THE CUMBERLAND TREKKER
Your Outdoor Adventure Guide to the Cumberland Region
List of Natural Sites in the Cumberland Region of Tennessee
AK Bissel Park
A great place to take a walk as you learn more about Oak Ridge’s WWII history. The park was named after the city’s first mayor and the Secret City Commemorative Walk was built in 2005 and dedicated to the businesses and workers of the Manhattan Project.
Location: 1403 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, TN / GPS 36.01210,-84.26324
Barren Fork Greenway
This is a 1.8 mile round trip walking trail along the Barren Fork River in McMinnville, Tennessee. It’s nicely landscaped to go along with the riparian forest remnants along the route. The site is well signed and called River Front Park on one end, and Pepper Branch Park on the other. This is a wonderful opportunity to stretch your legs. If you are lucky, you just might get a glimpse of the Barrens Top minnow which is only found in the Barrens Fork River and considered endangered.
Activities include hiking, birding, and botanizing, Two piers give access for fishing, picnic tables, canoe launch, playground. This site is located within the city of McMinnville which offers a beautifully revitalized and historic main street district and many amenities.
Location: 201 Morrison Street, McMinnville, TN / GPS 35.67973,-85.78266
- Ph. 931.473.1212
Bear Hollow Mountain WMA
This is a mountainous WMA that includes lots of hardwood trees, many food plots, and regenerating clear cuts. There is a nearby private campground. This WMA is for hunters, hikers, and even horseback riders. A walking and horse trail runs through the area with great scenic views. In addition, there is great deer and turkey hunting here if you can handle the mountainous terrain.
Many gravel roads through Bear Hollow Mountain WMA are gated at various times of the year, but parking is available for hiking at these locations and at trailheads for hiking trails. Hiking trails with parking lots are available at two locations near the Alabama state line. The northern access has a nice overview of the valley and a 1 mile hiking trail loop. Hikers can head south and connect with the trail that leads to the Walls of Jericho in Alabama. Trailhead access for the Walls of Jericho State Natural Area, which is an excellent trail worth hiking, is accessible from just across the state line.
Location: 17277 Rowe Gap Road, Belvidere, TN / GPS 35.00036,-86.05658
- Bear Hollow Mountain WMA
- Phone: (615) 781-6632
Bee Rock is a trail and overlook that is a long-time cultural fixture for local Monterey, TN residents. Bee Rock itself is the terminus of a short walking trail, however there are several other overlooks that are easily accessible along the short trail. Bee Rock is a perfect “quick taste” of the Cumberland Plateau.
It’s a great place for a relaxing picnic, hiking, rappelling, some short but difficult rock climbing, and if nothing else, a quick and tranquil connection with nature. It’s probably the best “natural” rest stop along interstate highways in Tennessee.
Location: 1420 Bee Rock Rd #3253, Monterey, TN / GPS 36.12877,-85.28624
Big Ridge State Park
The heavily forested, 3,687-acre park lies on the southern shore of TVA’s Norris Reservoir approximately 25 miles north of Knoxville. Visitors to the park will find a wealth of activities to meet any interest from guided nature tours to backcountry camping.
There are over 15 miles of hiking trails that range from easy to very rugged. The park has 19 one-bedroom rustic cabins and 50 campsites on or near Norris Lake to accommodate RV’s, trailers, and tent campers.
A sandy beach next to Big Ridge Lake provides swimming enjoyment from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Location: 1015 Big Ridge Road, Maynardville , TN / GPS 36.24225,-83.93064
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation area expands 125,000 acres across the Cumberland Plateau, and boasts miles of scenic gorges. The area is also rich for its natural and historical features, and has been developed to provide a number of outdoor activities for visitors. The river also features custom horseback riding trails for pleasure trail riding, hunting trips, anniversary rides, overnight pack trips, and can be large or small groups.
Big South Fork has over 150 miles of maintained hiking trails, ranging from short, one mile loops to long multi-day hikes through the rugged backcountry.
There are five developed campgrounds which are intended to meet the needs of almost any camper visiting the park.
Horseback riding has become one of the most popular things to do at the Big South Fork, with over 180 miles of horseback riding trails inside the park.
Mountain biking has become one of the most popular activities in the park.
The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its main tributaries, the Clear Fork, North White Oak and New River offer visitors a variety of whitewater paddling opportunities.
Location: 4564 Leatherwood Road, Oneida, TN / GPS 36.47062,-84.65117
Bledsoe State Forest
The 6,656 acre Bledsoe State Forest is located on the Cumberland Plateau in east-central Tennessee, in Bledsoe, Cumberland, Van Buren, and White Counties.
The forest is managed under the multiple-use concept. Management objectives include timber production, wildlife conservation, forest research and experimentation, watershed protection, forest recreation and promotion of conservation education.
Both hunting and fishing are permitted according to TWRA regulations.
Primitive camping is allowed on the trail.
Multi use roads may be used by 4-wheelers, dirt bikes and horses.
Some hiking and horseback riding occur on the forest. Fall Creek Falls State Park is approximately 3 miles southwest of the forest.
Location: 30392 State Route 30 Pikeville, TN / GPS 35.68275,-85.27260
Big Bone Cave State State Natural Area
Big Bone Cave is a 400-acre natural area located in Van Buren County on the Cumberland Plateau. It is named for the discovery of the bones of a giant ground sloth in 1811.This skeleton, now on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, represents the only known specimen of a giant ground sloth with a complete pelvis. Also significant was the 1971 discovery of the bones of a pleistocene jaguar.
The cave also has historical significance as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The artifacts are remarkably well preserved in the dry cave and represent the state’s best-preserved saltpeter mining artifacts. Artifacts in the cave include wooden water pipes, railways, catwalks, ore carts, hoppers, vats and ladders.
Because of the occurrence of bats with white nose syndrome (WNS) in Tennessee, caves on state owned lands are closed to the public until further notice. Cave closures are in effect at this and all other state natural areas where caves are located. For more information about white nose syndrome go to: http://www.tn.gov/twra/tnbwg/wns.html
Location: Bone Cave Mountain Road Spencer, TN / GPS 35.77208,-85.55348
Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness WMA
Called “The Grand Cumberlands” by an early 19th-century traveler, this 10,000-acre WMA is recognized as a natural treasure for its uniqueness and beauty. Gaze at its nine waterfalls, as well as enjoy hiking, birdwatching, hunting, fishing, canoeing, class-5 kayaking, and cave exploring. Trail maps are available from the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce. Open year-round; closed to non-hunting activities during Big Game hunting season.
Location: 5747 Eastland Rd., Sparta, TN / GPS 3587777, -85.28616
Brimstone Recreation offers many things to do for outdoor enthusiasts coming to Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau region. They have 300+ miles of OHV Trail on 19,196 acres, trail accessible luxury cabins and campground. SXS/ATV rentals & canoe/kayak rentals.
Brimstone Recreation, LLC manages and promotes the recreational use of over 19,196 acres nestled in the remote wilds of Northeast Tennessee in the Heart of Appalachia. They have over 300 miles of OHV trails and roads with numerous overlooks and culture exploration points of interest. Brimstone Recreation, LLC is an outdoor recreation company offering the adventure seeker the ultimate outdoor experience and is committed to preserving nature through good stewardship and sharing nature with thousands of outdoor enthusiasts every year who seek to experience adventure in its purest environment.
Things to do at Brimstone Recreation include ATV & SXS riding, hunting, fishing, river sports- kayaking and canoeing, and camping.
