Yahoo Falls, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures
Yahoo Falls, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures
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Not only is Yahoo Falls known for being the highest waterfall in all of Kentucky, it also nearby lies the significant Yahoo Arch. These two landmarks are a popular attraction in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. After a moderate hike, visitors to the falls and arch will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty that surrounds them. The trails take visitors on an amazing adventure into the wilderness of Kentucky to see several waterfalls, rock formations, a natural arch, streams and even rockhouses!

Table of Contents

About

There are many spelling of Yahoo Falls, but the term likely has descended from the Muscogee word “Ywahoo”. According to a local legend, famed frontiersman Daniel Boone was wandering the area in the 1770s when he supposedly shot and killed a Bigfoot! The creature was named by Boone to be a “Yahoo”. The term “Yahoo” in this case, stemming from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. After Boone killed the “Yahoo”, he showed off the animal’s body to over 100 people in the town of what is now Boonesborough (about 100 miles north of the falls). He told the townsfolk exactly where he shot the creature and ever since, the natural landmark has been known as Yahoo Falls.

According to Cherokee oral history, Yahoo Falls was also the site of a tragic event. In the summer of 1810,  Reverend Gideon Blackburn created a school in Chattanooga that would grant Cherokee women and children a formal education. Cherokees living in the region of what is now southern Kentucky were urged to attend the school and told to meet at Yahoo Falls during the full moon. The Cherokee women and children were led by Cornblossom, the supposed daughter of War Chief Doublehead. Shortly after they arrived as they were instructed, a group of soldiers that had been sent ended up massacring all of the women and children at the site nearby the falls. Read more about this historic event on Turtle Hill’s website here.

Yahoo Falls Recreation Area was created in the 1960s, to preserve the lands around two of Kentucky’s most significant natural landmarks, Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch. Just a decade later in the 1970s, the National Park Service created the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area which sprawls over 125,000 acres in both Tennessee and Kentucky.

Things to Do

Scenic Overlook

Scenic Overlook near Yahoo Falls, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky
Scenic Overlook near Yahoo Falls, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Along the first part of the trail as you enter into the woods from the main parking area, you may notice a small trail that leads out to an overlook. This overlook is not too difficult to access. The walk to the overlook is worth it as it provides stunning views of the Cumberland River and the mountains beyond. Be sure to break out your camera to snap a few shots.

Yahoo Falls

Yahoo Falls, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky
Yahoo Falls, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Kentucky is proud to boast this 113’ drop waterfall that plummets into a pool below. Yahoo Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state and cascades down in front of one of Big South Fork’s largest rockhouses.

Yahoo Falls is unique as visitors are welcomed to explore much of the falls area. Hikers are able to walk behind the falls under the rockhouse or down a series of rock stairs to the base of the falls. The waterfall is best seen during the spring time or after a heavy rain as the flow can be seasonal.

The Yahoo Falls Loop features a scenic overlook, and a series of steep stairs that descend into the creek bottom. This allows for beautiful views of the waterfall at its base and under the rockhouse. The trail that passes back up hill past some amazing rock cliffs, some smaller waterfalls and to the top of the falls. Here you can see the small creek that actually creates Yahoo Falls. There is an upper overlook but be cautious as there are steep cliffs that drop straight down to the large rocks and waterfall basin below.

After reaching the top of the falls, hikers will climb back out to the main loop area where you can choose to go out to the arch or head back to the parking area, although the arch is definitely worth the hike if you have the time.

Yahoo Arch

Yahoo Arch, Kentucky
Yahoo Arch, Kentucky | Photo Credit: Shutterstock – Alexey Stiop

This amazing natural landmark is approximately 100 feet long! Yahoo Arch is located off a spur trail from the Yahoo Falls Loop. The arch is significant and is one of the largest natural arches in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. The arch is 17 feet tall in the highest point and has a 70 foot base.

Plan Your Visit

Yahoo Falls and Arch are located within the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. The trailhead can be accessed by taking KY Hwy 70 off U.S. Hwy 27 at Whitley City. Follow the highway to the gravel road. The parking area will be about 1.5 miles down the gravel road.

From the main parking area it is about .25 miles to Yahoo Falls or 1.5 miles to Yahoo Arch. The Yahoo Arch spur trail adds some time to your hike but is worth the amazing views.

The Yahoo Falls Loop is about 1.2 miles total length. It is moderate to difficult and contains a series of steep stairs along with a lot of changes in terrain. There will be narrow parts on the trail as well as obstacles such as rocks and the potential for down tree limbs.

Stairs on Yahoo Falls Loop, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky
Stairs on Yahoo Falls Loop, Big South Fork NRRA, Kentucky | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

The Yahoo Arch Trail is 0.75 miles one-way. The trail that leads to the arch is also moderately difficult as there are several switchbacks that wind through the woods and long the creek. The Yahoo Arch Trail also offers a spur trail that grants hikers the ability to go on to see Markers Arch into the Daniel Boone National Forest.

There is also the full day hike that is about 15.4 miles from Yamacraw to Yahoo Falls Loop. This trail ranges from moderate to difficult and can be very strenuous.

You can also connect to the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail that winds from the northern side of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky to the southern side of Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area in Tennessee.

There are restrooms with running water and flush toilets at the Yahoo Falls Loop Trailhead and a paved parking area. Picnic tables are also near the site for those looking to have a lunch before you embark on your next adventure. The falls, arch and trail are free to visit. The trail is open year-round.

If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited Yahoo Falls or Arch before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!

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