of six short mileage trips some which were done as "and and back" ventures rather than loops. I did most of those hikes solo on Friday thru Sunday weekends.

Along the way I sometimes met day hikers, and on multi-use trails I encountered groups of horseback riders. But, thus thus far, I have never found myself sharing a backcountry campsite in the BSF with any other party. And, while walking along those trails, I only saw other backcountry campers one time. They were camped at sites that are located along the Laurel Fork Creek Trail, several miles upstream from the river.

It's been years since I made most of the aforementioned trips. Therefore, I no longer remember precisely where each of my campsites was located, nor do I recall those sites' sizes. But, you should be fine as long as you manage to end each day's hiking well before darkness falls, giving yourselves time to poke around a bit to find locations for each of your tents. Having some "campsite searching time" available may be especially useful prior to your second night, the evening that you will camp along the John Muir Trail.

"**Where would be the best place to camp between GG Loop and where the John Litton Farm Loop Y's off to take you to the farm."

I've hiked the main trail between Grand Gap Loop and Bandy Creek Campground several times. Going towards Bandy Creek Campground, the trail soon crosses a stream. That's just 1/4 to 1/2 mile from the GG Loop trail junction. After crossing that creek the trail ascends for approximately 200 yards to a fine, amply sized, camp site.

It is my impression that camping is not permitted right at Jake's Place. But, that creek bottom is fairly large and thus also has other potential campsites. I've camped both in that area and also along Station Camp Creek, downstream slightly from the Charit Creek Hostel.

You've made excellent plans. Have a great trip!

04-10-2017, 06:19
Looks like a great trip.

Most of our BSF experience has been with what is reachable in dayhikes. We have hiked some trails several times, but never explored like you're describing. Siestita's experience is much better than ours.

I assume you have a good map and have studied the contours... Since it's your first visit to the area, I'll share a few general observations.
1. The area is rugged. It's a sandstone plateau deeply cut by rivers and streams. Unlike the Smokies, the flattest land may be on top. The gorges will give you steep sometimes unexpected drop-offs, thin overhangs, shallow caves - DO NOT WANDER AROUND THOSE AREAS IN THE DARK!

2. The John Muir Trail following the river was wide enough to camp beside the trail. Off-trail gave us a choice of river or cliffs, so beside the trail was the only option. However, this was south of Leatherwood Ford. I am assuming similar conditions further north. Also, just in case you end up down there, the old Leatherwood Ford foot bridge was damaged and impassable at our last visit. Not sure how you're accessing the area, but if you drive through LF, be sure to look at the flood display in the pavilion above the ford. Water levels were impressive!

3. If you have the chance to visit Picket State Park (adjacent to the west entrance), it would be worth a few hours of your time. An oxbow curve of the river undercut the narrow ground between channels and created a natural bridge. You can walk over the bridge to what has become an island.

4. Other favorite areas of BSF (for a later trip) are the Honey Creek Loop at the southwestern end, and the Blue Heron Loop (including Crack-in-the-Rock) near the north end.

The Solemates
04-10-2017, 08:27
have fun! we'll be there the same weekend

04-10-2017, 09:33
I've camped along the creek between Jake's Place and the lodge. there were not many established sites in that area as I was expecting, but plenty of bottom land where you can find a suitable flat spot. and there's always Jake's Place itself. it's just a mowed-field but nice for star gazing.

04-10-2017, 12:32
Thanks fellas! Some good information provided. Keep is coming. @The Solmates what trails are you hiking?