Activities Near Williams Creek Retreat

Whether you prefer a quiet, lazy vacation or whether your idea of relaxation is always being on the go, there is plenty to do in and around the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, home of Williams Creek Retreat.

Horseback Riding

There are 212 miles of equestrian trails in the 125,000-acre Big South Fork NRRA. Trails range from just a few miles in length to networks of trails that require several days to travel. Trails lead riders along mountain streams, along the edge of the river gorge, underneath rock houses, and past a variety of culturally significant historic areas. The BSF's most popular equine riding area is Station Camp, which is located just two miles from our cabins at Williams Creek Retreat. More Information: National Park Service website


The number of miles of horseback riding trails in the Big South Fork is surpassed only by its hiking trails. Hikes range from easy strolls along the beautiful Big South Fork of the Cumberland River to grueling, long-distance hikes that will test the merit of even experienced hikers. The Big South Fork NRRA is home to the John Muir National Recreation Trail — with almost 60 miles of it in the Big South Fork, traversing the entire national park from Pickett State Forest to Burnt Mill Bridge — and to the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, which stretches more than 300 miles from Leatherwood Ford just down the road from Williams Creek Retreat to Morehead, Ky., in the Daniel Boone National Forest. On the other side of Scott County, just a 30-minute drive from our cabins, is the Cumberland Trail, which traverses Tennessee along the Cumberland Plateau, extending from near Chattanooga to Cumberland Gap in Virginia. More Information: National Park Service website

Whitewater Paddling

When paddling enthusiasts think whitewater in Tennessee, they think the Ocoee. And then they think Big South Fork. The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River is one of only a handful of streams in the Mid-South not tamed by man-made dams, and the water attracts thousands of paddlers in canoes, kayaks and rafts each year. A variety of runs are available on the river, ranging from Class I-II whitewater that is suitable for beginners to Class IV whitewater that will give seasoned paddlers a nice workout. The Big South Fork is home to the famed "gorge run," which includes the "Big 3" rapids of The Ell, Double Drop (pictured at the top of the page) and The Washing Machine. A whitewater guide service, Sheltowee Trace Outfitters, is available. More Information: National Park Service website

Hunting & Fishing

The Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area is one of the few areas in Tennessee open to wild hog hunters, with seasons that coincide with the whitetail deer seasons each fall, and a winter hunting season that runs through Feb. 28. The North Cumberland WMA is also open for wild hog hunting. Additionally, whitetail deer hunters trek to the Big South Fork and North Cumberland each year seeking an opportunity to bag a trophy whitetail buck, and Tennessee is recognized as one of America's top ten states for wild turkey hunting. The BSF and North Cumberland are among the few places where true strains of the eastern subspecies of the wild turkey can still be found. Small game is abundant in the BSF, and a managed elk hunt is held on the North Cumberland WMA each October. Meanwhile, the Big South Fork and its major tributaries attract anglers fishing for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, walleye and muskie, among other species. Rainbow trout can be found during the cold weather months at the Oneida City Park Lake — a 10-minute drive from Williams Creek Retreat — and the 200-acre Flat Creek Reservoir in Huntsville (15 minutes away) offers public fishing as well. Anglers are invited to bring their boat for either lake; public ramps are available (no gasoline motors permitted). More Information: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Mountain Biking

After receiving the coveted "epic" designation from the International Mountain Biking Association — the world's foremost mountain-biking organization — in late 2012, the Big South Fork NRRA is quickly becoming recognized as a bucket list destination for peddlers. As one of only two national parks in the United States to permit mountain bikers, the BSF's trail system includes incredible rides along the edge of the gorge rim — 500 feet above the churning whitewater below — as well as exhilarating downhill runs and nice workout sections of trail. Biking is permitted on most equine riding trails as well. More Information: Big South Fork Bike Club

ATV Riding

Some who know say that Huntsville, Tennessee — a 15-minute drive from Williams Creek Retreat — is the nation's No. 1 destination for off-road riding. The privately-owned Brimstone Recreation manages 20,000 acres in the Cumberland Mountains, with hundreds of miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult. Brimstone hosts major events each Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend, mixing trail rides with country music concerts that feature some of Nashville's biggest names. And if that isn't enough, located adjacent to the Big South Fork is the 145,000-acre North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. Managed by the State of Tennessee, the North Cumberland features even hundreds more miles of trail. More Information:

Road Tours

Not everyone is up for heading into the backcountry on foot or on horseback. For those who prefer to explore by car, the Big South Fork NRRA and northern Cumberland Plateau offer plenty of great scenery along the highways. Tennessee's Top Secret Trail runs through Oneida and the Big South Fork. More Information:

Wildlife Viewing

Want to see a wild elk? The North Cumberland WMA is the place to go. A black bear? Try the Big South Fork NRRA. In between, the northern Cumberland Plateau is home to whitetail deer, wild turkey, wild boar, bald eagles and a variety of other wildlife. The North Cumberland WMA is home to several endangered or threatened species of songbirds. You never know where wildlife will turn up. Black bears have been spotted in the middle of Oneida, the town closest to Williams Creek Retreat — and even inside Williams Creek Retreat!

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