Big South Fork Gravel Overnighter
Experience the beauty of the Big South Fork via this 62-mile loop in Kentucky and Tennessee, with about 40 miles of this route are in KY, and 22 miles in TN. We estimate this multisurface route to be 42 miles of gravel, with 20 miles of pavement. The route is designed as a Sub 24 Hour Overnight (S24O), with the overall distance split relatively evenly between day 1 and 2, and camping (or staying in a cabin) at Picket CCC Memorial State Park.
Note: This is a slightly modified (to start in Kentucky and put the state park in the middle of the route) version of the "Rock Creek Gravel Grovel" route , from Ride With GPS Ambassador, Rollin' Appalachia.
We reached out to the folks at the ranger station, in Stearns, KY, who suggested we park in the gravel parking area by the old bridge, in Yamacraw, rather than parking in the area just down the road, on Yamacraw Boat Dock Rd., due to higher visibility. We suggest contacting the rangers (606-376-5652) ahead of your trip and let them know about your plans, for a little added security.
Day 1 - 34.5 Miles
Head south for a few miles on KY-1363 and warm up your legs on the asphalt before turning left onto CR-1236 and another and another quick left onto FS 566 at White Oak Junction.
FS 566, Rock Creek Rd., is a beautiful gravel road that follows along Rock Creek. The road climbs gently along the stream as you are shaded under a beautiful tree canopy. Rock Creek is certified as a "Kentucky Wild River" and a "Blue Ribbon Trout Stream" so be sure to stop off to get some nice views of the stream along the way.
After leaving Rock Creek, a climb awaits to take you back up on the ridge. You've been picking up elevation as you rode along the stream, so, while the climb is signifcant, the overall elevation isn't too bad. Once you're back on top of the ridge, you'll be greeted with more rolling gravel roads. There will be a few overlooks along this section.
The final section of gravel takes you along the western edge of Pickett State Park. This area has been recently logged and therefore, makes the road a bit more exposed and barren. These roads may have some chunkier gravel in places, but are still in really good condition. We suggest stopping off when you see the sign for the overlook where you can look back at Kentucky from TN, which is a short hike from the road as the view is fantastic.
Once you reach Pickett Park Hwy, you'll rejoin the pavement for a few miles as you make your way north to the park and camp (or get a cabin if you prefer). We suggest building in time to explore along the lake and cross over the footbridge as well.
Day 2 - 27.5 Miles
After getting packed up, head south from the park, via a short paved section to warm up, before picking up the gravel on Divide Rd., which follows the northern border of Big South Fork., and changes names when you cross into Kentucky. Overall, you'll be losing elevation as you ride it, so your overall average speed will stay pretty high, but there are some short steep climbs as well. You'll pass along many large rock faces. We suggest taking a break along the way to stop and explore as this section is extremely scenic, with changing flora and fauna along the way. But, exercise caution, as there have been bears spotted in the area.
On Beech Grove Drive, gravel will give way to asphalt and you'll start to see a few signs of civilization. Beech Grove road is also where you have your first significant descent and steep climb. The descent is paved, but is pretty steep and twisty, so have fun, but be careful Shortly after descending, be prepared to go right back up and steeply climb around "Devil's Knob". Devils Creek Road is the other major descent on this route. It's another extremely fast downhill with more meandering turns.
At the end of Devil's Creek Rd, head north on KY-1363, back to your vehicle.
Camping, Cabins, and General Info.
To guarantee a spot at the state park, we suggest making a reservation via the website. Pickett offers 31 campsites, all of which have water hookups while only 20 also provide electricity. Pickett CCC Memorial State Park is a trash can-free campground, so please carry out what you pack in. The campground offers a hose where you can clean your bikes.
This route is remote and does not have access to food services so plan to bring all the food you'll need. Also, cell service is extremely limited so don't count on having it.
YouTube Video and Trip Gallery
Video footage and pictures from our trip, using this route.
View of Rock Creek
Exploring rock formations
View of KY from TN
Beautiful tree canopy
A wall with a view
Pickett State Park footbridge
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