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Big South Fork for the wimpy eventer

Hi all,

Looking for recommendations and tips for enjoying a weekend trip to Big South Fork with a couple quiet-but-relatively-inexperienced-on-trails horses. (Sturdy little Fjord ponies who do low-level eventing and are generally good eggs.)

I’m looking for a place to stay, prefer a cabin with a private barn and close access to trails that aren’t going to get us killed. Some sense of adventure is great, but we’re not looking for Cougar Rock. Timeframe is November.

I’ve investigated Laurel Fork and their cabins look lovely; is it a good bet, or would East Fork be preferable? (Seems like it has lots of recommendations, but their web site and fee structure are a bit tough to reckon.) Or are there private hidden gems I should check out?

What do I really need to know? What trail heads are good? Are trails well marked? Are we going to get lost? Will we be eaten by bears?

Help me, oh wonderful COTH authorities!

Haven’t been there, but did hear lots of wonderful things about it. If you check some of the endurance websites or message boards, you can probably get a good feel for the trails and local amenities.

Here’s two recent horse adventures you can read: Just got back from Big South Fork and A Long Ramble of our Trip to Big South Fork

The one year (long ago) that I planned to go to the BSF endurance ride (didn’t make it for whatever reason) I was told quite strongly I needed to protect myself from the chiggers. They are HORRID in that area. Worse than any bear, ever!

Best of luck, and hope you have a blast!

Thanks for the links!

We stayed at Arabian Nights Cabin and loved it. The trail head from there is not great, I wouldn’t bother riding it again. But a real barn, a real turn out, and a very private cabin? All Good. I would stay there again in a heartbeat. It was clean as a whistle, it’s nearly brand new. Good paved road and easy access. I didn’t find it a big deal to haul out to different trail heads.


Those are my pics from the trip.

The O&W trail is easy and it is beautiful.

I’ll have to look at the map for other suggestions.

I would not recommend East Fork over BSF.

a good map. I sorta hated the NPS map…


Laurel Fork has lovely cabins, but the last time I was there, the barns were not on site (down the road) with small stalls (maybe 8x10). The trails directly from there are okay, not the greatest. All of the places in that area are limited in diversity of trails. If you don’t mind trailering, that’s no issue.

I love Timber Ridge Campground, and they have small cabins, if you just want a spot to sleep. They have the best trails, lots of choices without trailering.

East Fork is great - the hot tub cabins are small but fine, with a barn in the backyard. There are tons of easy trails, and you always have choices about how far and which way to go, without much chance of getting lost. They are closing their campgrounds by November, so it shouldn’t be crowded.

I’ve stayed in one of these cabins and loved it:


We had awful weather, so we didn’t get to ride enough, but I love the trails on that side of BSF. There’s nothing too challenging.

Catoosa http://www.catoosaridgestables.com/ is a great place - amazing barn and lovely, easy trails. I haven’t stayed in a cabin, but everything there is gorgeous.

I’ve stayed in a cabin on the Bear Creek side in Kentucky, and it was also great

I think I’ve been to pretty much every option, so feel free to ask any questions.

Katy I heard that East Fork logged a bunch and trashed some trails in doing so, just what I heard…

We loved Wilderness Resorts also! Had a nice cabin with a hot tub and stalls (small stalls but adequate for short term). The one we rented also had a small paddock which the horses appreciated for a roll after a day of riding. Trails in the development with easy access to BSF. Trails were great and not too rocky or challenging for my guys. Planning on a return trip when it cools down some and my DH can get some vacation time.

Katy I heard that East Fork logged a bunch and trashed some trails in doing so, just what I heard…[/QUOTE]

I’ll ask around. I haven’t been there yet this year, sadly enough.
One East Fork warning - their fees are complicated, and you always owe more than you expect. I hate that they charge a riding fee to campers.

I just heard from a friend who said she’s ridden every trail except for the scary one that goes to the river, and there are no changes at East Fork from years prior. She didn’t see any logging, damage, or trail closures.

Thank you all for the tips, I really appreciate it!

I’m gleaning that Station Camp and Cumberland Valley are good trail heads to aim for?

This may be a dumb question (sorry…), but what’s a reasonable distance to expect to cover in a day’s ride? I’m thinking about planning riding routes, but have no idea how far we’d go over that terrain in, say, 4 hours of walking with a little trotting … Is a 15 mile loop insane to try to tackle at that pace? Or will we be done in 1.5 hours and looking for more?

Going to try for a Laurel Fork or Wilderness Resorts cabin, I think. We have 3 people and 3 horses, so Arabian Nights might be a bit too cozy!

I think 15 miles will take 4-5 hours, depending on your pace and rest breaks, unless you gait a lot, and then maybe three. How helpful was that?

Here’s a trail tracker of the Pilot Wine Loop, which is right at Wilderness.


Here’s Cumberland Valley.


We do a lot of stopping and talking, so our mph isn’t impressive. You can see elevation changes and all on these, which is cool.

I agree that 15 miles will take about 4 hours unless you plan on doing mostly cantering and trotting. I can do 6 miles in under an hour if I’m doing mostly trotting and cantering but it’s not exactly enjoying the wilderness.