Hobbs Cabin via South Rim, Connector and North Rim :: Savage Gulf State Natural Area

This is the one last area of Savage Gulf I haven’t explored yet. So, with two days off in a row for the first time in a while, I decided to do a quick backpack over the Hobbs Cabin.

It didn’t turn out great. A combination of heat, stress from the previous week, my aversion for taking rests and emotions lead me to a break down shortly before I reached the Hobbs Cabin campsites. Even though I have hiked and overnighted by myself many times before, this time felt horrible and lonely. I can’t really fully explain it but sometimes the outdoors just teaches you things you aren’t prepared for.

So, I started the hike at the Savage Gulf Ranger Station and took a longer and more difficult way to Hobbs Cabin via the South Rim, Stagecoach Road and Connector trails. I am not exactly in prime hiking shape, so 12+ miles with the last 3 of the Connector Trail being the hardest was a challenge. (And because I am so stubborn, I won’t rest for more than, like, 5 minutes.

I’ve always enjoyed the history behind the Stagecoach Road – also called Stageroad on this sign- trail (a “highway” that was built from McMinnville to Chattanooga for wagons and such) and Savage Gulf isn’t lyin’ about the Connector Trial being the most difficult in the park. I just wish I would have slowed down and enjoyed it more.

The Hobbs Cabin campsite is a great place to stay the night with a large area with picnic table around the Cabin and 8 sites surrounding it with water a short 50 yards away.

Both the North and South Rim trails have plenty of great viewpoints of the gulf, one in particular is one of my favorites to date, mostly because you can see the mouth of all three gulfs.

So, overall, in theory, it is a great loop. Maybe just don’t do it in the condition I was in…


Distance from Nashville: 1hr 45 min

Trailhead: Savage Gulf Ranger Station

Trail: Savage Day Loop, South Rim, Stagecoach Road, North Rim, Savage Day Loop

Length of Hike: Just shy of 20 miles

Overview: A decently challenging great overnight backpack, in theory, with great views of the Gulf and a neat little cabin.

Mt. Cammerer Summit via Low Gap Trail :: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I decided to have one last “hike hurrah” before I start grad school up for the semester so I drove to my parent’s (new) house near the Cosby entrance to the National Park to summit a (small) mountain.

My Dad decided he was also up for the challenge so I didn’t hike this one alone. It was also a lesson is slowing down when I hike and actually taking the time to take everything in. I usually am a little time constrained in the winter trying to fight the daylight hours after having to drive   3-4 or more hours roundtrip. Plus, he was, like, really excited to be in my hiking blog (which I am pretty sure he’s like one of 3 people who actually read it but WHATEVER).

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Mt. Cammerer just barely misses the 5,000 ft mark at 4,928ft. So, by no means sky high, but it was a decently challenging and fun hike with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

Starting at the Cosby Campground, you take the (mostly switchback-y and uphill) Low Gap Trail until it intersects the Appalachian Trail. You then follow the AT to the Mt. Cammerer Trail which takes you to the lookout/fire tower summit. After reading reviews, I admit, I was a little intimidated thinking it was going to be a ridiculously hard hike. It was no walk in the park, but, honestly, I think Fiery Gizzard and some of the South Cumberland Trails are more difficult. (Maybe it’s because over half of those trails are rocks and boulders and you literally cannot go faster than 1 mph.)

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Switchbacks on switchbacks

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Still climbing…

That being said, it was a great trail. Hiking in the winter means that you can see the mountains surrounding you through the bare trees, which is one of the many reasons I love it. There was a small stream crossing right at the beginning but the rest of the way is an easy-to-follow path up the mountain (just follow signs to Mt. Cammerer). At the top, you are greeted by a no-longer-in-use fire tower and 360 degree views of the Smokies. Some say these are some of the best views in the park and although I haven’t hiked every trail, the views were pretty stunning.

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Summit of Mt Cammerer & Fire Tower

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Dad made it!

