Canoe, paddleboat, tandem kayak and rowboat rentals are available on the 49-acre Big Ridge Lake. The boat dock is open seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Please call the park office for specific hours of operation. Visitors may use their own electric trolling motors on park rowboats. Privately owned boats, including canoes and kayaks, can be launched on Big Ridge Lake for a nominal fee. Fishing boats, ski boats, and wave runners can be launched at the boat ramp on Norris Lake just outside the park entrance drive. Due to the low lake level, there is no access to boat ramp on Norris Lake during winter months.
A sandy beach next to Big Ridge Lake provides swimming enjoyment from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily. An enclosed, concrete-bottomed area is provided for children. Swimming is free of charge. There are no lifeguards on duty, therefore swimming is at your own risk.
Bald Eagles, Herons, and Kingfishers can be seen on the lakes as well as many species of waterfowl during the winter. Common Loons sometimes visit during the winter and can be seen on Norris Lake. The trails are good places to see migratory birds in the spring and fall.
Big Ridge Lake (49-acre) provides good fishing year round for bass and bream. Black Bass must be a minimum of 14 inches. Gas motors, and personal watercraft are not permitted on Big Ridge Lake. However, guests may rent jon boats, and pedal boats at the boat dock for use on Big Ridge Lake. Personal electric trolling motors can be used on park jon boats. The lake is open year round and boat rentals are available except during winter months.
Just minutes from the park are the coldwater tailwaters of the Clinch River. Wade fishing during non-generation periods is very productive for Rainbow, Brook and Brown Trout. Bigger trout are often taken by boat during generation flows.
Over 15 miles of hiking trails travel along dry ridges, lush hollows, old roadbeds, lakeshores and beside cemeteries and remnants of early settlements. Trails range from easy to very rugged. Free trail maps are available at the park office. Trails are open year round and overnight camping is allowed on designated backcountry campsites by permit only.
Chestnut Ridge Trail — 0.80 Miles — Natural Surface — Moderate
Old Mill Trail — 0.30 Miles — Natural Surface — Easy
Fisherman’s Trail — 0.30 Miles — Natural Surface — Easy
Loyston Overlook Trail — 0.30 Miles — Natural Surface — Difficult
Meditation Point Trail — 0.20 Miles — Natural Surface — Moderate
Lake Trail — 1.50 Miles — Natural Surface — Easy to moderate
Ghost House Trail — 1.20 Miles — Natural Surface — Easy to moderate
Big Valley Trail — 1.70 Miles — Natural Surface — Very difficult
Dark Hollow East — 1.30 Miles — Natural Surface — Moderate
Dark Hollow West — 1.70 Miles — Natural Surface — Moderate
Indian Rock Trail — 2.60 Miles — Natural Surface — Very difficult - Experienced hikers only
Sharp’s Station Trail — 0.20 Miles — Natural Surface — Difficult
Chestnut Ridge Trail
This 0.75 mile trail leads from the cabin area to the road near the park's back entrance. This easy to moderate hike offers a variety of sites to see including sinkholes, Lyon's Spring Branch and remains of American Chestnut trees. These trees once dominated the ridge before they were decimated by blight. One of the most notable sites is the land itself where signs of erosion, farming uses and forest succession can be seen.
Old Mill Trail
This trail is a short (0.3 mile one direction) and easy hike that leads from the lakeside cabins to Norton Gristmill. The mill was built in 1825 and was privately operated until 1930. The trail meanders along Big Ridge Land and over to Lyon's Spring Branch which once supplied the water to make the millwheel turn. Be sure to look for signs of beaver along the way.
This short and easy trail begins near the back entrance of the park and takes you to an area of Norris Lake known as Poor Land Valley. Some say that this area obtained its name many years ago because of the poor quality of the soil for farming. Follow this trail to find a quiet spot suitable for fishing.
Loyston Overlook Trail
This short trail to Loyston Overlook takes hikers to an area where they can see the widest portion of Norris Lake and is where the town of Loyston once sat. The lake was formed in the 1930s with the completion of TVA's first project, Norris Dam. This wide area of the lake is known locally as Loyston Sea. The former once bustling town was founded in the early 1800s by John Loy, who established a foundry in the area. It included a grocery store, gas station, school, churches and even a post office, all of which are now covered by the waters of Norris Lake.
Meditation Point Trail
This very short and easily traveled trail climbs to a covered bench shelter which makes for an excellent spot to relax or get more in touch with the natural world.
This 1.5-mile (distance one way) easy to moderate trail meanders around one side of the 49-acre Big Ridge Lake. It crosses Big Ridge Dam, which was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp. The young men of the CCC are responsible for building the dam and many of the other structures in the park. This trail is an excellent one for viewing wildlife such as deer, frogs, heron, wood ducks and much more. If you like, you can also make a stop at the Snodderly Cemetery where many of the area's earlier inhabitants are buried. You can return along the same trail, or take a slightly shorter walk along the park road back to your origination point.
Ghost House Trail
This 1.2-mile easy to moderate loop begins near the group camp and takes you deep into the history of this area's pre-1930s inhabitants. According to locals and some park visitors, eerie and unexplainable events occur along this trail. Make a stop at the Norton Cemetery and visit the sunken grave of Maston Hutchinson, who some think is responsible for these strange occurrences. Continue down the trail towards Big Valley and make a stop at the remnants of the famous Ghost House, Maston's home that was thought to be haunted.
Big Valley Trail
The 1.7-mile Big Valley Trail starts near the gristmill and takes you to the start of the Indian Rock Loop, passing the Ghost House Loop Trail and the Dark Hollow trails along the way. The trail is a strenuous hike that travels a road once used by many of this area's earlier settlers as they hauled corn down to the Norton Gristmill. The trail traverses Pinnacle Ridge, descends into Dark Hollow and then climbs to the top of Big Ridge. It passes Langley Cemetery, where the only modern gravestone marks the resting place of young Edward Loy, who died in 1932 at the age of five. Several species of spring wildflowers can be seen along the entire trail, including pink lady's slippers, yellow star grass, crested dwarf iris and many others.
Dark Hollow Trail
This trail has an eastern and western portion. The 1.7-mile western portion leads from Big Ridge Dam to the Big Valley Trail, while the 1.3 mile eastern portion starts at Big Valley Trail and dead ends at Norris Lake. This trail was once a country road and there are still many noticeable areas where some of Big Ridge's settlers made their homes. The ridge north of the hollow is Big Ridge and the ridge south of the hollow is Pinnacle Ridge.
Indian Rock Trail
Recommended for the experienced hiker only, the 2.6-mile Indian Rock Loop Trail begins just past Langley Cemetery via the Big Valley Trail. Indian Rock Trail passes by a rocky area where a plaque commemorates the location where Peter Graves, a settler of Sharp's Station was scalped and killed by Indians while turkey hunting. As legend tells, he though he heard a turkey gobble behind some rocks, but to his surprise, there was no turkey, but a group of Indians.
Sharp's Station Trail
This trail branches off from Indian Rock Loop Trail and travels 0.2 miles along the shores of Norris Lake to the site of Sharp's Station Fort. This fort was founded in the 1780s and was one of the first two settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains, the other being James White Fort in Knoxville. A stone wall is all that remains of Sharp's Station, commemorated by a plaque at the area.