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John Muir Trail - Big South Fork

Incomplete last updated work in progress 2/9/09

Leatherwood Ford
Map (pdf)
Latitude: N3628'38"
Longitude: W8440'10"
Elevation: 874'
Permits: Required.

The John Muir Trail begins at the O.W. Railroad Bridge and winds 44 miles through the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. There is also a spur loop trail that can extend this hike to 50 miles.

Hiking the John Muir trail through the Big South Fork is usually done in a 4 or 5 day trip. You should be aware that in the dry months finding a water source can be a problem. All water collected needs to be treated, there are wild boar in the Big South Fork.

Big South Fork WaterfallFor those that plan on leaving a car at the Southern end of the trail it is recommended you park at Leatherwood Ford and back track the two miles to the beginning of the trail because O.W. Bridge is isolated and unlit area.

O.W. Bridge - 0.0
to Leatherwood Ford is a level, easy hike about 2.3 miles. It follows the Big South Fork down the east bank. Just downstream from the O.W. you will pass a large boulder in the trail. This boulder fell from the cliffs above. As you make your way towards Leatherwood Ford you will cross a few small streams (weather dependant) and small but nice waterfall. This section of the trail can be done in an hour.

Trout LilyLeatherwood Ford - 2.3 
Latitude: N 3628'38"
Longitude: W 8440'10"
Elevation: 874'

at Leatherwood Ford cross the low wooden bridge near the information gazebo. After crossing the bridge the John Muir trail follows the Cumberland River down stream.

 Big South Fork Wildflowers

Trail starts to ascend - 4.1 near Fall Branch the trail turns from the river and starts the climb. You will gain about 500' by the time you reach the tops of the bluffs.
Ladder - 4.9 after climbing the ladder you come to the junction of the Grand Gap Loop. Go right and walk a short distance to the overlook. On this trip we will follow the Grand Gap Loop along the bluff, for a slightly shorter trip you can back track to the trail near the ladder and go north instead of down the ladder.
Angel Falls Overlook - 5.1
Latitude: 36 29.78'N
Longitude: 84 39.253'W
Elevation: 1325?'

Great views of the Big South Fork valley. Be careful in this area  sheer cliff faces can be dangerous especially when wet.

Trail intersection - 10.4 Go right at this trail intersection.
Big Island Loop trail intersection - 24.0 we will go left here, but if you want hike an additional 3.5 miles you can go right here to hike the Big Island Loop section of the trail.
Trail intersection - 27.5 trail intersects old road, go right.
Trail intersection - 27.7 trail cuts off the road to the left
Ladder 28.2 - climb small ladder
John Muir Overlook 28.6 -
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Directions to Leatherwood Ford: From I-40 take exit #317? (Hwy 127) near Crossville and go north approximately 30 miles to Jamestown. Most maps show Hwy 127 going right into Jamestown, but a new bypass takes you around the East side of town. Stay on Hwy 127 until you get to the Hwy 154, exit and go East. Stay on Hwy 154 for approximately 6 miles to Hwy 297 and turn right (East). This road will take you to Leatherwood Ford, it also passes very near Bandy Creek campground and ranger station where maps and other information are available.
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