Lookout Mountain Battlefield: Jackson Gap Trail, Bluff Trail from Ochs Gateway to Sunset Rock and Point Park, and Gum Spring/Cravens House Loop, Lookout Mountain, Georgia
Lookout Mountain Battlefield, which is part of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, covers an impressive portion of Lookout Mountain, where the "Battle Above the Clouds" occurred during the Civil War. The battlefield's extensive trail system provides easy access to some of the mountain's signature features, such as Sunset Rock and Point Park, both of which have panoramic vistas. The park's most scenic trail, Bluff Trail, follows the bluff line along the west side of Lookout Mountain for several miles, connecting to other trails with more views and other points of interest such as mountain springs. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 28th, 2017. My plan was to hike the Bluff Trail from Ochs Gateway to Point Park. Along the way, I would take a side trip along the Jackson Gap Trail and also to Sunset Rock. From Point Park, I would follow the Mountain Beautiful Trail and Hardy Trail to Cravens House, from where I would take the Rifle Pits Trail to the Upper Truck Trail. Then, I would hike along the Upper Truck Trail past the ruins of Camp Demaray to the Gum Spring Trail. Lastly, I would follow the Gum Spring Trail up to the Bluff Trail, concluding the hike by retracing my steps on a portion of my earlier route along the Bluff Trail.
South Cumberland State Park: Fiery Gizzard Trail (Grundy Forest to Raven Point), Dog Hole Trail, and Grundy Forest Day Loop, Tracy City, Tennessee
South Cumberland State Park is a state park with several tracts scattered throughout the south Cumberland Plateau in Grundy County, Franklin County, and Marion County. Two of these tracts - Grundy Forest State Natural Area and Foster Falls TVA Small Wild Area - serve as the starting and ending point for a dozen-mile long trail that is known as the Fiery Gizzard Trail. The Fiery Gizzard Trail has gained the reputation of being one of the most difficult trails in Tennessee, as it traverses several rocky gorges with rugged terrain. Backpacker Magazine has ranked the Fiery Gizzard Trail in its top 25 hiking trails throughout the US due to the beauty of the gorges encountered on this trail. On this hike, you're going to follow a route that will take you past several waterfalls on Little Fiery Gizzard Creek and Fiery Gizzard Creek before embarking on a very rugged scramble through the gorge. Then, you will ascend out of the gorge to a couple of panoramic vistas of the Fiery Gizzard gorge, before returning to the Grundy Forest Day Loop and seeing more waterfalls on Big Fiery Gizzard Creek. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 12th, 2016. My plan was to first hike the eastern section of Grundy Forest Day Loop. Then, I planned to take the Fiery Gizzard Trail south through the Fiery Gizzard Creek gorge to Raven Point. After visiting Raven Point, I would take the Dog Hole Trail back to the Fiery Gizzard Trail near Grundy Forest Day Loop. I would finish the hike by taking the western half of the Grundy Forest Day Loop.
Citico Creek Wilderness: Forest Road 217H and Bob Bald Connector Trail to Bob Bald, Tellico Plains, Tennessee
The Unicoi Mountains straddle the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the Cherohala Skyway area. Bob Bald is one of the higher mountains in the range. At an elevation of 5294 feet, Bob Bald provides extensive views of the Citico Creek Wilderness and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. There are several different ways to reach Bob Bald, but the easiest one is from Beech Gap on the Cherohala Skyway. You will first follow an abandoned forest road along the State Line Ridge, before taking off onto a singletrack trail that leads straight to Bob Bald. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 27, 2016. My plan was to hike closed Forest Road 217H from Beech Gap to the Bob Bald Connector Trail. From there, I would take the Bob Bald Connector Trail to the summit of Bob Bald. After visiting Bob Bald, I would return the same way.
The Citico Creek Wilderness is one of the wildest areas in southeast Tennessee. A network of trails provides foot access into the pristine watershed. Falls Branch Falls, located at the head of a remote valley on a tributary of South Fork Citico Creek, is the tallest waterfall in the Citico Creek Wilderness. From the Cherohala Skyway, take a short trail into the Falls Branch Scenic Area and through an old-growth forest to Falls Branch and the 80-foot falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 27, 2016. My plan was to hike the Falls Branch Falls Trail out and back from the Cherohala Skyway to Falls Branch Falls. After this short hike, I would drive to nearby Beech Gap on the Cherohala Skyway and complete a longer hike, detailed in a separate trail report.
If there ever was a hike that you must absolutely not miss, no matter where you have hiked or are planning to hike, then this is it. As my personal favorite hike on the Cumberland Trail (at least to this date), this is one segment of the famous long-distance trail that has just about everything that you can find on the Cumberland Plateau, from tall bluff lines that stretch on for miles, to spectacular vistas of one of the area's most picturesque gorges, Chickamauga Gulch, to remote waterfalls set in some of the best settings I've yet to see in this area. This is truly one spectacular hike by all means. This hike occurred on Saturday, January 16th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Cumberland Trail from the trailhead on Montlake Road to Panther Branch Overlook. However, due to time-consuming photography of the countless points of interest on this hike, as well as to the extremely rugged and slow nature of the latter part of the hike, I was only able to reach Stevenson Branch Falls. That was okay with me, however, as I have hiked the excellent section of the Cumberland Trail north of Stevenson Branch Falls, and the section to the south, that I hiked on this day, proved to be even more spectacular.
