Trail Review: Big South Fork River & Recreation Area

Located in Jamestown, Tennessee.

June 2017 finally found me at the start of a nine day trip to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area(BSF). I say finally because two years in a row events occurred to delay the trip. Nothing is sweeter than to be at the beginning of a trip you have dreamed of. BSF encompasses a whopping 125,310 acres, and for someone who likes to ride all day, I felt sure I would not run out of trails!

For my campground at BSF I chose True West Campground, Jamestown, TN. Campground owners Donna and Shawn Martin host a beautiful clean campground and have extensive knowledge of the trail riding available in BSF. My rig is a two-horse gooseneck with living quarters and I travel with my horse Shaker and my border collie Myrtle Jo. Each site at True West is equipped with water, electric, a picnic table and a large campfire ring and the horses have clean safe stalls in a nice large barn.

The barn at True West. All photos by Victoria Ree.

The motivation to travel to BSF was a desire to ride out to Charit Creek Lodge where you can spend the night. The lodge’s buildings are National Historic Register-eligible and are among some of the oldest buildings being utilized in the National Park System. The ride north from True West via Bandy Creek and Jacks Loop is approximately 13 miles, and I arrived at Charit Creek in time for dinner.

Charit Creek Lodge.

The meals are sourced from the garden on site, and a sack lunch for your trail ride the next day can be provided upon request. After a delicious dinner with peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert there was some guitar playing on the porch. It was a beautiful star filled evening to sit in a rocking chair relaxing with a glass of wine.

Dinner at Charit Creek Lodge.

There is a beautiful clean barn with tack storage and water. Hay is provided for your stay.. The next day I rode out from Charit Creek along the Station Camp Creek trail which has numerous crossings of the creek, and culminates with a Cumberland River Crossing.

Station Camp Creek

I chose to return via the Hatfield Ridge trail which takes you up along the ridge top heading back to Charit Creek Lodge. While traveling along this trail I encountered black bear cub triplets in a tree. While exciting and awfully cute, please be bear aware while traveling in the park.

The Cumberland Trailhead is easily accessed directly from camp or you can hop into the True West stock trailer and have a drop off at a nearby trail head. You can plan to ride back to camp or be picked up at a designated time.

Cumberland River

The O and W Railroad bridge ride takes you over the Cumberland River and is one of the prettiest within the park. The trail weaves its away along the flowing water over boulders from a time that has long since been forgotten.

Other day ride choices included trails that would down into valleys and along rock bluffs with caves or up along the rim and top of the Cumberland Plateau to outstanding scenic overlooks that beckon for a relaxing break. I promise, you won’t want to leave.


The BSF will not disappoint in delivering up outstanding scenery, riding and wildlife. Trails are easy to travel, well marked and suited for any level of rider. The views are beautiful and trails are wide, sandy and well marked making it easy to travel at any gait.

While staying at Charit Creek Lodge make sure you take advantage of the location to ride the northern most trails or hike to the Twin Arches Recreation Area where the trail winds up about 1500 feet in elevation and includes 175 wooden stairs. Of note, in this part of the BSF there are many horse communities that have trails open to the public. There are instances where you may be required to ride through a community or cross a community road to reach a trail destination.

If you find yourself needing a day of rest or encounter a day of rain a drive over to the Mennonite community of Muddy Pond about 30 miles from Jamestown, with restaurants and shops that contain horse tack to groceries.

Go riding!

I am an SQL Server Database Administrator and also avid trail rider and horse addict who calls Lonedell, Missouri home. I have been riding since I was 4 years old. My favorite riding spots are out in the truly wild areas. Missouri’s Ozarks contain some of the best riding in the center of the country. I have ridden in Wyoming, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Arkansas.

You can follow my trail riding and trail reviews on my blog at OzarkEquiTrekker.

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