About Yahoo Falls
Yahoo Falls maybe considered the tallest waterfall in the state of Kentucky at 113ft.
The hiking trail also featured an attractive natural arch called the Yahoo Arch so it was one of the few excursions where you can combine a natural waterfall with a natural arch.
However, given the waterfall’s seasonal and light flowing nature, a visit may still not be warranted unless there had been significant rainfall not long beforehand.
Such was the case during our excursion to Yahoo Falls in late October 2012.
It was in a trickling state and required long exposure photographs to allow the thin falls to even show up in the photos.
I’d imagine that a more reliable time to see this waterfall would be in the Spring.
Even though I was lured by the thought of Autumn colors juxtaposed with the falls, it seemed like Fall just wasn’t very reliable for waterfall hunting as far as Yahoo Falls was concerned.
Hiking to Yahoo Falls
During our visit, the direct path going down steps to the base of Yahoo Falls was closed.
So we actually had to hike a little longer than the reported 0.3 miles as we went over a creek crossing at the top of the falls, then we walked past some additional underwhelming top down overlooks before descending some steep switchbacks towards the base.
That descending path passed under some overhanging cliffs as it approached the large amphitheater with deep alcove at the bottom of the Yahoo Falls.
In addition to the readily available angled views of the waterfall, the trail kept going to provide a couple more ways to experience it.
The first one involved going into the alcove behind the falls.
A second way to experience Yahoo Falls was from a separate view down a steep and slippery set of rock stairs that went directly to where the falls would hit the rocks at its base.
I’d guess it was a minimum of 0.5 miles or so each way via the detour that we were forced to take.
I believe those trails that kept going would ultimately rejoin the closed off direct access path.
Hiking from Yahoo Falls to the Yahoo Arch
Despite the underwhelming performance of the Yahoo Falls, one thing it did have that was worth the diversion was the opportunity to check out a natural arch called Yahoo Arch.
Even though it was on an out-and-back spur path (adding another 1.6 miles round trip to the existing hike to view Yahoo Falls), the intriguing arch had trees growing on its span.
That was something I wasn’t used to seeing when it came to arches (especially those from the American Southwest).
The spur path to the natural arch deviated from the main Yahoo Falls Trail at a signposted junction.
It was just before the main trail descended to the base of Yahoo Falls via the detour we took.
The arch trail generally went uphill before passing by a large alcove that preceded the arch itself.
I recalled there was one somewhat confusing part of the trail where it seemed to disappear once it started to veer towards then away from a gurgling creek, which I believe is a different creek than the one responsible for Yahoo Falls.
The key was to look for a narrow trail that started its ascent (on the right looking away from the creek) to continue onwards to the arch.
Once at the Yahoo Arch, I was able to walk through the underside of the long flat span.
Then, I was able to scramble up towards the ledge on the far side of the arch where I could better appreciate the miracle of trees growing on the eccentric land bridge supporting them.
There was some mild exposure to drop offs and muddy surfaces above the Yahoo Arch, but for the most part, it was relatively safe as long as the hazards were respected.
I believe the name of the falls and arch was a bastardization of a Native American word (possibly derived from the Muscogee people).
It has nothing to do with the old internet search and web news company.
Yahoo Falls resides in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Whitley City in McCreary County, Kentucky. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
We came to Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch from Cumberland Falls so we’ll describe how to get there using this as the starting point.
Go to the Cumberland Falls page for directions on how to get there.
Roughly speaking, it took around a half-hour to drive from Williamsburg to Cumberland Falls.
From the Cumberland Falls parking lot, continue west on Hwy 90 for about 2.7 miles.
Turn left onto Hwy 700 (KY700) then follow this road past the US27 (about 11 miles from the US90/KY700 junction) towards Yahoo Falls Rd (15 miles from the US90/KY700 junction or 4 miles west of US27).
Turn right onto the signposted Yahoo Falls Rd and follow this unpaved road for about 1.5 miles to the car park at its end.
Alternatively, the nearest town to the falls is Whitley City (at least according to my map).
From this town, go north on the US27 for about 1.4 miles then turn left onto the KY700 and follow it for about 4 miles to the unpaved Yahoo Rd on the right.
The arch and waterfall were on their own little reserve even though it’s technically part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
It’s also been said to be part of the Big South Fork (of the Cumberland River), which encompasses parts of southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.
Finally, for a bit of context, Williamsburg (the nearest town where we stayed) was 70 miles (over an hour drive) north of Knoxville, Tennessee, 183 miles (3 hours drive) northwest of Asheville, North Carolina, and 103 miles (over 90 minutes drive) south of Lexington.
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