Camping in Big South Fork National Recreation Area {Tennessee}

We have not had good luck with camping over the years. Even though we love camping and wanted it to be part of our family’s adventures- we have not done it very much due to the mishaps of prior trips and the growing concern that maybe we’re cursed.

Our first attempt came when we were dating and went to Yellowstone National Park and the trip was marked with a trip to the doctor’s office, sleeping in the car, and bear spray to the face (if you want to read the whole story go HERE). Our next attempt at camping was while we were living in Florida where we drastically underestimated the weather conditions and we all near froze that night. We never even considered that any part of Florida could get that cold.

But we were ready for our third attempt and so decided on a weekend up north at the Big South Fork National Recreation Area that sits on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky. As we drove towards the park we were in awe at the brilliant fall colors surrounding us and took it as a good omen for the weekend ahead.

We found our campsite and got to work getting everything set up. We had left later in the day than we had intended so it was afternoon by the time we got there. We had hoped to fill the two days with multiple hikes in both the Tennessee and Kentucky areas of the park. But it seemed there was just enough time this first day for one hike. And so we decided to take the Angel Falls Trail that would take us along the Cumberland River.

The trail followed the river for 2 miles along an easy path. The ground was covered in leaves and pops of fall color could be seen everywhere. Beyond the peaceful river trails, this area carries a long history of mining and logging industries with it. There are parts of the parks that still show the remnants in the rocks and paths of those past days.

We saw a sign that would take us down to the Portage, or place where boats could be put in the river. But instead we turned off before then and took a small side trail that was unmarked. This proved to be a great move as when we reached the bottom we were met with the beautiful sight of large boulders set against the colors of the season.

Because of the time of year, this portion of the river was running pretty low. Where the water would normally be rushing over the great boulders, now it just made a gentle path through the rocks. We loved climbing over the rocks and looking out to the valley of trees in all directions.

The rocks, the water, and the leaves just made for a perfect beautiful moment. We got so caught up in the views that we almost didn’t notice the grey clouds coming in above us. We could have spent so much more time there, but decided it would probably be good to head back to the campsite.

We got back to camp and began getting everyone settled in for the night. We had brought our dog along on the trip and were a little bit worried how he would do sleeping in the tent with us. He paced around a lot, and tried to run out whenever the door opened, but by the time we all got inside for the night he happily curled up next to me and went to sleep.

It was about 2:00 in the morning when the rain came. And not long after that when we started feeling the drops of water hit our faces. The drops came harder and heavier. This was not the best time to learn that our tent had holes in it. We found a light and found that the entire bottom of the tent was soaked- all our mats, sleeping bags, and clothes were wet with the cold rain.

We all laughed about it as we decided to fold up camp and go home. We filled up the back of the car with all of our wet things, trying to lay them out as best we could to dry. We didn’t bother putting the tent back in the car and instead deposited it in the nearest trash can. We would have to save the rest of the park for the next visit. But I think we can now safely say that we might just be cursed when it comes to camping trips.

For some other tales of misadventure, you may be interested in these:

Animal Encounters at Grianan of Aileach- Ireland

Raining in the Hoodoos- Utah

Medicine, Sulphur, and Bear Spray- Wyoming

Thanks for coming along on this failed camping trip to Big South Fork National Recreation Area. May the nights keep you warm, dry, and bringing brighter days.

17 responses to “Camping in Big South Fork National Recreation Area {Tennessee}”

  1. Oh gosh, you weren’t kidding when you said you said you haven’t had good luck with camping! There’s nothing worse than being cold and wet overnight. Sorry to hear that your bad luck continues. At least you were able to squeeze in one hike on your first day as the fall colours look outstanding. I don’t blame you for going home early. I would have done the same.

    • The fall colors were stunning and we were glad that we got one hike in. But cold and wet kind of did us in for the rest of the trip. Oh well, we will go back one day and maybe rent a cabin instead 🙂

  2. Well as far as I’m concerned that would be three strikes and OUT! and the end of the camping dream! Those autumn (fall) colours are, as you say, stunning and beautiful though, such wonderful shades of so many different colours.

    • The colors were so beautiful. But I’m with you- three strikes and we’re out. Next time it will be with a trailer or a cabin. We’re not willing to risk a fourth attempt like this. 🙂

  3. At least you got some beautiful photos out of it. Disastrous trip as you say, maybe glamming next time 😊

  4. Oh my, seems like the camping gods are not on your side! You have certainly had some camping misadventures! Your photos though are gorgeous, it looks like a beautiful area. Very entertaining post Meg.

    • haha, indeed we have angered the gods somehow but maybe this is just our sign to forego the tent and get a cabin next time 🙂 But if nothing else the area was really lovely in the fall.

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