Angel Falls Trail – Big South Fork

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Angel Falls Trail – Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area – Saturday, February 23, 2013.

 

Details:

Difficulty: Easy. Exception: The rapid itself is *extremely* dangerous. Be careful exploring the area around the falls. Multiple people have died here since the creation of the Park in 1974. (Including hikers that slipped on the rocks and fell into the rapids.)

Location: Leatherwood Ford Picnic Area.

Distance: 4.2 Miles, round trip.

Time: 2:29

Weather: Clear, 63 degrees.

Gear: Vasque Bitterroot Boots (Break-in day hike.) Superfeet insoles, Baselayers, MH Warlow softshell pants.

Story:

Angel Falls Trail is an exceptionally easy and enjoyable 2 mile hike. It has the added benefit of Big South Fork’s pet policy (they are allowed anywhere as long as they are on a 6′ or shorter leash) and I will be returning in the spring with Indy.

Angel Falls Trail parallels the Cumberland River.

Angel Falls Trail parallels the Cumberland River.

The trail offers fantastic views of the Cumberland River, and delivers a great overview of the geography seen in the rest of Big South Fork.

A footbridge over a tributary.

A footbridge over a tributary.

Angel Falls Trail is a gentle, undulating hike.

Angel Falls Trail is a gentle, undulating hike.

View of the Cumberland River from Angel Falls Trail.

View of the Cumberland River from Angel Falls Trail.

 

A moss covered log.

A moss covered log.

A piece of coal sits in the middle of the trail.

A piece of coal sits in the middle of the trail.

Typical geography of Big South Fork.

Typical geography of Big South Fork.

The guidebook says to rock hop across a small stream.

The guidebook says to rock hop across a small stream.

The view approaching Angel Falls.

The view approaching Angel Falls.

This little footbridge on the side trail to Angel Falls injected some unexpected humor into the hike. The two planks that make up the bridge move independently of each other, so one sags under your weight as you step, and the one you are stepping from rises. It was like walking across a stair climber:

Footbridge on the trail.

Footbridge on the trail.

The Cumberland's collection of dead wood.

The Cumberland’s collection of dead wood.

The trail leads downstream of Angel Falls and you loop back around on a sandy beach and rock hop back upstream towards the Falls. The area is littered with every type of river debris imaginable: whole trees, branches, logs, tires, pieces of car trim, etc. This would be an amazing vantage point when the Cumberland River is raging.

A large eddy just downstream of Angel Falls.

A large pool forms just downstream from Angel Falls.

When you look at Angel Falls, you don’t think “Waterfall.” There is a reason for this. It *was* a waterfall. Then, in the 60’s, in what has to be one of the top ten “Hey, Watch This” moments in area history (and I promise you there are a lot of those moments) it was decided the falls should be dynamited to make way for a major canoe race.  Alter the falls? Check. Create the most vicious rapid on a River known for serious rapids? Check. Angel Falls now dives under a scary undercut, and there is a boiling area at the bottom of the Falls that seems straight out of a horror film. It *breathes,* I swear.

Angel Falls

Angel Falls

The return hike is just as pleasant, and as I was hiking into the setting sun, the views of the river were heightened by the “Golden Hour.”

Leaf-covered trail.

Leaf-covered trail.

Arriving back at the parking area.

Arriving back at the parking area.

MCJ

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