Honey Creek Loop Trail at Big South Fork NRRA

October 24, 2010 in Tennessee Hiking Trails by amylaree

honey creek loop at big south fork trailhead

My new favorite trail.

I had high hopes for our trek to the Honey Creek Loop.  Thankfully, unlike the disappointment of the Hidden Passage trail, Honey Creek totally came through and was an incredible outing.  It was the most tiring 5.6 miles I’ve ever hiked, but also some of the most interesting and most scenic.  Last week’s five mile hike took us about 1.5 hours… it took us over 3 hours to make it through the Honey Creek Loop.  There’s lots to see (I took lots of pictures)… and you’ll need to take a break every now and again.

Rockwall at Honey Creek at big south fork

Giant rock wall (that’s Nate at the bottom)

  1. Scenery:  4.0
  2. Difficulty:  4.5
  3. Length:  5.6 miles
  4. Dog Friendliness: 1.0 (or 0 if you want to see the overlook)
  5. Convenience:  1
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 3.0

Scenery (4.0 out of 5.0):  Honey Creek provides some of the most diverse scenery that can be packed into 5.6 miles.  The trail starts out innocuous enough through standard Tennessee terrain – tall, thin trees, but as the trail descends, Tennessee’s geological roots play a more prominent role in the landscape.  Like the Hidden Passage, there are plenty of impressive rock walls and rock houses.

Beyond the shear size of some of the rock walls, there’s also real beauty in the geologic details. (Click on the pics for a more detailed view.)

big south fork: Geology as art?

Geology as art?

big south fork Rock layer swirls

Rock swirls

big south fork cascading layers

cascading layers

big south fork natural carvings

natural carvings

But if glimpses of the planet’s geological past aren’t your thing, never fear. Honey Creek has plenty more on display besides cool rocks. We hit up this trail during a beautiful October weekend that Tennessee’s fall colors were in full effect.   The excursion to the overlook was definitely well worth the extra effort.

The previous weeks have been very dry, so the waterfalls (there are 4 named falls) were not running, but even without the added bonus of the sights and sounds of falling water, walking up the creek beds provided plenty of scenic spots.

Golden leaves on Honey Creek at Big South Fork

Golden leaves on Honey Creek

ladder to overlook big south fork river

1 of 3 ladders to get to the overlook

Difficulty (4.5 out of 5.0):  Everything we read about this trail noted the difficulty.  And the people who made those advisories were not joking around.  A few words of warning… don’t try this trail if it’s been wet and rainy recently.  Even with the dry weather lately,  the trail was very slippery in places due to the blanket of fall leaves.  We didn’t have any major falls, but there were a few slips.  Also, be cautious if you have weak ankles.  Much of the trail alternates between rock paths, thick tree roots and rocky creek beds, making it very easy to twist an ankle.

There’s a lot of up and down, so your quads, calves and hamstrings will be put to the test.  The next morning my legs were definitely sore, but not completely drained of energy.  The excursion to the overlook will also leave you winded.  There are three sets of steep stairs/ladders, but the view is worth breaking a sweat.  Alternatively,  if you just want to see the view you can drive right up to the overlook.  We didn’t find that out until we’d already gotten halfway through the loop.

big south fork river

Honey Creek Overlook onto the Big South Fork River

Length: 5.6 miles

Dog Friendliness (1.0 out of 5.0): Without a doubt, we’re glad we didn’t bring Ezra on this trail.  If your dog is good off the leash, it’d probably be a better suited to this trail (Ezra’s a flight risk off of his leash), but I had to concentrate so much on not tripping or falling that it would’ve been an added stress to try to manage Ezra.  And making it up to the overlook would’ve been completely out of the question (reference ladder pic!).

However, there was a group of hikers who had an off-leash dog on the trail that ran ahead of them.  That dog also scrambled up into a high, steep rockhouse.  We didn’t wait around long enough to see how the hikers were going to manage to get their dog OUT of the rockhouse and back down on firm ground.

Beautiful fall at big south fork

Beautiful fall leaves

Convenience (1.0 out of 5.0):  The drive to Honey Creek is about two hours, which makes it one of the less convenient trails that we’ve done.  It’s also not the easiest place to find.  Here are some directions to Honey Creek Loop Trail that were helpful.  Also, keep in mind the last part of the drive to the trailhead is all dirt road, so think twice if it’s been raining lately.  You don’t want to get stuck in the mud.

Nate & Amy at the Overlook at big south fork

Worn out on the Overlook

Bonus Funtimes (3.0 out of 5.0):  We made our hike at Honey Creek into a weekend camping trip so we could take in as much of the fall color that we could find.  While we didn’t camp at Honey Creek, we saw some people who set up camp near the Big South Fork River.  There are also a plethora of horse farms in the area, so horseback riding is also an option.  The Big South Fork River has lots of swimming holes and is also a popular spot for kayaking — which is how Nate first heard of the Honey Creek Loop Trail.


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