Location: 2860 Baker Hwy., Huntsville, TN / GPS 36.41183, -84.49188
Burgess Falls State Park
Burgess Falls cascades 130 feet in a deep gorge and is viewed and accessed via a short trail from the state park’s parking lot. The trail to a deck overlooking the waterfall is approximately 3/4 of a mile with another half a mile to reach the base of the falls. It is by far one of the most popular parks and waterfalls in the state of Tennessee.
A 1.5 mile trail loop follows the bluffs along the south bank of the gorge, starting at Falling Water Cascades and ending at a platform overlooking Burges Falls. Two other falls are also visible from the trail. A stairway leads down to the overhang of Burgess Falls and continues down into the gorge.
Things to do include hiking and fishing.
Location: 4000 Burgess Falls Dr., Sparta, TN / GPS 36.04251, -85.59312
Cane Creek Park
This urban park offers excellent opportunities for watching wildlife. A 2+ mile walking trail weaves through the northern edge of this 256-acre park, traversing very nice upland and bottomland hardwoods, a native meadow/prairie, and a fairly large lake that is often home to waterfowl. This site is especially a “must explore” for folks staying in the Cookeville area and in need of a leg stretcher after a good meal at one of the local restaurants.
Location: 201 CC Camp Rd., Cookeville, Tennessee / GPS 36.16309, -85.53818
Catoosa Wildlife Management Area
82,000 acres of wild land on the upper Cumberland Plateau in both Morgan and Cumberland counties. This area offers some of the best hunting in the east Cumberland’s and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, as well as fish.
Although the area is primarily for hunting and fishing, it is popular with all outdoor enthusiasts. Backpacking, hiking, camping, and white-water rafting is common here. The area has many deep cut canyons created by the rivers and streams, and offers access to beautiful scenery. There are plenty of trails that explore the region from here, one of the best known paths is the Cumberland Trail which passes through the area.
Overnight camping is allowed on designated areas.
Location: Crab Orchard, TN / GPS Multiple entry points – see Catoosa WMA website.
Catoosa Wildlife Management Area at the Devil’s Breakfast Table
The Devil’s Breakfast Table is wonderful stopping point with a great view of Daddy’s Creek (home to the Tangerine Darter) as well as nice wildflower opportunities. Additionally, the area of the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area located west of the Devil’s Breakfast Table is home to a substantial Oak Savanna Restoration project. As this project progresses, there will be unique opportunities to see birds, wildflowers and butterflies in this area.
Location: Otter Creek Rd., Lancing, TN / GPS 36.05948, -84.79250
Center Hill Lake
The lake provides varied outdoor recreation opportunities. Because of the temperate climate and relatively long recreation season, visitors have numerous activities to choose from including fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, boating, canoeing, hiking, and many others.
The Center Hill Lake Information Center located at the Resource Manager’s Office offers the visitor a pictorial history of the construction of the dam and a wildlife exhibit featuring many of the birds and animals which are found in the area.
Information Center location: 158 Resource Lane, Lancaster, TN / GPS 36.10239, -85.82845
Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center
The Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center at the foot of Tennessee’s Lookout Mountain is home to over 50 native creatures of the Southeast. At the Nature Center you have 317 acres of forest, field and stream for walking, biking, wildlife viewing and even learn a bit about Tennessee’s early human history.
The Arboretum has 15 miles of hiking trails to explore, and offers space for meetings, retreats and weddings. Whether you go to enjoy a picnic or plan to spend hours in meandering through their gardens, the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center is a great place to experience the wonder of nature, and reflect on our role in preserving it for the future generations.
Location: 400 Garden Rd., Chattanooga, TN / GPS 35.01019, -85.36460
More information & Managed by:
Chuck Swan Wildlife Management Area
Enjoy a picturesque drive down Sharp’s Chapel Road leading to this tranquil and secluded spot. Camping areas around the eastern portion of this large site offer opportunities for bird and butterfly watching. The area is also home to several cemeteries, a firing range and miles of drivable roads.
The Chuck Swan Wildlife Management Area occupies 24,444 acres between the Powell and Clinch rivers on the east shores of Norris Lake. Big game in the area include whitetail deer and wild turkey. Chuck Swan is greatly used by bank fishermen due to easy access to the lake. The non-consumptive users such as hikers, ATV riders, mountain bike riders, horseback riders, wildlife photographers, and bird watchers also heavily utilize the area.
Location: 3350 Sharps Chapel Rd., Sharps Chapel, TN / GPS 36.36989, -83.88665
WindRock Park is 72,000 acres of off road fun, located in Oliver Springs, Tennessee. Hundreds of off-roaders can be found every weekend enjoying our trails. The trails are open to everyone and just about any type of vehicle. ATV’s, motorcycles, mountain bikes, Jeeps, buggies, trucks all enjoy some of the best off-roading in the country.
Location: 9125 Windrock Rd., Oliver Springs, TN / GPS 36.08461, -84.33116
More information & Managed by:
Colditz Cove State Natural Area
Tennessee’s Colditz Cove State Natural Area is a great day hike and waterfall for trekkers in the vicinity of Rugby, Big South Fork, and Sgt. York State Park. Dropping over 60 feet from a rock ledge, Northrup Falls is one of the most photogenic waterfalls in the Cumberland Plateau. It flows through a scenic narrow gorge along Big Branch Creek amidst some of the largest old growth stands of hemlock and white pines that can be seen in the plateau region.
The spray field from the falls creates a unique habitat on the rock ledges underneath and in the vicinity of the falls. Several species of ferns, sedges, rushes, and other plants are associated with this waterfall-gorge habitat.
The trail to Northrup Falls is a loop trail that starts in the small parking area. It isn’t a strenuous hike, but demands some agility and sure footedness in the gorge because the rocks around the waterfall can be a bit slippery.
Location: 2552 Northrup Falls Rd., Jamestown, TN / GPS 36.35811, -84.86861
Cordell Hull WMA
The Cordell Hull Wildlife Management Area contains over 25,000 acres of hunting and fishing lands that surround the Cordell Hull Lake and includes the Cordell Hull Refuge. Camping is available at the Corps of Engineers Roaring River Campground located in the Roaring River Recreational Area.
Check the TWRA Website for information on the state hunting season schedule or call the region 3 office for more details about the area’s activities and regulations.
Location: Elmwood, TN / GPS – Multiple locations – see website.
Cove Lake State Park
Cove Lake State Park’s 673 acres are situated in a beautiful mountain valley setting on the eastern edge of the Cumberland Mountains. There are scenic nature trails and bike trails leading through the open grasslands and woodlands. In the winter, several hundred Canada Geese make this lakeshore their feeding ground. Nearby is the Devil’s Race Track whose steep pinnacle rock affords a panoramic view.
There is a 3.5 mile paved hiking trail that is also used for biking.
Year-round fishing is permitted on 210-acre Cove Lake.
The Cove Lake visitor is served with 100 campsites. All sites are equipped with water and electrical hookups, and most with grills and tables. A dump station is available, as are two modern bathhouses.
The outdoor swimming pool complex offers an Olympic-sized swimming pool, kiddy pool, and restrooms.
Location: 110 Cove Lake Lane, Caryville, TN / GPS 36.30909, -84.21114
Cumberland Caverns is Tennessee’s largest show cave and a U.S. National Natural Landmark. The cave displays some of the largest underground rooms and most spectacular formations in America.
Join guided daily tours through some of the largest rooms in the eastern United States. The lit pathways wind through the caverns’ famous large formations, waterfalls, and cave pools. Each tour is highlighted by a light and sound pageant which is a dramatic retelling of the creation story.
