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A Guide for the Trails in the BSF and DBNF
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Big South Fork: trails from O&W bridge to Honey Creek

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Joined: 24 Dec 2005
Posts: 8
Location: Cookeville, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2005 4:38 pm    Post subject: Big South Fork: trails from O&W bridge to Honey Creek Reply with quote

This map shows you how to hike from the O&W bridge to the lower John Muir Trail and Burnt Mill Bridge Loop via the Honey Creek Loop. If you consider that the John Muir trail is an extension of the Sheltowee Trace, then this linkage adds about 10.25 miles, making Burnt Mill Bridge the southern terminus.
The Trails Illustrated map does not show any trails between Devil's Den and Honey Creek Loop, but they are there.
I am interested in exploring possible trails that might extend past Burnt Mill to Peter's Bridge, adding another 16 miles.


green lines - horse trails
blue lines - John Muir trail
red lines - blazed hiking trails (except for the John Muir)
black lines - street legal
purple lines - multipurpose offroad
black dashed - unofficial trails

yellow dots - scenic overlooks
magenta dots - campsites
black dots - caves, rockhouses
light blue dots - water sources
dark blue dots - waterfalls
green squares - parking

Here is the trail description starting at Devil's Den.

0 Devils Den. Southern terminus of the John Muir but the trail continues past the rockhouse. It is now a horsetrail.
.10 miles A trail branches off to the left. Keep right.
.15 miles A short side trail branches off to the right. This leads to the spectacular West O&W Overlook.
.27 miles A trail branches off to the left. Keep right
.54 miles You have reached a small clearing with one trail continuing at the opposite end of the clearing and another branches off to the left. Go left.
1.10 miles After going south for a half-mile, you have reached a T intersection. Take the left trail.
1.25 miles A side trail branches off to the right. It's easy to miss. A tree has fallen here, but you can see the trail past the tree. Take this trail.
1.35 miles You are going south. A side trail branches off to the right. Stay left.
1.40 miles The trail seems to end, with fallen pines a hundred feet or so up ahead. Look to your left. There is a foot trail hidden in the bushes. The trail soon
widens again and continues going south.
1.65 miles The trail ends in an oval clearing with a capped well in the center. The trail used to be a Corp of Engineer's jeep road and was used decades ago
to reach this exploratory natural gas/oil well. If you look carefully you will see a very faint trail on the southwest side of the clearing. Use your
compass and head due south. This trail is very faint and easy to lose. Beware! There are brambles and if you are wearing shorts, your legs will
get scratched up a little.
1.80 miles You have reached a draw that easily drops down into North Fork Creek (it joins up with Honey Creek a half-mile or so ahead.) The creek is usually
only ankle deep or less. Jump in the creek and go downstream to a small waterfall a few hundred feet ahead. Just pass the waterfall, stay to the
left and hike out of the creek and boulder hop your way downstream. You will soon find trail again.
1.90 miles The canyon deepens as you continue downstream. Here is a campsite with a fire ring
1.92 miles The unofficial trail you are on now intersects with Honey Creek Loop just above Indian Rockhouse.

I must stress that the trail starting at the oil cap is extremely faint, but if you can't find it then use your compass to steer due south. The creek is only 800 feet away!

Merry Christmas,



Last edited by Moonman on Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:32 am; edited 2 times in total
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Joined: 18 Jun 2004
Posts: 326
Location: Lexington

PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the map Moonman!

That took a lot of work considering the terrain. Most of these trails, overlooks, points of interest, etc... are not on the Trails Illustrated Map.

As for connecting the JMT with Honey Creek, I found the oil well cap, which is near the drop-off from the ridge, but due to the pine beetle, it's a little tricky to find a trail. I didn't look that hard since it was getting late, but a connector would be great. And the Honey Creek Loop is a monster difficult trail by of the best in the Big South Fork.

Thanks for your great mapping!

Honey Creek Loop Photos
O&W Bridge to above Honey Creek Photos

Help map trails by submitting your waypoints and trail photos.
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Joined: 24 Dec 2005
Posts: 8
Location: Cookeville, Tennessee

PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the compliment, Boyd. It was a lot of work to make this map...and a lot of fun! I still have a lot to learn in cartography but I am slowly making a little progress. You have actually been a great inspiration to me and I am determined to get out on the trail more often and try to make my maps look more professional.

I went back to this area last weekend and updated the map a bit. I had a late start and didn't leave Leatherwood Ford until 7:15 P.M. on Saturday night. I hiked the JMT to Devil's Den rockhouse in the dark using my headlight. I did not see one John Muir trail marker past the O&W bridge. Of course, it was at night and I could have missed some blazes -- but all of them? Boyd, did you see any JMT blazes from the bridge to Devil's Den? I can attest that they were there as of two years ago. If this trail is not blazed anymore then the park has pretty much abandoned this area. Actually, thats okay with me because it means that this area can be my own little private backpacking playground. The horsemen almost never camp out, so if someone from this site decides to camp out in advance at one of the map's campsite waypoints you don't have to worry about company--unless of course I am there first!

One new horsetrail that I discovered starts from the O&W road about a mile west of the bridge, and goes up the gorge to the top and intersects the horsetrails beween Devil's Den and Hole In The Wall. There are two pretty little 20 ft waterfalls just above and below the trail.

I have also made a map which enlarges the area showing the faint trail between the capped oil well and the North Fork creek. Notice that there is a small tributary stream just to the east of the trail. As you start to go south down the trail (follow your compass due south if you can't find it) you will at first be going parallel to the stream which is in a ravine around 10 to 15 feet deep. Your objective is to hit the North Fork at the point where this little stream runs into it. At this intersection there is an easy passage in the form of a draw that makes the final drop to the creek bed.

Another possibility is to at some point on the bushwhack, hike due east. You will soon run into the ravine. If you can find a way down into it, just follow the stream south and you will soon run into the North Fork. If you decide to try this method, make sure that you take note of the draw on your right, at the intersection of the North Fork. You most definitely want to go back out this way.

This adventure is for experianced hikers only! You must be willing to venture off the beaten paths off beaten paths and find your way back with compass or GPS. I am also posting a GPS track of this bushwhack on this site, but a compass and thick skin on your legs is really all you need.

If you do suceed in finding your way to the Honey Creek Loop, then congratulations! You're one of only a handful of hikers that has actually walked from the upper JMT to the Honey Creek Loop. The Lower JMT is only 2.3 miles away.

Good hunting!

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