The weekend marked my fourth trip to Big South Fork and the Blue Heron campground. It is remarkable that it took so many trips to discover the great hikes that leave out of the Blue Heron mining community. This impressive historic interpretation of a mining ghost town is located along the Big South Fork River approximately 3 miles from the campground.
The most notable feature of Blue Heron is the giant tipple that crosses the river. This is now a pedestrian bridge that leads to the trailheads for the Catawba Overlook and Big Spring Falls. For details on these hikes (and others in Big South Fork) I recommend this book.
The passage over the river is not for those afraid of heights, but the views are quite spectacular.
On the other side of the river is the trailhead for the Catawba Overlook – a hike for another trip.
Back on the Blue Heron side of the river, the Blue Heron Loop passes through the mining community. The 6.6 mile loop climbs to Devils Jump Overlook, accessible by road. We are also bookmarking this for another trip. But this time we made a couple short forays onto the loop for some quick highlights.
From the south end of the parking lot, it is a short .4 mile hike to Devils Jump. This class IV rapid was allegedly named when early superstitious colonizers of the area attributed the loss of oil found in the area to the devil reclaiming his tar when a raft overturned in the area. Now the trail provides a great view of a favorite among white-water-lovers.
On the walk back from the rapids, Blue dug her heels in and insisted on following a side trail down to the river. She is rarely so stubborn and we conceded out of curiosity. What an incredible beach and swimming area! Blue seemed to have remembered this gem from her time living in these woods and definitely proved a fantastic guide.
From the north end of the mining community, it is a .6 mile hike to Cracks-in-the-Rock. This hike is a gentle climb that ascends a few hundred feet. I thought it was a very reasonable climb, but we encountered other hikers who considered it a slog. And Blue found the climb in the heat to be exhausting.
It is certainly worthwhile to explore the area where the trail winds up and down a quick staircase between the rock monoliths.
We enjoyed a quick snack before heading back to the campsite. Definitely glad we took the time to explore the area and learn more about the history of Big South Fork.