Big South Fork: Honey Creek Loop Trail

Honey Creek Loop
Honey Creek Loop Elevation

Slot CanyonHoney Creek Trail is probably one of the funnest trails you will encounter in Big South Fork. Yesterday I meet up with Bryan and some others from Brentwood Hills to do Honey Creek. This trail offers a wide variety of things to see and things to do. First off, there are 4 waterfalls along the trail, though being under a level D4 drought at this time, the waterfalls were nonexistent. This trail also offers a few rock caves that are very accessible. There is an overlook which gives you a good view of one of the most violent portions (class IV rapids) of the Cumberland River, but because of the drought it didn’t look all that particularly violent. Also this trail features some of Tennessee’s finest slot canyons. These slot canyons aren’t very big, nor or they all that difficult, especially if you compare them to the slot canyons you’d find in Utah. Tennessee isn’t exactly known for its canyons, so that makes this kind of unique.

Rock House CaveThe rock caves is one of the other features that make this trail so fun. Some are accessible just by climbing just a few feet, while others a ladder is already in place for you to climb. These caves don’t go underground and aren’t that deep. Most are just single chamber, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. Several were probably used by the Native American’s as shelter. For example, this picture was taken from Indian Rock House Cave.

Well Marked SignsA word of warning though, this trail isn’t the best marked trail. The best way to hike this loop is to take the trailhead that is just up the road and end at the parking area. If you look at the elevation profile image above, ignore the distances. My program gives it as linear distance (aka, as the crow flies). The true distance is going to be terrain distance + climbing distance. Around the third mile, you will encounter a sign that says follow creek. This is where you could lose the trail if you aren’t careful. Make sure you don’t go too long without seeing the red trail blazes. This is the most dangerous part of the trail. Not only because you could get lost if you aren’t paying attention, but also because you are hiking along or in the creek. It is very slippery. This time the water was way down, but the last time I can remember the water being up and flowing pretty good. It was a tricky section of the trail to hike. This is definitely a trail you will want to avoid if it has recently rained or if rain is forecasted. You will also run into signs that are kind of ambiguous about where the main trail goes. This trail has a number of spur trails that either require turning around at the destination or rejoining the trail. When you encounter this sign, you want to take the trail that goes up. It is a little more difficult, but affords more scenery.

While most books and websites will tell you the elevation change on this trail is only 500 ft, I am going to give a way different number. This trail has a whole lot of up and down, there isn’t very many “flat” areas on this trail. Consequently, the total elevation gain is somewhere closer to 2500 ft.

The directions on how to get there I have found are usually pretty vague, so the last thing I want to do is give good directions on how to get to Honey Creek from Knoxville or anyplace you find yourself taking I-75. Take I-75 to exit 141. Turn left off the exit and head west on Highway 53. Stay on Highway 53 through Huntsville until it ends at a light at Highway 27. Turn left onto Highway 27 south. After a few miles you will cross over the New River Bridge. A little less than .5 mile from the bridge you will see a sign on the right hand side of the road that says Burnt Mill Bridge River Access 4.1 miles. Follow the signs to Burnt Mill Bridge. These are well marked, much better than trying to give road names. If you look in the guidebooks, some will say this bridge is closed to traffic, while others say it is open but 2 tons is the weight limit. I wasn’t sure if I should risk taking it and it being closed, but I did… And I’m very glad that I did. They have constructed a new bridge, so you can view the old one for its historic value, but pass using the new bridge. A little over 3 miles past the bridge, you will see the road split. At this split, go right. This takes you to the parking area or you can drive it all the way to the end at the overlook mentioned earlier.
Driving Map to Honey Creek

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