Twin Arches

Useful Information

Location: Twin Arches Ln, Jamestown, TN 38556.
From Crossville north U.S. Highway 127 toward Jamestown, State Route 154 toward Pickett State Park, turn right on Fork Ridge Rd, left on Divide Road 5.6 km, right on Twin Arches Road 3.2 km.
(36.5417024, -84.7356659)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: GeologyNatural Bridge SpeleologyErosional Cave
Light: n/a
Dimension: North Arch: H=15.5 m, W=28 m.
South Arch: H=21.3 m, W=41 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area Park Headquarters, 4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, Tennessee 37841, Tel: +1-865-569-9778.
Division of Natural Areas - East TN office, 3711 Middlebrook Pike, Knoxville, TN 37921, Tel: +1-865-594-5601.
Division of Natural Areas, William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 2nd Floor, Nashville, TN 37243, Tel: +1-615-532-0431.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1974 designated a state natural area.


Twin Arches are two natural bridges which are located one beneath the other. They are called the most impressive rock arches in the eastern United States, a rather vague superlative which is impossible to verify. However, the arches are definitely impressive. The two sandstone arches are situated end-to-end, and are thus called North Arch and South Arch. North Arch has a clearance of 15.5 m, a span of 28 m, and its deck is 19 m high. South Arch has a clearance of 21.3 m, a span of 41 m, and its deck is 31.4 m high. They are the largest natural bridge complex in Tennessee and one of the largest known in the world.

The area around the bridges is characterized by a forested plateau which is segmented by valleys. The uppermost rocks are Pennsylvanian sandstone layers which are the hard cap stone form an escarpment. Below the vertical cliff face is a normal valley slope, this is the Mississippian age rock, mostly limestone, shale, and calcareous sandstone. The valleys of the Charit Creek and Middle Creek have a quite narrow plateau between them, which is about 1 km long and less than 100 m wide, and runs almost north to south. The bridges are actually places where this remaining wall became too thin and a window, the arch, formed. In other words, one entrance is to Charit Creek valley and the other to Middle Creek valley.

The arches are located in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a huge area with 505 km² in two states, Tennessee and Kentucky. Twin Arches is one of two designated state natural areas in this area, which are managed by the National Park Service. They are reached from SR 154 Pickett Park Highway on the Divide Road, then turning right on Twin Arches road, the roads and the arches are signposted. The Arches are reached from the parking lot on the Twin Arches Trail, which is 1.1 km long, in other words, it is a 2.2 km long hike. There are actually two parallel trails, so it's possible to walk a sort of loop. There is also Twin Arches Loop Trail, which starts at the Twin Arches and leads down to Charit Creek Lodge, 122 m below. Then it follows Station Camp Creek and Middle Creek upstream and leads uphill back to the parking lot. This loop is 7.4 km long, so it is a two-hour walk. Another highlight on this route are several huge rock shelters once used by Native Americans, early settlers and niter miners. The potassium nitrate (KNO3) of the cave sediments was used as fertilizer. The shelters are locally called rock houses.

The area has numerous trails, and there are many other options for hikes. About 3 km to the southwest there are Slave Falls, which are actually not very spectacular, and Needle Point Arch, which is smaller than the Twin Arches but still worth a visit. It's possible to extend the Twin Arches Loop Trail to include them, it's also possible to hike there directly from the Sawmill Trailhead.