The “Volcano Room,” seats 500 and can be reserved for banquets, weddings, birthday parties, catered meals, and corporate events. The Volcano room is the home of Bluegrass Underground, a monthly concert series. www.bluegrassunderground.com.
Discover adventure on a daytime or overnight spelunking adventure trip into untamed portions of the caverns. Groups from 10 to 250 can discover what caving is all about.
Location: 1437 Cumberland Caverns Rd., McMinnville, TN / GPS 35.66594, -85.68361
More information & managed by:
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
At Cumberland Gap, the first great gateway to the west, the buffalo, the Native American, the long hunter, the pioneer… all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky.
The park is located in the southern mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Visitors can explore over 85 miles of trails, historic sites, and numerous overlooks and vistas. Wild mountain streams and cascades, as well as dark and majestic caves, offer a glimpse of a different world, and lush, green forests provide habitat for numerous animals including: bear, deer, elk, bobcat, coyote, and over 160 species of birds.
There are over 85 miles of hiking trails in the park ranging from short, easy 1/4 mile hikes to the 21 mile Ridge Trail. Backcountry trails lead to remote, wilderness areas. Backcountry camping is allowed in designated sites.
Location: 91 Bartlett Park Rd., Middlesboro, KY / GPS 36.60276, -83.69530
Cumberland Mountain State Park
This historic park was part of the Cumberland Homesteads, which was a program of the New Deal in the 1930s. In addition to the incredibly scenic location along the dam of Byrds Creek, the park also features six hiking trails, totaling about 15 miles. In addition, they have great cabin facilities for an overnight stay and one of the best restaurants in Tennessee’s state park system.
You can also enjoy many activities such as picnicking, basketball, board games, horseshoes, playgrounds, softball, tennis, volleyball, fishing, hiking and swimming. The park is home to the Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain, which has been consistently recognized as a top golf course in the southeastern United States.
Camping is allowed only on the “Overnight” Trail.
Location: 24 Office Dr., Crossville, TN / GPS 35.90060, -84.99730
Cumberland Trail State Park at Black Mountain
Upon completion, the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park– the state’s only linear park — will be 300 miles, cutting through 11 Tennessee counties from the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park on the Tennessee-Virginia-Kentucky border, to the Signal Point near Chattanooga.
One hundred fifty miles of the Cumberland Trail are open and ready for exploration. Black Mountain, considered one of the crown jewels of the Trail, is a high-elevation site that serves as midpoint of the linear Cumberland Trail State Park. A hard-surfaced parking area and 700’ of hard surfaced, ADA-accessible trail connect hikers to the Cumberland Trail. Ecologically, Black Mountain is well-known for several rare native plants found there. More intrepid/mobile travelers can access even more via the Cumberland Trail itself. Currently, the Grassy Cove segment has 2.0 miles of trail open on Black Mountain plus a 1.7 mile loop on top of the mountain. The two mile section goes from the Black Mountain trailhead down the western slope of Black Mountain to Windless Cave.
Photo by Chuck Sutherland courtesy of Outdoor Experience
Location: Hwy. 68, Crossville, TN / GPS 35.87049, -84.92971
Cummins Falls State Park
Cummins Falls was recently dedicated as the 54th State Park in Tennessee. It cascades 75 feet into one of the best swimming holes in the southeast. It is a 211 acre park located nine miles north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River located where the rolling hills of Jackson and Putnam Counties meet.
The hike to the base of Cummins Falls was previously a precipitous climb and balancing act of a rock face and a badly eroded trail, but since the park was acquired for public use, much work has been completed to make the falls more accessible.
This section of the Blackburn fork is too shallow for boating, but fishing for bluegill and bass along the riverbank is permitted.
Cummins Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Tennessee andhas been named one of the top 10 best swimming holes in the United States. The hike to the swimming hole requires a sure footedness and agility, but is well worth the effort.
Location: 390 Cummins Falls Ln., Cookeville, TN / GPS 36.25325, -85.56613
Dale Hollow Lake
In addition to it’s rare beauty, Dale Hollow lake is known for its clear water, small mouth bass fishing, and the best marinas in Tennessee. Located in several counties, Dale Hollow Lake has an endless amount of land to explore. The lake is famous for its fishing, however with its rolling hills of undeveloped shoreline, there are many scenic overlooks and great sightseeing. Dale Hollow Lake is ideal for a family vacation and provides houseboat and cabin rentals, skiing, tubing, fishing, hiking, and more.
Location: 1005 Livingston Hwy., Byrdstown, TN / GPS 36.57222, -85.15672 (Welcome Center)
Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery
This National Fish Hatchery was established to mitigate for fishery resources which were lost due to the construction of federal water development projects in the Southeast. This is accomplished by stocking rainbow, brown, lake, and brook trout in waters impacted by federal dams. Warmwater species of fish, displaced by dam construction, are on display in the aquarium/visitor center.
The hatchery has a half-mile long, paved walking trail adjacent to the creek.
For birders, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and Little Green Herons are attracted to the hatchery. The adjacent field and the woods surrounding the walking trail attracts numerous species.
Visitors can learn about the process of stocking many of the lakes and rivers in the Southeast, and see trout at various life stages in indoor tanks and outdoor raceways.
Location: 145 Fish Hatchery Rd., Celina, TN / GPS 36.54097, -85.45975
Defeated Creek Park
Defeated Creek Park Campground, on the banks of the Cumberland River’s Cordell Hull Lake, is just seven miles from Carthage, Tennessee.
Cordell Hull Lake is situated among rolling hills covered in a mix of hardwood trees. A wide variety of waterfowl and other wildlife are commonly seen throughout the area.
The 12,000-acre lake stretches 72 miles upstream and boasts 381 miles of shoreline, offering countless recreational activities for visitors. Fishing, boating, sailing, water skiing and jet skiing are popular activities on the water, and boat ramps and a marina provide easy lake access.
Miles of hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking trails surround the lake. The 6-mile Bear Waller Gap Trail has a trailhead within the campground. Other trails in the area include the Turkey Creek Nature Trail and Bear Wheels Trail – a mountain biking trail near the Bear Waller Hiking Trail.
The campground offers 155 sites for tents and RVs, and two large group day-use shelters.
Location: 140 Marina Ln., Carthage, TN / GPS 36.30173, -85.90935
Devil’s Racetrack Scenic Bluffs
This is a year round hike but best enjoyed in the fall and early spring. There are many wild flowers and plants to be discovered.
Features include many rock walls, a natural opening called Window Rock with a great view, the Eagle Rock lookout, the Devils Racetrack, and Bruce’s Creek triple falls.
The obvious rock outcropping can’t be missed from I-75 by an avid climber. The area has a variety of trad and sport climbs from 5.3-5.9 trad. And from 5.8-5.11 sport. The rock is solid for the most part, and the bolts and rap anchors seem to be well placed.
Location: Bruce Gap Rd., Caryville, TN / GPS 36.30727, -84.22707
Edgar Evins State Park
Edgar Evins State Park is located on the shores of Center Hill Lake in the steep, hilly Eastern Highland Rim. The 6,000 acre park provides excellent recreational opportunities and accommodations on one of the most beautiful reservoirs in Tennessee.
Wildlife is abundant and includes three different owl species, numerous hawks and wintering bald eagles as well as the rare Cerulean Warbler, a summer resident of the park’s mixed hardwood forests, which include stands of Tulip Poplar, Oak, Hickory, Buckeye and Wild Cherry. An observation tower at the Visitor Center offers a spectacular view of Center Hill Lake and the surrounding hillsides.
