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Hike of the Week: Oscar Blevins Farm Loop

The Oscar Blevins Farm Loop is a 3.6-mile loop trail in the Bandy Creek section Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. It is a relatively easy hike featuring a mix of history and scenery.

Length: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 265 ft.
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Trailhead: Bandy Creek
Shared Use: None
Hazards: Slippery surfaces

Trail Description: Beginning and ending at the Bandy Creek Trailhead just north of the Bandy Creek Visitor Center, the Oscar Blevins Farm Loop is named for the historic farmstead that is located at its midpoint. It is a mostly level trail through gently rolling upland forests of varying ages, and it includes a creekside stroll along Bandy Creek, the stream for which this entire section of the national park draws its name.

From the trailhead, the trail begins with an out-and-back segment that leads to the main loop. The early stages of the hike provide a good example of forest aging. The area close to the trailhead was farmland not too many years ago, and hikers will find themselves traversing thick, young forest growth before suddenly plunging into much older growth hardwoods. It is at that point that the trail forks. The loop segment of the trail is best hiked in a counter-clockwise direction, which means taking the right fork towards Oscar Blevins Farm.

Know the History: The original cabin at the Blevins farm was built in 1879 by John B. Blevins, a grandson of Jonathan Blevins, who is believed to be one of the Big South Fork region’s earliest white settlers. That cabin is still standing, along with structures that were added later, including an impressive barn. The pastures are still enclosed with the original log fences, and are occupied by National Park Service horses. Standing in the shade of the walnut trees that grow in the center of the farm, it’s not uncommon to see whitetail deer or wild turkey feeding in the pasture edges.

Oscar Blevins, born in 1915, was the great-nephew of John Blevins. His grandfather, Jacob “Uncle Jake” Blevins Jr., was John Blevins’ brother.

Once the hiking trail emerges at the farm, it turns south and follows an old road trace along the headwaters of Bandy Creek. This road trace was once the main route of transportation between Leatherwood Ford and White Pine before the days of automobiles. Near the Oscar Blevins farm is the remnant of a root cellar. Further along the trail, hikers will notice the remnants of the Billie Blevins farm along the old road. The fields and homesite have mostly been reclaimed by nature, but it’s obvious that a homestead once existed there.

Share the Trail: A portion of the Oscar Blevins Farm Loop along Bandy Creek overlaps with the Collier Ridge Loop, which is a mountain biking trail that is also open to hiking.

Back to the Top: Once Oscar Blevins Farm Loop leaves the Collier Ridge Loop, it crosses Bandy Creek via a wooden footbridge and begins a gentle climb back towards the trailhead. Along the way, hikers can take a short spur trail to Muleshoe Shelter, a natural rock shelter that was used by early settlers as a barn. Mules were shoed there, giving the shelter its name.

As the trail continues back to the trailhead, examples of the southern pine beetle infestation of the late 1990s can be observed. Some of the massive tree trunks of white pines that once dominated the forest are still standing, while many other white and yellow pines have fallen and are decaying on the forest floor. Reforestation is occurring in their absence in the form of mountain laurel thickets.

Nearly two decades after the southern pine beetle infestation, hemlocks along the trail are being infested with the hemlock woolly adelgid. Hikers will notice brightly-colored swaths of paint on some of the hemlocks, denoting that the trees have been treated by the park service to defend them against the woolly adelgid.

Getting There: Take S.R. 297 west from Oneida, through the Big South Fork gorge. At the top of the gorge on its west side, turn right onto Bandy Creek Road and continue past the turnoffs for the visitor center and campground. Just past the visitor center, Bandy Creek Trailhead is located on the left. Paved parking spaces are located around the restroom facilities at the trailhead.

Be Careful For: The trail is muddy in places, particularly after a recent rainfall. There is a short set of wooden steps, though they do not present a barrier for small children or pets. There are several wooden footprints that can be slippery when wet.

Look For: Just after leaving the Blevins farm, you’ll notice the remnants of a root cellar on the right side of the trail. Root cellars were common before days of electricity and modern refrigeration, and were used to keep food from spoiling. In this case, Oscar Blevins was building the root cellar when he found out that the federal government intended to purchase his farm for the creation of the Big South Fork. He never finished the root cellar, which was needed because his home never had electricity. Blevins died in 1988.

Make It Better: After you’ve finished your hike, drive a bit further west on Bandy Creek Road to the Katie Blevins Cemetery. The cemetery is located at the Lora Blevins Farm, and was the final resting place for many of the Big South Fork’s original settlers. Oscar Blevins is buried there, along with his wife, Martha “Ermon” Smith, who died in 1994. The couple also have an infant child, who died in 1941, buried there. The cemetery started when Jacob Blevins Sr. — Oscar Blevins’ great-grandfather — stuck a stick in the ground and told his wife, Catie, that he wanted to be buried there when he died.

Remember: Obey the Leave No Trace ethic by “taking only memories, leaving only footprints.” If you pack it in, please pack it out.

GC Staff
GC Staff
Go Cumberlands is the premiere source of information for visitors to Tennessee's Cumberland Mountains and Cumberland Plateau region.

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