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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Hike to Yahoo Falls & Yahoo Arch

Explore the unspoiled beauty of the Daniel Boone National Forest and towering rock formations on a hike leading to one of Kentucky's highest waterfalls and a uniquely shaped natural arch within the Big South Fork. Renowned as among Kentucky's most scenic waterfalls, Yahoo Falls plummets into a natural basin, framed by a prehistoric rockshelter where the haunting tale of the Great Cherokee Children Massacre unfolded.


Yahoo Falls

Trailhead elevation 955'

Water Yahoo Creek

Don't miss the Cumberland River South Fork overlook and "Big Jake" Troxel's grave



Hike to Yahoo Falls & Yahoo Arch

Starting from the trailhead, hikers begin their trek through densely wooded terrain, navigating their way until they reach Yahoo Creek approximately 0.4 miles in. At this point, hikers will find an overlook to the left offering slightly obstructed views of Yahoo Falls near its crest. After passing the overlook, the trail traverses Yahoo Creek, requiring minor rock hopping to cross, before proceeding onward until it reaches a clearly marked junction at 0.6 miles.


Yahoo Falls Trail

At the junction, hikers wishing to visit only the falls should veer left, while those who care to visit Yahoo Arch should follow the trail to the right. As the trail progresses to the 1-mile mark, it ascends through a brief series of switchbacks, leading to a large rock shelter, immediately followed by Yahoo Arch at 1.7 miles. Standing at 17 feet tall and spanning 70 feet in length, Yahoo Arch is one of the more uniquely shaped arches in the region.


Yahoo Arch

After exploring the arch, hikers can retrace their steps back to the previous junction and turn right towards Yahoo Falls. After skirting the base of a large bluff for a short distance, the trail veers left to reveal the falls.


Yahoo Falls

At 113 feet tall, Yahoo Falls ranks among the tallest falls in the Bluegrass State. The only single drop falls higher than it are East Mariba Fork Falls (127') and Fincastle Falls (116'), of which only East Mariba lies on public land.


Yahoo Falls

Within the shadows of the prehistoric rock shelter behind the cascading veil of the falls lies a historical narrative steeped in tragedy and controversy. For centuries, the shelter served as a refuge for the Cherokee long before the arrival of European settlers. Yet, it also bore witness to a grim event known as the Great Cherokee Children Massacre, or as some dub it, the Massacre at Ywahoo Falls.


Yahoo Falls

Legend tells of Jacob "Big Jake" Troxel, who ventured into the rugged terrain of the Big South Fork during the Revolutionary War under the guise of a trader. His covert mission: to forge alliances with the Cherokee, who were being courted by the British. Among them was Chief Doublehead, the last great leader of the plateau tribes, who struck a bond with Troxel and pledged allegiance to the American cause. Troxel's affection soon turned towards Doublehead's daughter, Cornblossom, a celebrated beauty of her time. Their union marked by love and marriage saw Cornblossom ascend to leadership following her father's passing.


Yahoo Falls

In 1810, Cornblossom planned on a journey with her people to the Sequatchie Valley near Chattanooga, Tennessee, driven by a vision of embracing education and assimilating with the white settlers for the betterment of her tribe. However, sinister forces lurked in the shadows as a small band of settlers, led by Hiram George, caught wind of Cornblossom's aspirations and schemed an ambush. Perched upon the bluff overlooking Yahoo Falls, they unleashed a barrage of gunfire upon the unsuspecting Cherokee gathered below, ensnaring them within the confines of the rock shelter where they met their tragic end.


Amid the chaos, Cornblossom and her son "Little Jake" arrived at the scene, retaliating against the assailants in a futile attempt to thwart the massacre. Yet, the anguish of witnessing her people's slaughter proved too much to bear as Cornblossom succumbed to the weight of grief, passing away days after the massacre. "Big Jake," bereft of purpose in the absence of his beloved wife, followed her into the embrace of death that same fateful year. Their son, "Little Jake," descended into infamy, earning a reputation as a ruthless renegade who haunted the Big South Fork region for years to come.


Or so the story goes. After exploring the falls, the trail winds its way up a gentle slope before leading to a staircase ascending to the upper portion of the path, ultimately guiding hikers back to the trailhead.


Yahoo Falls Trail

Before leaving the Yahoo Falls Scenic Area, hikers may consider taking in the views from the overlook above the Cumberland River South Fork, located beside the restroom facilities. As visitors bid farewell to the area, they'll encounter the final resting place of "Big Jake" Troxel near the entrance, at the intersection of Yahoo Falls Road and Route 700.


Jacob Troxel grave

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