Photo Provided Courtesy of Betsy Adams
Location: 1630 Edgar Evins State Park Rd., Silver Point, TN / GPS 36.08785, -85.81306
Fall Creek Falls State Park
A paradise of more than 20,000 acres sprawled across the rugged Cumberland Plateau, Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of the most popular parks in Tennessee, laced with cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams, and lush stands of virgin hardwood timber. While Fall Creek Falls, at 256 feet, is the highest waterfall in the eastern United States, other waterfalls in the park are Piney and Cane Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades.
Many of the features of the park can be viewed from overlooks, but the park also boasts 34 miles of hiking trails offering a visitor the chance to explore the area more deeply, with either short or moderate day hikes or long-distance overnight hikes.
Three miles of paved bike trails and 15 miles of moderately difficult mountain bike trails are offered.
Stables offer guided horseback trail rides April through October.
Location: 2009 Village Camp Rd., Spencer, TN / GPS 35.65511, -85.35600
Foster Falls Small Wild Area centers on a 60-foot waterfall, visible from sandstone overlooks and surrounded by 178 acres of lush flora, including mountain laurel, azalea, and hemlock. Foster Falls is an access point for the famed Fiery Gizzard Trail – a 12 mile trail that leads hikers to Grundy State Natural Area, and it is a very popular rock climbing destination.
Activities and amenities include Camping, Picnicking, Hiking, Birding, Botanizing, Scenic Views. The site features restrooms, a picnic area, boardwalk and accessible trail to overlook.
Location: 498 Foster Falls Rd., Sequatchie , TN / GPS 35.18238, -85.67376
Franklin State Forest
Franklin State Forest is on the Cumberland Plateau and located in south-central Tennessee, in Marion and Franklin Counties. The forest is 35-40 miles west of Chattanooga. About 99% of the land is forested and about 96% of the land is in mature hardwood. Only about 3% of the Forest is pine. The area has a history of timber abuse by diameter-limit cuts and uncontrolled wildfires. Current silvicultural prescriptions are geared towards timber stand improvement and management of wildlife habitat, so the area is sure to provide some opportunities to see some of the native wildlife of the region. The forest has been traditionally used for hunting. There are also excellent spots for picnicking, primitive camping and approximately 20 miles of marked trails for hiking. Other recreational uses include horseback riding, and mountain biking.
Location: 7833 Jumpoff Rd., Sewanee, TN / GPS 35.11829, -85.86492
Frozen Head State Park & Natural Area
Located in the rugged Cumberland Mountains, Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area’s 13,122 acres of relatively undisturbed forest contain some of the richest wildflowers areas in the state. The mountainous terrain varies from an elevation of 1,340 feet to over 3,000 feet on 16 different mountain peaks. Frozen Head, elevation of 3,324, is the highest point in the Cumberland region.
The park’s lush vegetation, small streams, waterfalls and beautiful mountains make it one of Tennessee’s most scenic.
Frozen Head State Park hosts over 80 miles of rugged trails leading hikers into the backcountry for extended overnight treks or even a short 0.6 mile loop day hike.
The 6.9-mile unpaved Lookout Tower Trail is available for mountain bikes and horseback riders.
Aside from backcountry camping, Big Cove Camping Area can accommodate up to 20 campsites.
Location: 964 Flat Fork Rd., Wartburg, TN / GPS 36.12488, -84.50473
The Upper and Lower Greeter Falls can be accessed from the Stone Door entrance of the Savage Gulf State Natural Area in Beersheba Springs. The hike is a 2 mile round trip demanding some agility and strength, but you are guaranteed a cool swim in the blue hole even in the driest, hottest summer days.
The Stone Door entrance is an interesting and popular attraction alone cutting a 10 ft. wide and 100 ft. tall crack through the top of the plateau and to the bottom of the bluff line – an obvious passageway that was used by the native Indian population. It is now a popular place for beginning to learn rock climbing and rappelling while offering even the least physically capable hikers access to a part of the Cumberland Plateau’s unique topography.
Location: 550 Greeter Falls Rd. ,Altamont, TN / GPS 35.43846, -85.69796
Grundy Forest State Natural Area
Grundy Forest is a 234-acre natural area located in Grundy County. The natural area serves as the northern trailhead of the Fiery Gizzard Trail that connects with the TVA Foster Falls Small Wild Area at the southern trailhead 12 miles away, and which is considered a strenuous hike.
The area features cascading streams, waterfalls, rockhouses, rock formations, hemlock cove forest, dry upland pine forest, and steep cliffs. Several waterfalls can be found including Hanes Hole Falls, Blue Hole Falls(10 feet) and Sycamore Falls(12 feet). The cool gorge also contains the Cave Springs Rock House, where nearby there stands a 500-year-old hemlock. Other interesting features include a five-feet-wide by 30-feet-deep gorge named the Black Canyon, and the Chimney Rocks, which are rock formations that range from 25 to 60 feet tall. The area is recognized for its diversity of wildflowers, mosses and liverworts, and its wildlife.
The parking area has a manned ranger station, restrooms, and a picnic area.
71 Fiery Gizzard Rd., Tracy City, TN / GPS 35.25279, -85.74763
Grundy Lakes at South Cumberland State Park
Grundy Lakes offers swimming and picnic facilities in one of Grundy County’s most historic areas. Grundy Lakes is the site of the Lone Rock Coke Ovens where locally mined coal was converted to coke using convict labor until 1896. The coke ovens remain as a historic reminder of these times. This is a truly lovely and tranquil place to take a walk or use as a base camp for exploring the larger area.
Location: 587 Lakes Rd., Tracy City, TN / GPS 35.26865, -85.71682
Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge
The Hiwassee Refuge, operated by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, is located in the Ridge and Valley province adjacent to the Cumberland Plateau. The Observation Platform is full of excellent interpretation about the area’s natural and cultural heritage. The site is a favorite stop each fall and late winter for over 50,000 migrating sandhill cranes. These birds make the Hiwassee Refuge their stop from nesting grounds in the north to wintering spots in Florida and Georgia. This is certainly a magnificent sight and a must-see for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. The refuge is also becoming an important stopover site for eastern whooping cranes. Other water birds and eagles are often viewed from this area. A spotting scope is recommended in order to successfully see all that this site has to offer.
Location: 525 Priddy Rd., Birchwood, TN / GPS 35.39976, -84.98931
Holder Station Trail
Holder Station Trail is a multi-use, non-motorized, recreational trail. The trail is paved and can be used year round. NO motorized vehicles or ATV’s are allowed, but bicycles and roller blades are ok. The trail is 8′ wide by 1500′ long and forms a loop that goes through both open and wooded areas. There are two benches for walkers to stop and rest and enjoy the sounds of nature and the view. The trail is wheel-chair accessible but there are some slight elevation changes. No restrooms.
Location: 375 Quebeck Rd., Quebeck, TN / GPS 35.82057, -85.56768
Actually labeled, “New River Greenway” this small-town linear park is one of the best you can find. A narrow gravel road along the New River provides the main walking path, and several additional unmarked trails branch off of it. Some observation structures are in place near the greenway’s many waterfalls.
Hardwood riparian, bottomland, and slope forest habitats throughout the area are in good condition. This site is scenic, tranquil, and easily accessed, features numerous small waterfalls, and is also a wonderful place to find wildflowers and butterflies.
Location: Huntsville, TN
Indian Mountain State Park
Along with Cove Lake and Norris Lake, Campbell County residents also enjoy Indian Mountain State Park, which is located on the Tennessee-Kentucky border 3 miles west of Interstate 75 at exit 160 and within the city limits of Jellico, Tennessee.
