Overview. This is a terrific Spring hike that includes two waterfalls - Dick Gap Falls and Big Spring Falls - and a beautiful view of the Big South Fork River and Blue Heron Mining Community below. The key is to do this hike when there's plenty of water flowing.
Route Type | Out and Back
Total Distance | 7.8 miles
Overall Difficulty | Moderate
Blue Heron and Kentucky Trail Map | National Parks Service
Trailhead. Your hike begins next to the concession and restroom building at Blue Heron Mining Community - a recreated mining camp in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. [map]
Trail navigation. Departing Blue Heron, follow the paved path north (left) to walk up to the bridge over Big South Fork. Once across the bridge, turn left (south) on the Kentucky Trail. From here, you'll begin a little more than 300' ascent to Catawba Overlook.
On your way, you'll come to a fork with signs for Kentucky Hiking Trail, Horse Trail, and Catawba Overlook - take the left fork toward Catawba Overlook. Shortly thereafter, you'll arrive at the spur trail at mile 1.8 to the overlook where you can take in a sweeping view of Big South Fork River and Blue Heron Mining Community.
Continuing back onto Kentucky Trail, follow it until you see a sign for Dick Gap Falls at mile 2.5 where you'll take another short spur trail to the falls. After returning to Kentucky Trail, continue on to the junction with the spur trail to Big Spring Falls at mile 3.7 marked simply as 'WATERFALL .3 MI'. Continue to the viewing deck for Big Spring Falls and return by retracing your steps.
CAUTION - Cliffs. While most of this hike is safe and away from sheer cliffs, be cautious at Catawba Overlook and stay behind the railing.
CAUTION - Bears. Big South Fork is bear country, so be sure to practice bear safety. [Be Bear Aware by US Forest Service]