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The expanse that is the Great Smoky Mountains


Distance from Nashville: 3.5 hours

Trailhead: Cosby Campground

Trail: Low Gap Trail to (part of the) Appalachian Trail to the Mt Cammerer Summit Trail, then back down the way you came

Length of Trail: 11.2 miles

Overview: You climb a mountain and see pretty things. It’s hard but not impossible and definitely worth it.

woodland trail +more :: fall creek falls state park

Fall Creek Falls is the largest state park in Tennessee but it isn’t necessarily known for it’s extensive hiking. I would actually spend time driving around this huge park to see all it has to offer.

There’s a few short trails and an “overnight trail” (Upper and Lower loops) that you need an overnight permit to hike. It has an extensive front country campground and actual Fall Creek waterfall is stunning, but this is more of a place for short, easy day hikes. It’s a bit of a drive from Nashville, to just hike, so I would recommend front country camping and hiking around from there. I also think there is a large suspension bridge connecting the loop to the Nature Center.

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I hiked around the Woodland Loop and saw the falls from an overlook. There’s a few overlooks around the Woodland loop as well and connections to other short trails.

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Fall Creek Falls

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Woodland Trail


Distance from Nashville: 2 hours

Trailhead: Fall Creek Falls parking, start from the overlook

Length of trail: 1-4 miles

Overview: Short, easy trails with overlooks, waterfalls and bridges in the largest recreation area in Tennessee.

mullins cove loop :: prentice cooper state forest

Well, it’s been a little while. I haven’t had time this entire fall to hike, but finally have a break from grad school to squeeze in some December and January hiking. And actually, hiking in these months are my favorite. The trails are quieter, the leaves are off the trees so you can see many of the views better, and I would much rather layer clothes than hike in 80+ degree heat.

And maybe, in that time away, I forgot how to hike, because I had a difficult time keeping on the trail with this one. I also may have had a late start and was trying to squeeze a 9.5 mile hike into 4 hours so I would beat the sun setting. (Yeah, 2 strikes against me on this one.) So, because I was rushing, I kept losing the trail. It was decently well marked, but it was confusing in places. When I got to the Hemlock Branch Campground, the blazes honestly just stopped. Maybe I just didn’t see the next one, but I went a few different ways and couldn’t find anything. So began my bushwhacking over a mile to find the road the trail was supposed to cross. Then, I just hiked the road back to my car for fear I wouldn’t find the trail again.

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Fighting the setting sun

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Part of the trail

 

This was my first time to Prentice Cooper; it’s a little far of a drive for a day hike (over 2 hours) but it’s a great area to hike. As an added bonus, it’s part of the Cumberland Trail, which will eventually be a 300+ mile trail from the TN-VA border to the TN-GA border.
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Despite all of this, I think this area is great to hike in. But, just make sure you have plenty of time so you don’t have to rush (basically rule 1 when hiking…) and can enjoy all of the beauty. There’s trickling streams, overlooks, and rock structures. It’s challenging, but not too strenuous. Here’s a piece of advice, start at the trailhead across the street from the parking lot. It might be a bit easier to follow the trail that way to Snooper’s Rock and back our again so you won’t have to deal with the real confusing trails.

 

 

 

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Snooper’s Rock


Distance from Nashville: 2 hours 10 minutes

Getting to the trailhead: Mullins Cove Trailhead in Prentice Cooper (in the Fall, check for hunting dates)

Length of trail: 9.5 miles

Overview: Moderately strenuous trail with streams, overlooks, boulders showcasing more of the Cumberland Plateau.

blue hole trail :: rock island state park

I skipped over to Rock Island a few weeks ago.

While most people go to swim in the Twin Falls swimming hole (see below!), I went to check out other parts of the park (albeit, there aren’t many more…).

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I hike the very short but very steep and slippery Blue Hole Falls trail. It’s only about a half mile each way, but you are basically just traversing a waterfall and creek. There is kind of a trail at the beginning, but then you just follow the water down to the river. There is also the Eagle Trail (0.7 miles) nearby that connects Blue Hole to Badger Flat and the beach area.

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The trail is basically where you see the water…

You can also swim in the river once you get down to the bank.

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It’s a fun little hike if you are looking for some more adventures in Rock Island. You can definitely hit a few here because they are all pretty short.