The 213-acre park began as an abandoned strip mine. It quickly became an unattractive safety hazard to the City of Jellico and its residents. Local officials, aware of the problems which the stripped area presented, began an effort to reclaim the site and develop it into a useful and attractive recreational area.
The park offers 49 paved campsites complete with electric and water hookups and a modern bath house with a dump station. Each site has a picnic table with grills located nearby. Three shelters are available to picnickers or groups.
The park offers an 82’ X 45’ swimming facility complete with bath house.
The park features two walking trails, each expressing the scenic beauty surrounding the park.
Location: 143 State Park Circle, Jellico, TN / GPS 36.58455, -84.14168
Laurel Snow State Natural Area
This 2,259-acre natural area located in Rhea County is home to the 80 ft. tall Laurel Falls and the 35 ft. Snow Falls. Both of these waterfalls can be reached with a 9 mile round-trip hike that is a segment of the greater Cumberland Trail. It is a very popular destination for simmers and is rated a class V for paddlers.
The natural area also has scenic creeks, steep gorges, geologic features, a small stand of virgin timber, and a wide variety of plants. Buzzard Point and to Snow Falls can be hiked to by following the trail as it forks to the left going west. The trail to the right leads to Raven Point, which overlooks Laurel Snow. The trail eventually climbs to the top of the falls.
Laurel-Snow State Natural Area is part of the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail, and the area includes trailhead parking and an open section of the Cumberland Trail. Backcountry camping is available by permit.
Location: 1098 Pocket Wilderness Rd., Dayton, TN / GPS 35.52610, -85.02183
Lone Mountain State Forest
The Forest was known as the Lone Mountain Section of Morgan State Forest until 1970 when Morgan State Forest became part of the Division of State Parks and Lone Mountain became a separate State Forest. It is located on the Cumberland Plateau in east-central Tennessee, in Morgan County, about four miles south of Wartburg, just west of U.S. Highway 27. It is approximately 15 miles north of the Tennessee River/Watts Bar Lake and 35 miles west of Knoxville.
Location: 302 Clayton Howard Rd., Wartburg, TN / GPS 36.07063, -84.54669
Mountain Goat Trail
From 1856 to 1985, the Mountain Goat Railroad carried coal and passengers between Palmer and Cowan in Grundy and Franklin Counties of the Cumberland Plateau. It was named the Mountain Goat because the climb onto the Plateau was one of the steepest railroad ascents in the world.
Now, the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance is seeking to reclaim the path of the railroad. Working with local governments and other interested groups, the the Mountain Goat Alliance’s mission is to turn the old railroad bed into a multiuse recreational path. When finished, the 35-plus-mile trail will connect seven towns in two counties, offering health, recreational, and economic benefits to the area.
How much of the Trail is accessible now?
View the map to see what’s available and where to access the trail
Location: US Hwy. 41A & Hawkins Ln., Sewanee, TN / GPS 35.19537, -85.91536
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Natural Bridge State Natural Area
Natural Bridge is a three-acre natural area located in Franklin County. Natural Bridge is a 25 feet high natural sandstone arch with a span of 50 feet that provides a scenic overlook of Lost Cove. There is a wet weather spring associated with a rock house located behind the natural bridge. The spring probably contributed to the formation of the arch. Lost Cove is a large karst formation on the dissected section of the Cumberland Plateau. The site also has been referred to as Sewanee Natural Bridge since the University of the South in Sewanee once owned it. It is a part of the South Cumberland State Park. The Natural Bridge is a very short walk from the parking area.
Location: 591 Natural Bridge Rd., Sewanee, TN / GPS 35.15372, -85.92199
Nickajack Dam Reservation (Lower Sequatchie Management Unit)
Nickajack Lake has roughly 215 miles of winding shoreline, 10,370 acres of surface area and is 46 miles long, extending up to Chickamauga Dam. Nickajack Dam was named for Nickajack Cave located about a mile upstream.
Nickajack Lake offers the amazing and spectacular scenery of the Tennessee River Gorge, and provides a scenic backdrop to a variety of lake activities including boating, fishing, waterskiing, jetskiing, swimming, camping, public parks, public access areas, picnic areas, and more. The river banks below the dam are fishing berms and include a concrete fishing pier with foot bridges and wheelchair ramps. This site especially recommended for birding and those interested in river/riparian areas.
Location: TVA Rd., Jasper, TN / GPS 35.00841, -85.61720
Norris Dam State Park and Watershed
This 4,000 acre State Park is adjacent to the TVA landholdings known as the Norris Watershed. The Norris Reservoir began as TVAs first project in 1933. The park offers a fully equipped marina, a boat ramp available to the general public, and pontoon boats available for rent.
The TVA lands are home to the Lenoir Museum featuring Appalachian Folk Life, a wonderful trail system that is very popular with local hikers and mountain-bikers. The Lenoir Museum features a dazzling Spring wildflower display, and historical rockwork along Clear Creek. This site is easily accessible, picturesque, and tranquil.
Location: Norris Dam State Park – 125 Village Green Circle, Rocky Top, TN / GPS 36.23937, -84.10923 / TVA Norris Dam Visitor Center – 1810 Norris Fwy., Norris, TN / GPS 36.22512, -84.08830
North Chickamauga Creek State Natural Area
The 7,093-acre North Chickamauga Creek SNA, located near Chattanooga, serves as an important trailhead for the Cumberland Trail and is also a popular destination for kayakers.
North Chickamauga Creek, carves an outstanding deep gorge into the sandstone plateau of Walden’s Ridge on the Cumberland Plateau. The gorge is approximately ten miles long with steep slopes, sandstone bluffs, and rich coves. A high diversity of plant and animal habitat exists in the gorge. Ten state and/or federally listed plants occur there. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons have also been reported there. A mixed mesophytic forest combines with oak-hickory, and oak-pine forests to form a rich mosaic throughout much of the gorge.
Small pockets of old growth forest occur in remote locations where rugged topography has protected the forest from past logging.
Location: 354 Montlake Rd., Soddy-Daisy, TN / GPS 35.23551, -85.23274
- North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area
- Cumberland Trails Conference
- Tennessee River Valley Geotourism
Obed River Park/Arboretum
A Class I Arboretum is featured along the course of the Obed River Trail adjacent to the Obed River. The paved surface multi-use trail is for public use by non-motorized traffic: walkers, runners, roller-blade enthusiasts and bicycle riders.
The trail originates at the Cumberland County Obed River Park, a county owned park facility that features three picnic shelters, restrooms, and a playground. On the trail, a visitor passes two foot bridges, two historical markers, views of the scenic Obed River and a large number of native Cumberland Plateau plants, trees, and wildflowers. The trail gradually climbs to a large rolling meadow that has a segment of an abandoned railway corridor and the ruins of one of Cumberland County’s first dams. The Obed River Park Arboretum includes many native species of trees that have identification markers.
Location: 24 Obed River Park Dr., Crossville, TN / GPS 35.97432, -85.04607
Obed Wild & Scenic River at Lily Bluff Overlook
This is one of the most delightful overlooks in the region. The Obed Wild and Scenic River looks much the same today as it did when the first white settlers strolled its banks in the late 1700s. The Lily Bluff Overlook is just a short walk through the woods from the parking lot and boasts an excellent boardwalk to the edge of the bluffs overlooking the river. The park also has opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, camping and many hiking trails. We recommend visiting the park headquarters and visitor center in downtown Wartburg. Their friendly staff can help you plan your trip and share their vast knowledge of the surrounding area.
The cliffs nearby are very popular for rock climbers. Restrooms and ample parking can be found at this site.
