Big Southfork National River and Recreation Area
Friday, April 7, 2023
I was lucky enough to get Good Friday off this year, so I decided to spend it in nature. The forecast was calling for rain and I had two different hikes picked out. One was Sterling Mountain via Baxter Creek in the Smoky Mountains and the other one was Angel Falls Overlook in Big South Fork. I chose Angel Falls Overlook as the weather was predicting most of the rain moving east. Like most “weather predictions” it turned out to be wrong and followed me north. It rained on me for most of the day, but at least it did not turn out to be heavy.
US Topo Man of Hike Location
Saw a hike on AllTrails that takes the Angel Falls Overlook Trail then does a little loop before heading back down the Overlook trail. I really did not commit and decided to just follow it loosely and do a bit of wandering. This was nice for a change of pace as l usually always have a set route. This gave me a lot more flexibility and an opportunity to just relax. In the end I did the Angel Falls Overlook there and back then the Angel Falls Trail there and back that ended up being roughly fifteen total miles.
The Angel Falls Overlook Trail starts across the bridge from the trail head and peacefully follows the Cumberland River for a good chunk of the hike. At about the 2.5-mile mark you hit most of the elevation gain that lasts only for around a half mile or so. The bridge across the creek is currently out at the writing of this blog, so you will have to cross the creek to continue on this trail. After crossing the creek, the fun section of the hike begins as there are some stone shelves you hike around with the help of a cable and a ladder.
At this point it started to rain a little harder and there was a rock overhang just off the side of the trail, so I thought it would be a suitable time for a cup of Joe and a sandwich. With it being bone dry under the overhang I took my time and enjoyed my break. The Angel Falls overlook is about a five-minute hike from this point and is also close to the Grand Gap Loop trail junction. I would love to go back and complete the Grand Gap Loop trail as it rounds the whole plateau area.
The Overlook is beautiful and gives a spectacular view of the Cumberland River. The next time I go I need to remember binoculars as I could not make out where the rapid was at. If it were not for the rain this would have been a fine place to take my coffee break. It was here I decided to head back instead of doing the loop section of the hike as I wanted to see Angel Falls since I could not spot it from the overlook.
The Angel Falls hike is an easy 2.5-mile roundtrip that follows the Cumberland River the whole way. There are a few runoffs that create little waterfalls along the way and close to the rapid itself there are some interpretive signs about how to run them. Angel Falls rapid does look intense and it would be fun to watch people run it in real time.
After my trip out to Angel Falls, I took another short break along one of the runoffs and then headed back to the Jeep. This was a wonderful day and made me realize I need to do more of these loose style hikes. I am planning to come back to do the overview hike again and hike the rest of the Grand Gap Loop hopefully on a clearer day.
As always, my friends, Hike On and stay Safe!
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