Distance from Nashville: 1hr 30min

Getting to the trailhead: 2nd right on the road coming from the Visitor’s Center, signs for Blue Hole Picnic Area

Length of trail: about 1 mile roundtrip

Brief overview: Short, strenuous, and slippery, but fun!

marcella vivrette smith park :: brentwood, tn

It’s been hot.  It’s been real hot. I haven’t exactly felt inspired to get outside for fear of heat stroke 2 miles in.

But, I was getting (summer) cabin fever, so I found a park close by that I hadn’t been to yet. Something in the middle of Brentwood, TN. Weird.

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Marcella Vivrette Smith Park kind of reminds me of Radnor Lake without the lake. There’s a few different trails and some varied terrain and even some hill climbs. Basically, way more than I expected from this ‘City of Brentwood park’.

There’s some woods walkin’, some field walkin’, and there’s picnic tables scattered throughout the park along the trails.


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The signs are slightly confusing when 2 trails share segments. They only label it as one when you are on the trails. Grab the free trail map at the trailhead just to make sure. It’s really hard to get lost because there’s really not that much to get lost on, but I actually (embarrassingly) got turned around.

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Make your way down here if you need an afternoon away and don’t want to fight the crowds of Radnor Lake.


Distance from Nashville: 25 min

Getting to the trailhead: Off of Wilson Pike in Brentwood

Trail: I did the blue and red trails, but there are a few others.

Length of trail: I did about 3.5 miles, but there are 7 total miles of trails

Brief overview: Wander through forests and fields and climb a hill on this close-by escape to nature.

greeter falls :: savage gulf state natural area

Greeter Falls is one of the last bits of Savage Gulf that I hadn’t seen. It’s a pretty short trail and usually, when I drive over an hour and a half for a hike, I want to make it worth it. But, this time I had some friends and a swim suit in tow, ready for a different kind of adventure. (Read: I wore my bathing suit and went swimmin’)

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The Greeter Falls trailhead is located at the western end of Savage Gulf and it’s only about a half mile walk down to the falls. It’s also a nice place to go swimming on hot summer Tennessee days (and holy Lord do we have a lot of them) and WAY less crowded than Cummins Falls (side note: I went there in the middle of the day on a Wednesday expecting it to be not as crowded. I was very very wrong).

Make sure you go to both the bottom and top of the falls (only a very short walk from either to the other) so you can enjoy both swimming and splashing around in the small creek that feeds the falls.

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At the top of the falls

When we were there, the falls weren’t exactly rushing, but that meant I got to explore around in what usually is a creek/river bed. Getting to climb and explore around made up for the fact that I only got to hike 1 mile.

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Looking down from above Greeter Falls

You can easily connect to the the Big Creek Rim, Big Creek Gulf, and Laurel trials if you wanted to do a longer hike. Also, the Alum Gap Campground is only about a mile and a half away.


Distance from Nashville: 1hr 30min

Getting to the trailhead: Greeter Falls Road off of TN-56

Trail: Greeter Falls Loop trial (full Savage Gulf map here)

Length of trail: 1 mile

Brief overview: Short with slight elevation change down to the falls where you can swim, relax, and explore the surroundings. Easy and short enough to bring the kiddos along.

trails of fort henry area :: land between the lakes national recreation area

You win some, you lose some.

I have been feeling stretched for hikes lately, so I looked at Google Maps and found all the close-ish green areas and decided on Land Between the Lakes because I figured I should check it out.

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LBL is definitely not a prime hiking destination despite cool trail names like Devil’s Backbone. This name really got me, I was decently exactly to hike this and it was literally a flat trail in the woods. -__- (EDIT: supposedly the trails in the northern part of the park are better an more well kept, so maybe focus your efforts there.) The couple trails I hiked to form a loop were all relatively boring and very flat. They were also pretty poorly marked. On the trail map, each trail had names, but there were no names actually on the trail, just numbered posts. There were no arrows telling which trail went which way when there was a split. There were tons of ticks despite the tons of 100% DEET bug spray I doused myself with. So, just not a lot going for it hiking wise.