Location: Ridge Rd., Lancing, TN / GPS 36.10236, -84.72452
Obey River Recreation Area
Obey River Park is a spacious campground located on the shores of Dale Hollow Lake, in the hills of Tennessee. The campground provides the largest camping area at the lake, as well as the largest and most visited swimming beach.
Dale Hollow Lake has become a recreational oasis for more than 3 million visitors each year.
The dam is located on the Obey River, about 3 miles east of Celina, Tennessee. Surrounded by a thick expanse of forest, the clear blue lake creates a stunning scenic backdrop for a variety of water and land recreational activities.
In the late fall through early spring, the American Bald Eagle can be spotted flying overhead or perched on low-lying limbs. Dale Hollow hosts a large wintering eagle population.
During migration seasons, the call of the sandhill crane is often heard overhead. They often land near the campground.
Location: 100 Obey Park Rd., Monroe, TN / GPS 36.53204, -85.16341
Ozone Falls State Natural Area
Ozone Falls is a 43-acre natural area in Cumberland County. It receives heavy visitation because of its close proximity to Interstate 40. Ozone Falls plunges 110 feet over a sandstone cap rock into a deep blue, rock-strewn pool. Fall Creek then disappears underground until it re-emerges several feet downstream. An impressive rock house “amphitheater” can be seen behind the falls that was created over geologic time by wind, water, freeze/thaw, and erosion.
Location: 14563 State Hwy. 1, Rockwood, TN / GPS 35.88150, -84.81020
Pickett State Park
Situated in a remote section of Tennessee’s northern Cumberland Plateau, Pickett CCC Memorial State Park is known for its geological, botanical, and scenic wonders. The park lies within the 19,200-acre Pickett State Forest, and adjacent to the massive 120,000 acre Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, both areas containing prime wilderness country. Visitors to the park can explore large rock houses, natural sandstone bridges, scenic bluffs, and wild mountain streams. Spring brings dazzling displays of wildflowers, summer an abundance of blackberries and wild blueberries, and autumn a patchwork of colors to the countryside. The park memorializes and preserves the unique work of the Civilian Conservation Corps CCC, who first developed the park.
The park offers a small visitor center, well marked walking trails and some guided trips to the Pogue Creek State Natural area.
Location: 4605 Pickett Park Hwy., Jamestown, TN / GPS 36.55116, -84.79661
Piney Falls State Natural Area
Piney Falls State Natural Area is a 440-acre natural area insulating the 80 ft. Piney Falls and a pristine forestland featuring creeks, deep gorges, waterfalls and old growth forest. This National Natural Landmark is an easily accessible waterfall requiring a 3-mile round trip hike.
Piney Falls is especially significant because of its old growth forest. The tallest and most magnificent trees are the white pines that are found in the mixed mesophytic forest that occur on lower slopes in the gorge below Lower Piney Falls.
Large tulip popular, hemlock, buckeye, and basswood grow below Upper Piney Falls. The upland rim above the falls is comprised of a typical plateau oak-pine forest. Spring visitors to the area will see an abundance of wildflowers that include several state listed species.
Photo taken my Matt Daugherty
Location: Firetower Rd., Grandview, TN / GPS 35.72751, -84.85570
Piney River Segment of the Cumberland Trail
This 8.46 mile trail is a moderately rated hike starting from the picnic area on Shut-in Gap Road. The Twin Rocks Nature Trail takes off to the left about .1 miles from the picnic area. The trail features a picturesque 100 foot suspension bridge, a beautiful stand of large hardwoods called Big Cove, Spider Den Bluff, and White Pine Cascades.
Location: Shut in Gap Rd., Spring City, TN / GPS 35.71328, -84.88080
Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area
Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area is a 3,000-acre natural area adjacent to Pickett State Forest. The natural area is named for Pogue Creek, which, along with its tributaries, formed and runs through the magnificent gorge that makes this area so special.
The bluff line is scenic where exposed reddish orange sandstone forms bands of sheer rock cliffs. In many places very scenic rockhouses and sandstone formations occur creating astonishing, picturesque rock structures.
The rockhouses are habitat for several rare species. There are no currently established trails in this area. It is highly recommended that visitors call the Pickett State Park offices in advance of their visit and schedule a tour if they wish to visit this area.
Location: 3899 Pickett Park Hwy., Jamestown, TN / GPS 36.52195, -84.81760
Prentice Cooper State Forest and Wildlife Management Area
Prentice Cooper State Forest and Wildlife Management Area is situated on the scenic Tennessee River Gorge. Management activities of the forest focus primarily on sustainable timber management, forest management demonstration and wildlife habitat improvement while maintaining recreational opportunities for the public.
There are 35 miles of hiking trails, including the south end of the Cumberland Trail State Park. There also are two designated camping areas. Other recreational activities include hunting, OHV use in designated areas, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and bird watching.
Location: 3998 Game Reserve Rd., Chattanooga, TN / GPS 35.16420, -85.41694
Raccoon Mountain Caverns & Campground
Raccoon Mountain Park and Campground is the Chattanooga area’s premiere full-service campground. It is the closest campground to downtown Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, the area’s major tourist attractions, and the mountain bike trails at TVA’s Raccoon Mountain. Clean facilities, great mountain views, and close location to downtown Chattanooga and area attractions makes it the ideal choice for your stay. There are also five “camping cabins” for those individuals who do not own an RV or wish to tent camp but who otherwise enjoy the camping experience.
Raccoon Mountain Cave is the Southeast’s highest rated (and most geologically active) cave that is noted for its incredible array of diverse, natural formations.
Location: 319 W. Hills Dr.
Chattanooga, TN / GPS 35.02193, -85.40764
- Raccoon Mountain Caverns & Campground
- TNvacation.com – Raccoon Mountain Campground
- TNvacation.com – Raccoon Mountain Caverns
Red Oak Ridge Horseback & Hiking Trail
The Red Oak Ridge Trail system consists of 18 miles of horseback riding and hiking trails on and overlooking Dale Hollow Lake in middle Tennessee. The trailhead is located 8 miles north of Celina Tennessee, 3 miles off of Hwy 53.
Location: Red Oak Ridge Rd., Celina, TN
Ride Royal Blue ATV Resort
If you’re an all-terrain vehicle enthusiast, then you’ve found your ultimate destination. Enjoy majestic mountainside beauty and an exciting ride at the Ride Royal Blue ATV Resort and Campground, offering miles of versatile trails and accommodations in the Cumberland Mountains of Campbell County, Tennessee.
They feature countless trails suited for all skill levels. Trails range from leisurely treks perfect for families to challenging obstacles and creeks for thrill-seekers. Not only do they cater to ATV’s but also to SxS’s, trail bikes, 4 wheel drive trucks, rail buggies, jeeps and mountain bikes.
After an exhilarating day riding the trails you can hang your hat, ease into a comfortable rocking chair, and take in the breathtaking view of the Cumberland Mountains from the porch of your cabin.
Outdoor recreation and natural beauty — get the best of both worlds at Ride Royal Blue, ATV Guest Resort and Campground.
Location: 6307 Stinking Creek Rd., Pioneer, TN / GPS 36.44365, -84.23189
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Roaring River Park
The Roaring River Recreation Area has over 12,000 acres owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is a great place for hiking, swimming, boating, hunting, and fishing. The park is located on the Cordell Hull Lake, named after the famous Father of the United Nations that was born and raised nearby.
Wildlife is abundant around the lake. Whitetail deer, wild turkeys, quail, squirrels, rabbits, and a wide variety of waterfowl are commonly seen throughout the area. The 12,000-acre lake stretches 72 miles upstream and has 381 miles of shoreline, offering recreational activities for just about any type of visitor.
