Yahoo Falls

Big South Fork National Recreation Area, Kentucky, USA

About Yahoo Falls


Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip (to base of falls); 2.6 miles round trip (to arch)
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2012-10-21
Date last visited: 2012-10-21

Waterfall Latitude: 36.77178
Waterfall Longitude: -84.51979

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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.

Yahoo_Falls_058_20121021 - Yahoo Falls
Yahoo Falls

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.

Yahoo_Falls_005_20121021 - Like a lot of trails in the rural south, we hiked through a tranquil and beautiful forest on the way down to Yahoo Falls
Like a lot of trails in the rural south, we hiked through a tranquil and beautiful forest on the way down to Yahoo Falls

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.

Yahoo_Falls_008_20121021 - Even though there was some water on the trail leading down to Yahoo Falls, there wasn't much water in the waterfall itself
Even though there was some water on the trail leading down to Yahoo Falls, there wasn’t much water in the waterfall itself

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.

Yahoo_Falls_041_20121021 - Contextual profile of the Yahoo Falls making its very light freefall from an overhanging cliff
Contextual profile of the Yahoo Falls making its very light freefall from an overhanging cliff

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).

Yahoo_Falls_011_20121021 - Continuing on the easy-to-lose (with all the fallen leaves) trail to the Yahoo Arch
Continuing on the easy-to-lose (with all the fallen leaves) trail to the Yahoo Arch

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.

Yahoo_Falls_033_20121021 - Looking back at the trail that hugged some overhanging cliffs leading down to the impressive Yahoo Arch
Looking back at the trail that hugged some overhanging cliffs leading down to the impressive Yahoo Arch

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.

Yahoo_Falls_019_20121021 - Approaching the impressive Yahoo Arch, which was a bonus extension of the Yahoo Falls hike
Approaching the impressive Yahoo Arch, which was a bonus extension of the Yahoo Falls hike

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.

Authorities

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.

Yahoo_Falls_002_20121021 - The Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch Trailhead
Yahoo_Falls_006_20121021 - Trail junction with the closed direct access trail on the left. So we had to go right and approach the Yahoo Falls in a more roundabout manner
Yahoo_Falls_010_20121021 - Signposted spur trail to Yahoo Arch, which we pursued first before going down to the bottom of Yahoo Falls
Yahoo_Falls_016_20121021 - Approaching the impressive Yahoo Arch with trees growing on its span (something I found to be quite unusual about this particular natural arch)
Yahoo_Falls_017_20121021 - Portrait view of the Yahoo Arch showing some of the vertical cliffs fronting it
Yahoo_Falls_020_20121021 - Descending to the opening of the Yahoo Arch
Yahoo_Falls_023_20121021 - Looking through the span of the Yahoo Arch, where you can see the trees standing on the span of Yahoo Arch up above
Yahoo_Falls_024_20121021 - Looking back through the width and span of Yahoo Arch
Yahoo_Falls_026_20121021 - Looking at the land bridge atop the Yahoo Arch as I found a way to get on top of it
Yahoo_Falls_036_20121021 - Passing through the span of Yahoo Arch again as I backtracked towards the Yahoo Falls Trail
Yahoo_Falls_038_20121021 - Looking up at the profile of Yahoo Falls
Yahoo_Falls_044_20121021 - Looking out from behind the thin Yahoo Falls from recesses of its deep alcove
Yahoo_Falls_052_20121021 - Looking back at the Yahoo Falls making its light freefall with someone standing on the other side of it for a sense of scale
Yahoo_Falls_055_20121021 - Looking right up towards the top of the Yahoo Falls from its base

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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).

Yahoo_Falls_001_20121021 - The trailhead parking for both the Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch hikes
The trailhead parking for both the Yahoo Falls and Yahoo Arch hikes

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.

Looking out the back opening of Yahoo Arch before panning over to look out the front opening


Top-down figure-6 sweep from the back side of Yahoo Arch showing trees growing on its span


Zoomed in on the barely visible falls before zooming out to see the falls disappear amidst foliage as seen from the first upper lookout


Bottom up sweep showing the free-falling waterfall trickle from its overhanging brink


Backwards L-shaped sweep of the falls from its near side (from the trail we were able to access it from)


Walking in the alcove behind the falls before doing a bottom up sweep of the barely-visible falls against the backdrop


Top down sweep of the falls from the far side (closer to the side where the shortest trail to its base was closed)


Bottom up sweep from directly in front of the falls

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Tagged with: big south fork, national recreation area, mccreary county, daniel boone, national forest, yahoo arch, kentucky, waterfall



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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