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This was the most interesting thing I actually saw ON the trail: an old candy box as a trail marker…

The most interesting parts of the hike were when I gave up on the trails and hiked the last 3/4 mile on one of the roads back to my car. I found a civil war cemetery and the remains (foundations and brick pillar) of an old house.

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Buchanan Civil War Cemetery

I am sure there are better ways to enjoy LBL besides hiking trails, so if you decide to make the trip here, leave out the hiking and see what else this national recreation area has to offer.


Distance from Nashville: 1hr 45min

Getting to the trailhead: South Welcome Station on Land Between the Lakes and surrounding areas. I started at the Boswell Backcountry Area (wouldn’t recommend starting here though)

Trails: Pickett Loop, Telegraph, Devil’s Backbone, Artillery, Volunteer (map here)

Length of trail: The loop I formed was about 6 miles

Brief Overview: Just don’t do it.

walls of jericho :: bear hollow mountain WMA

This hike barely squeezes itself into Tennessee. It straddles the Tennessee-Alabama state line and there is a trailhead in both states. You can do this as a shuttle hike (Start at the Tennessee trailhead and end at the Alabama one and drive back to the starting point. You would need 2 cars for this option) or you can make it into an out and back like I did because taking two cars on a solo hike is quite challenging.

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To do the out and back, start at the Alabama trailhead which is off of AL-79.  You’ll hike to the Walls of Jericho on the Tennessee side, then hike the same trail back out.

The trail isn’t too bad on the way in (read: downhill), but it is a steady (and sometimes intense) uphill most of the way back out. But, there is variety of terrain to keep you interested and not so much thinking about the uphill.

Here is the first thing that greets you when you get to the final destination:

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So what are the “Walls of Jericho” anyways? Jericho isn’t just or bible stories anymore. The Walls of Jericho are a huge limestone rock amphitheater fed by streams and cascades. It truly is pretty spectacular. I usually don’t stick around when I get to the “cool spot” of the hike, but I couldn’t help myself here. It was just so other-worldly, like if I was walking on a very lush moon or something.

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If possible, try to go when it hasn’t been raining a ton. It’s hard to get back into all the parts of the amphitheater when the water is calf deep. It’s not impossible, just makes for a soggy and squishy hike out.


Distance from Nashville: 1 hr 50 min

Getting to the trailhead: I-24E from Nashville to exit 127 for US-64/TN-50W. Turn left onto TN-16, which turns into AL-79. Less than a mile after entering Alabama, there is a sign for the trailhead on the right. Or just Google Map “Walls of Jericho Alabama trailhead”.

Length of hike: just under 7 miles, allow 4 hours

Brief overview: Steep descents and ascents, limestone amphitheater and falls, stream crossings. Wear your sturdy hiking boots for this one. A great challenging hike that’s not very crowded. Highly recommend!

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great stone door, big creek rim, laurel trail loop :: savage gulf state natural area

The Great Stone Door trail is a pretty well known and easy trail with a great payoff. But, driving almost 2 hours for a mile of hiking doesn’t quite make sense to me, so I made it a 7 mile loop connecting the Stone Door Trail to the Big Creek Rim and Laurel Trails for a nice longer, but relatively easy hike.

The Great Stone Door is a huge crack in a huge rock that makes the rock look like a huge stone door. (It’s a stretch, but we’ll give it to them)

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Coming up to the Great Stone Door, the crack is where the trail goes and to the left is one side of the ‘stone door’

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Looking up from the bottom of Stone Door

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View from the top of the Stone Door

Most of this loop is flat, but not without some views of the Gulf. There are more than few overlooks on the Rim trail; you are following the rim of the gulf for this portion of the trail. The rest of the trail meanders through a wooded area on the plateau, making for a nice spring walk.

There’s also a few nice places to camp both on the trail and at the trailhead at the ranger station so it’s easy to make this a short or long overnight hike.

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Distance from Nashville: 1hr 45 min

Trailhead: Great Stone Door Ranger Station

Trail: Stone Door, Big Creek Rim, Laurel (on the left hand side of this trail map)

Length of Trail: 7 miles (easy), allow 3-4 hours

Overview: Great overlooks and geological wonders plus a little waterfall and the woods.