The wooded day-use area offers one large group shelter. Amenities include flush toilets, drinking water, a playground and boat ramp.
Location: 10417 Dodson Branch Hwy., Gainesboro, TN / GPS 36.37456, -85.63934
Rock Island State Park
The scenic beauty and tranquility of this wooded park is dominated by the Great Falls of the Caney Fork River- an imposing limestone gorge. It provides scenic overlooks, waterfalls and deep pools for fishing, rock-hopping and exploring.
Located at the confluence of the Collins and Caney Fork Rivers, this 883-acre park has a natural sand beach on Center Hill Reservoir. Historic features of the park include a 19th century textile mill and one of Tennessee’s early hydroelectric plants. The park offers several marked hiking trails.
Boating and fishing are very popular on Center Hill Lake as well as on Great Falls Lake. There is a free public launching ramp on Great Falls Lake.
There are 60 campsites at Rock Island, equipped with electrical and water hookups, grills, and picnic tables, in addition, they have three bathhouses.
Location: 82 Beach Rd., Rock Island, TN / GPS 35.80921, -85.64195
Mount Roosevelt WMA Overlook
The Roosevelt Mountain Wildlife Management area is approximately 11,000 acres and virtually surrounds the town of Rockwood, TN. However, the best and easiest access point is the Overlook. The overlook (believed to be one of the highest in the Cumberlands) is a celebrated site for witnessing fall migration of not only raptors but also songbirds and butterflies. The overlook possesses a small parking area, picnic tables and observation platforms. Also, a spur trail leading to Walden Ridge Trail is located at the overlook adjacent to the fire tower.
Location: Mt Roosevelt State Forest Rd., Rockwood, TN / GPS 35.86666, -84.71421
Royal Blue ATV Access
Parking and ATV access to Royal Blue WMA (140,000 acres)
Location: Old Tn 63, Caryville, TN / GPS 36.31555, -84.23832
Rugby State Natural Area
This is a 700-acre natural area in and adjacent to the village of Historic Rugby in Morgan County on the Cumberland Plateau. A great place for hiking, botanizing, and birding, the forest includes tulip poplar, red maple, and sourwood with northern red oak, white oak, and hickories scattered throughout, as well as white pine and Virginia pine. American beech is present on both north and south facing lower slopes.
Visitors should stop at the Historic Rugby Visitor Centre for more information about the Rugby State Natural Area, as well as information about the town’s fascinating history. The entire Rugby village is a National Register Historic District and home to several festivals as well as daily guided tours of four historic buildings, a new Visitor Centre and theatre, lodging in historic buildings, several museum and arts/craft shops, a restaurant, and year-round workshops and theatre programs.
Location: 1331 Rugby Hwy., Rugby, TN / GPS 36.36019, -84.70044
Salt Lick Creek Park
Salt Lick Creek Campground is located on Cordell Hull Lake on the Cumberland River System, just 10 miles from Gainesboro, TN. Families and friends enjoy coming to the lake for boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, hunting, and relaxing in the outdoors.
The 12,000-acre lake stretches 72 miles upstream and has 381 miles of shoreline, offering recreational activities for just about any type of visitor.
Anglers enjoy fishing for white bass, rockfish, largemouth bass, catfish, shad and crappie. Boating, sailing, water skiing, and jet skiing are popular activities on the water.
Many miles of hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking trails surround the lake. The 6-mile Bearwaller Gap Trail has a trailhead in nearby Defeated Creek Park. Other trails in the area include the Turkey Creek Nature Trail and Bear Wheels Trail.
Location: 520 Salt Lick Park Ln., Gainesboro, TN / GPS 36.32366, -85.79096
Savage Gulf State Natural Area (Stone Door entrance)
Savage Gulf is 15,590-acre natural area located in Grundy and Sequatchie Counties. Carved like a giant crowfoot into the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau, it is one of Tennessee’s most scenic wilderness areas. Its sheer sandstone cliffs and rugged canyons provide extraordinary views. A significant feature is Stone Door, a 10 ft. wide by 100 ft. deep crack, forming from the top of the escarpment into the gorge below. It was once used by Indians as a passageway. Breathtaking waterfalls form at the head of many gorges, where streams drop off over hard sandstone cap rock.
The Laurel Falls Overlook is 300 feet from the parking lot while the Stone Door is approximately 1 mile. The gorge forests abound with oaks, hickories, maples, yellow poplars, hemlocks, pines and many other tree species. Beneath the forest canopy is a vast array of shrubs, vines, wildflowers, mosses and ferns. The natural area is a part of the South Cumberland State Park and is also on the Registry of National Natural Landmarks.
Location: 1183 Stone Door Rd., Coalmont, TN / GPS 35.44660, -85.65581
South Carter Street River Park
South Carter Street River Park in downtown Sparta on the Calfkiller River features a picnic area and a walking trail.
Location: 10 S. Carter St., Sparta, TN / GPS 35.92589, -85.47878
South Cumberland State Park – Visitor’s Center
South Cumberland State park lies atop the Cumberland Plateau and, unlike most state parks, it is made up of ten different areas located in four different counties (including Grundy Lakes State Park, Natural Bridge State Natural Area, Savage Gulf State Natural Area, Grundy Forest State Natural Area, Foster Falls State Natural Area). The Visitor Center is located between Monteagle and Tracy City on Highway 41.
It is recommended that visitors come to the Visitor’s Center first and plan trips to the other areas of the park from there. The rangers offer a wide variety of activities and lead hikes and tours to many of the places throughout the park.
Location: 11745 U.S. 41, Monteagle, TN / GPS 35.25481, -85.79071
Standing Stone State Park and Forest
Standing Stone State Park is 1,042 acres surrounded by the 8,344-acre Standing Stone State Forest on the Cumberland Plateau of north-central Tennessee. This quaint and rustic park is noted for its outstanding scenery, spring wildflowers, fossils and other natural diversity.
In the 1930’s, Standing Stone was an area plagued with soil erosion and sub-marginal lands. With the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Work Projects Administration, the Resettlement Administration and U.S. Forest Service, the area was made productive again.
The park takes its name from the Standing Stone, an eight-foot tall rock standing upright on a sandstone ledge, which was supposedly used as a boundary line between two separate Indian nations. When the rock fell, the Indians placed a portion of it upon an improvised monument to preserve it. The stone is still preserved in Monterey, Tennessee.
Location: 1674 Standing Stone Park Hwy., Hilham, TN / GPS 36.47137, -85.41531
Stinging Fork Falls State Natural Area
Stinging Fork Falls is a 783-acre natural area located in Rhea County. It is named for the 30-foot waterfall located within the Stinging Fork gorge. The creek flows over the fan shaped falls, then quickly slips through chutes, and tumbles over cascades below the falls.
The gorge contains a second growth mixed mesophytic forest community. Steep cliffs may be found along the smaller bluffs that descend into the gorge. An oak-pine forest can be found along the gorge bluff. Indian Head Point provides a view of the gorge and creek 160 feet below. Much of the upland area between the parking area and gorge had been planted by Bowater in loblolly pine, which has since been removed. This area is undergoing hardwood succession and is currently home to numerous early successional bird species. The Stinging Fork Falls trail is now a segment of the Cumberland trail and terminates at the bottom of the falls about 1.5 miles from the parking area, making this a 3 mile round trip hike.
The pool below the waterfall offers a great place to cool off on a hot summer day.
