Monday, May 10, 2010

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

This past weekend, we camped and hiked at the Big South Fork NRRA in Kentucky and Tennessee. It was only a 3 1/2 hour drive from Louisville, KY, which makes it a great weekend getaway for those seeking an outdoors or wilderness experience.


The first two nights we camped at Bandy Creek Campground ($19 a night), which is very well-kept but lacks the charm of Koomer Ridge in RRG. Since we were one of the very few tent campers, however, it wasn't much of a problem during our stay. I wouldn't recommend staying here on a holiday weekend when it may fill. Same goes for Blue Heron campground ($17 a night), which isn't much better.

The Alum Ford primitive campground and the Pickett State Park campground are great choices for those looking for an authentic camping experience. And as a bonus, they'll save you a bit of money (Alum Ford is $5 a night; Pickett State Rustic Park is $13 a night).

The north-west portion of the park is the best in terms of ruggedness, day hikes and backpacking trips. Many unique and challenging trails connect in this area.

We used two guidebooks on our trip, Exploring the Big South Fork and 100 Hikes in the Big South Fork. Of the two, the latter was much more informative, as it included several hikes in the outer lying areas of the BSF as well as many unheralded treks. Exploring the Big South Fork tended to disappoint in the amount of hikes it covered, but it was nice to have a comparison. We also used the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for navigation. I highly recommend carrying this map while exploring the area. The maps provided in both guides were truly inadequate, not to mention confusing.

Some tips for hikers and backpackers seeking to make the most out of a trip to the Big South Fork:
  • Make sure your car has plenty of gas. There aren't many roads that travel through the park, meaning you have to drive around it in order to get from one place to another. This can be frustrating for the day hiker, so plan hikes that are near each other to limit the amount of driving.
  • Bring all your supplies with you. Unless you can properly stock up on supplies at Wal-Mart, you'll need to have everything with you before you enter the park. There are no outfitters nearby. Firewood is also hard to come by, so plan accordingly. (Note: if staying at the Bandy Creek campground, firewood can be purchased for $10. Pickett State Park campground provides free firewood for campers.)
  • Be prepared for seclusion. Although it was a nice weekend, we only ran into one other batch of hikers, and each night we practically had the campgrounds to ourselves.
  • Bring a map and guidebook! There were several confusing trails we encountered on our trip, and had it not been for the guidebook, we would have found ourselves re-routed to another portion of the park.

1 comment:

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