Honey Creek Loop, Big South Fork

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Summary

Touted as the most challenging trail in the Big South Fork, the Honey Creek Loop trail will certainly test your hiking mettle. Though the loop itself is only 5.5 miles, it can easily take 4 to 5 hours to complete. The trail contains all of the classic features expected from the Big South Fork and Cumberland Plateau region; towering cliff-faces, mysterious rock houses, hidden waterfalls, deep woodlands, and grand overlooks.

Written by

Tim Hill

Distance

5.5 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

50.4 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

4 hours

Though the loop itself is only 5.5 miles, it can easily take 4 to 5 hours to complete.

Seasonality

All Seasons

Dog Friendly

Yes

Dogs area allowed, but be wary that trail may be difficult for older dogs. Also, avoid the ladder leading to the overlook.

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

The Honey Creek Loop trail will keep your attention climbing over boulders, crawling through tunnels, hopping across creeks and stopping for photograph after photograph the entire way. Located in the southern portion of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, near the confluence of the New River and Clear Fork that form the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, the trail starts and ends at a small parking area at the beginning of the gravel road leading to the Honey Creek Overlook. 

Heading in a counterclockwise fashion, the trail climbs slightly across road from the parking area and into the woods. The trail drops to the river with a few early rocky descents and small stream crossings. After about a mile and a half the trail will come to a junction that leads up to the Honey Creek Overlook. If you have a dog with you, you’ll have to drive to the overlook when you are finished because ahead is a very steep metal ladder that leads to one of the best views of the gorge. Check it out right off the bat, or be sure to follow the overlook road you started on, and see it later.

Continuing on the loop, the trail follows the BSF for a short distance. A steep side trail provides access to the river for a quick dip. Back on the loop, you’ll meet up with Honey Creek and you'll have to navigate several water crossings. Watch the blazes and watch your step. The stream crossings are unaided, rocks can be slippery, and the trail can be hard to distinguish. The trail rolls up and down, winds in and out, spins over and around. Check out all the rock overhangs carved by weather, water, and time. 

Be on the lookout for the side trail to Honey Creek Falls. Hidden in a small hollow, this secluded waterfall empties into an almost magically serene pool. If it has been wet enough lately, another waterfall lies along the climb back to the parking lot along with plenty more rock overhangs and boulders. 

What Makes It Great

Hiking the Honey Creek Loop is like spelunking in the open woods. Or like the hiking version of a jungle gym. The loop is the perfect length for a day hike and offers a little bit of everything. There are views, dense woods, and waterfalls. You can find sections that spike your adrenaline and spots that appease your need for solitude. 

The Honey Creek Overlook is also one of the most photographed views of the gorge. Easy access to the overlook and the loop trail make this a must see and do.

Who is Going to Love It

Experienced hikers will enjoy the challenge of the boulders and creek crossings. Beginners will appreciate the relatively minimal elevation gain. As mentioned before, this is a very scenic hike that is sure to keep anyone entertained. 

The trail can be difficult to follow around the boulders and over the creeks, so some experience is recommended. Also, the trail can be very technical in these sections. 

Arrive early and you will have the trail to yourself, but later in the afternoon expect to share the adventure with others. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

-From Knoxville: Take I-75 North to exit 141 (SR 63). Turn left (West of SR63). Follow SR 63 through Huntsville, Turn left (South) on US 27. After bridge over New River turn right on old US 27.

-Turn left Mountain view road, right on Al Martin and then left on Honey Creek Loop . Road turns to gravel after Burnt Mill Bridge parking area. Honey Creek Overlook road and parking area will be signed on the right several miles down.

-Most of the roads off of US27 do not have street signs. Look for and follow brown signs for Burnt Mill Bridge.

-A small parking area for the Honey Creek loop lies just after the junction of the Honey Creek Road and Honey Creek Overlook Road (both are well maintained gravel roads and a brown sign points the way).

-Trail can be accessed on either side of the parking area (to go clockwise or counterclockwise). 

-Note: Trail sign/map by parking area shows gravel road leading to overlook as a trail bisecting the loop.

-Vault toilets located at Overlook parking area.

Location

Honey Creek Loop, Big South Fork

36.43325, -84.646612

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