Location: Shut in Gap Rd., Spring City, TN / GPS 35.71278, -84.92849
Sundquist Unit – North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area at Hatfield Knob
The Sundquist Unit of the North Cumberland Wildlife Management area is approximately 70,000 acres and home to a diverse array of habitats and wildlife. It is the site of an elk reintroduction program and thus a great place for elk viewing. The best place to view elk within this region is at the Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower. In addition to the elk, the trip is worth the time because it is also an ideal spot for birdwatching, wildflowers and butterflies. The Sundquist Unit is known for its ATV riding opportunities as well as it’s wildlife, and is home to a portion of the Cumberland Trail, making it ideal for hiking.
Location: Titus Hollow Rd. & Hwy. 63, Caryville, TN / GPS 36.38391, -84.25569 / Hatfield Knob 36.44899, -84.1227
The bluff line stands 75 feet above the highway and on a clear day you can see the historic town of Sparta nestled in the valley below, along with a view of approximately 50 miles of breathtaking Tennessee countryside, including four counties. Catch the sunset here and your day is even more special. Parking area open year-round.
Location: 5047 Bockman Way, Sparta, TN / GPS 35.92911, -85.38225
University of Tennessee Arboretum at Oak Ridge
The Arboretum is a project of the University of Tennessee Forest Resources Research and Education Center. It generally hosts more than 30,000 visitors annually. This 250 acre research and education facility has over 2,500 native and exotic woody plant specimens that represent 800 species, varieties, and cultivars. The UT Arboretum is truly a place for all seasons. Even on a winter day a brisk walk along any one of the four self-guided walking tours can be a rewarding experience.
Location: 901 S. Illinois Ave., Oak Ridge, TN / GPS 35.99379, -84.22016
University of the South -Sewanee
Founded in 1857 by the Episcopal dioceses, Tennessee’s University of the South has Oxford-style, Gothic architecture and was built on 10,000 acres given by the Sewanee Mining Company. Today it is one of the most prestigious universities in the south and has one of the most beautiful campus’s in the nation with a domain of nearly 13,000 acres that can be used for outdoor recreation and forestry education.
The University of the South is a great place to go for a walk and has a couple different coffee shops and cafes where you can grab a bite to eat and take in the beautiful architecture. If you want a trip to Europe but can’t find the time or money, then this campus can give you your Europe fix better than any other area in the south. Its just another amazing story that you can learn about in the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee.
Location: 120 University Ave., Sewanee, TN / GPS 35.19642, -85.91813
Virgin Falls State Natural Area
Tennessee’s Scott’s Gulf region has over 100 miles of publicly accessible hiking trails, including Virgin Falls – a 110 foot waterfall. It is one of the most interesting waterfalls in that its water flows out of one cave and immediately into another. It is also is followed by a number of other impressive waterfalls such as Big Laurel, Sheep Cave, and Big Branch falls. It’s a strenuous 8.5 mile round-trip hike to get there, but it’s an all time favorite hike and worth the trip.
The Caney Fork River Gorge, located within the Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness is another incredible feature of this area and it has been called the “Grand Canyon of the Cumberlands”.
Backcountry camping is allowed at designated campsites along the trail.
Location: 2080 Scotts Gulf Rd., Sparta, TN / GPS 35.85412, -85.28217
Walls of Jericho State Natural Area
The Walls of Jericho is a 750-acre Natural Area that is within the 8,943-acre Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area, which is contiguous to the Skyline WMA in Alabama. Both of the public lands on the Tennessee and Alabama side total 21,453 acres. The natural area is approximately twelve miles south of Winchester in southern Franklin County. The southern boundary of the natural area follows the Alabama Tennessee state line where the actual “Walls of Jericho” is located.
The “Walls” is an impressive geological feature that forms a large bowl shaped amphitheater, which gives rise to steep 200-foot sheer rock walls. Turkey Creek drains through the “Walls” and has been an active geological force in creating the amphitheater. The Natural Area forest is comprised of maples, oaks, hickories, tulip tree, American beech, eastern red cedar, and many other plants commonly associated with limestone. The forestland beyond the “Walls” feature is noteworthy with its many bluffs, large rock outcroppings, caves, and sinkholes.
Location: Rowe Gap Rd., Belvidere, TN / GPS 35.00013, -86.05617
Wartrace Creek Recreation Area
Wartrace Creek Recreation Area is located on Cordell Hull Lake on the Cumberland River System, just nine miles from Gainesboro, TN.
Families and friends enjoy coming to the lake for boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, hunting and relaxing in the outdoors.
The 12,000-acre lake stretches 72 miles upstream and has 381 miles of shoreline, offering recreational activities for just about any type of visitor.
Anglers enjoy fishing for white bass, rockfish, largemouth bass, catfish, shad and crappie. Boating, sailing, water skiing, and jet skiing are popular activities on the water.
Many miles of hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking trails surround the lake. The 6-mile Bearwaller Gap Trail has a trailhead in nearby Defeated Creek Park. Other trails in the area include the Turkey Creek Nature Trail and Bear Wheels Trail.
Location: 3711 Gladdice Hwy., Gainesboro, TN / GPS 36.36042, -85.77472
Washmorgan Hollow State Natural Area
Designated a Class II State Natural-Scientific Natural Area, Washmorgan Hollow is a 73-acre reserve owned by the Tennessee Nature Conservancy. The narrow ravine on the south side of the Roaring River State Scenic River provides an excellent opportunity to observe the diverse flora and fauna of the Eastern Highland Rim. A perennial stream flows north through the ravine, which is bordered on the east and west by narrow ridges climbing 200 to 300 feet.
Habitat is a relatively undisturbed mixed forest featuring beeches, maples and tulip trees on the slopes and sycamore and boxelder along the streams. Spring wildflowers abound, and the natural area is also host to a large population of Synandra hispidula, a member of the mint family uncommon in Tennessee. Birdwatchers have reported observations of several species of neotropical warblers.
The natural area is open for public access, though it is undeveloped and features no parking areas or trails. Access is from Spring Creek Road.
Location: Spring Creek Rd, Cookeville, TN / GPS 36.33957, -85.53221
Watts Bar Lake
Watts Bar Lake is one of the south’s largest lakes, covering 39,000 acres at full pool with 771 miles of shoreline. 738 of those shoreline miles are located in Roane County. Watts Bar Lake lies between the Watts Bar Dam and Ft. Loudon Dam. The Tennessee River, Clinch River and Emory River are tributaries to Watts Bar Lake.
Here you will find boating, sailing, jet skiing, tubing, water skiing, knee boarding, swimming, fishing, and more. With mostly mild temperatures year-round many of these activities can be enjoyed all year long.
Location: 1209 N. Kentucky St., Kingston, TN / GPS 35.88281, -84.50503
Yuchi Wildlife Refuge
Smith Bend/Yuchi Refuge is a unique 2,500 acre tract on the Tennessee River, with three miles of riverfront, 1,000 acres of wetland and 1,500 acres of upland forest. It is located 45 miles northeast of downtown Chattanooga and 56 miles southwest of downtown Knoxville, in Rhea County. Smith Bend/Yuchi Refuge is 4 miles downstream from Watts Bar Dam and 12 miles upstream from Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. The Bend is home to almost every species of wildlife native to the region. It is especially important for sandhill cranes and waterfowl. Though this site does not offer the same breathtaking overlooks and natural features that the Cumberland Plateau is known for, it is home to some of the very best opportunities to see a wide array of birds and butterflies. This site is also home to several unique habitats not found elsewhere on the trail such as cedar glades and prairie grasslands. This site is a must for bird, wildflower and butterfly enthusiasts.
Location: Breedenton Ferry Rd., Evensville, TN / GPS 35.55257, -84.80508