Photo: Charit Creek Lodge, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
Set deep within the woods of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, Charit Creek Lodge is the perfect weekend getaway for families looking to rough it—with some amenities.
Charit Creek is one of only a handful of backcountry lodges in the country that cannot be reached by car. To get there, guests park their car and hike, bike or ride horseback along either of two well-maintained trails (1.2 miles or 1.7 miles).
This historic facility dates back to the days when the Tennessee was still part of the Cherokee Nation and was still being explored and settled. Five buildings at Charit Creek are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: two cabins, a blacksmith shop, corncrib and four-crib barn. The two cabins are the oldest buildings still being used within the National Park System.
Accommodations include five cabins in the main lodge, four detached cabins that sleep up to 12 guests each, and one cabin that sleeps four guests. Two Tentsile Stingray tree tents are also available for rent, and tent camping is offered on-site. For equestrian guests, Charit Creek offers an 11-stall horse barn and two round pens.
There is no electricity at Charit Creek, which is part of its charm. Instead, each cabin is outfitted with a wood stove and propane lantern. The lodge has complete restroom facilities, and showers are available year-round. Visitors should come prepared with flashlights and warm clothes for cool woodland nights.
One of the highlights of roughing it at Charit Creek Lodge is mealtime. Family-style meals are served three times a day, featuring homemade comfort food with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The lodge offers sack lunches ($10 each) to take along on hikes and adventures.
Charit Creek Lodge offers hundreds of miles of hiking and horse trails, as well as 80 miles of navigable river. Part of the Cumberland Plateau, the recreation area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries, and features scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs.
The landscape surrounding Charit Creek served as American Indian hunting grounds, and today it claims more than 1,368 known American Indian archaeological sites—more than any park in the Southeast. A park-wide assessment has been underway as part of a federal mandate to protect American Indian archaeological features.