The Tennessee River is Tennessee's grand river. Near the city of Chattanooga, the river carves a passage through a deep gorge before becoming Nickajack Lake. On this hike atop a finger of the Cumberland Plateau that juts out into the Tennessee River Gorge, you will see several vistas of the river, a bizarre geological formation called the Natural Bridge, and a number of wet-weather waterfalls - they really are invisible, unless you happen to hike the trail in the middle or after a notable flooding event. Expect quite a workout curving throughout countless hollows before arriving at Ransom Hollow Overlook, one of the best vistas on the southern Cumberland Plateau. This hike occurred on Saturday, December 26th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Pot Point Loop clockwise from the Snoopers Rock Trailhead.
The Warriors Passage Trail is one of two National Recreational Trails in Cherokee National Forest. This seldom-traveled pathway traverses a couple of low-elevation stream valleys before climbing up to Waucheesi Mountain, a small bald summit with views across the Tellico Ranger District. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 14th, 2015. My plan was to hike the entire Warriors Passage Trail out and back from Lyons Creek Trailhead to Waucheesi Mountain.
Two large rivers are the highlights of southern Cherokee National Forest's Ocoee/Hiwassee Ranger District: the Ocoee River and the Hiwassee River. Both rivers run through gorgeous canyons and are full of whitewater rapids. The John Muir Trail (and partially in conjunction with the Benton Mackaye Trail) runs along the northern shores of the Hiwassee River for a distance of nearly 20 miles, presenting opportunities to see the river's rapids and rock formations up close. This hike occurred on October 24th, 2015. My plan was to hike the John Muir Trail/Benton Mackaye Trail from the Big Bend Recreation Area to the Coker Creek footbridge at Duckett Ridge Trailhead. I would return almost the same way, although on the return trip, I would attempt to follow the old route of the John Muir Trail past Apalachia Powerhouse.
Lookout Mountain Battlefield: Skyuka Spring, Sunset Rock, and Gum Spring Loop, Chattanooga, Tennessee
The Lookout Mountain Battlefield is a large tract of conserved land that covers the better portion of Lookout Mountain's slopes. The area that this tract covers is the site of the Battle of Lookout Mountain (a battle that was a part of the US Civil War's Chattanooga Campaign). The area is home to an assortment of interesting sights, most notably several rather large springs, as well as many important historic sights and even some good vistas. The mountain is crisscrossed by trails, and there are many ways to create long day hikes on Lookout Mountain. This hike occurred on October 10th, 2015. My plan was to hike to a number of features on the west side of Lookout Mountain: Skyuka Spring, Sunset Rock, and Gum Spring, but due to some confusing intersections, the total mileage of the hike had to be increased to the point that only Skyuka Spring was seen in the daylight. My plan was to start on the Kiddie Trail. I would then take the Skyuka Trail to Skyuka Spring, and follow the John Smartt Trail and later the Jackson Gap Trail to the Bluff Trail. The Bluff Trail would be followed to Sunset Rock, and then using the Gum Spring Trail and Lower Gum Spring Trail, I would return to the trailhead. As you'll see below, this plan didn't quite work out.
Franklin-Marion State Forest: Cave Spring Trail, West Rim Trail, North Rim Trail, and Sweden Cove Trail, Sewanee, Tennessee
Franklin-Marion State Forest is a large tract of conserved land on the southern Cumberland Plateau, totaling to nearly 8000 acres. An assortment of hiking trails circles the forest, leading to various vistas of the surrounding coves and several small waterfalls. Unfortunately, the trail system has been let down in recent years and now receives mainly horse traffic. The horse traffic makes this hike rather unattractive, but still, it has its rewards. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 19th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Cave Spring Trail to the West Rim Trail and then follow the West Rim Trail to its northern terminus. From there, I would do the North Rim Trail out and back. Finally, I would do the Sweden Cove Trail to TN State Route 156 and return to the trailhead via TN 156.
Deep in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina and northeastern Tennessee lie the Highlands of Roan. This widely-known name represents one of the most beautiful spots in the Southeast, and perhaps the entire Appalachian Mountains. This series of mountain balds lies on the route of the Appalachian Trail, and quite a scenic of a hike it is. Whether you're coming here for the spring wildflowers, the autumn foliage show, or after a winter snowstorm, you're not likely to be disappointed (except it may be a little too cold in winter). Although only the most seasoned hiker will be able to do this physically difficult and tiring trek in a single day, there are several variations that can split this hike into several, and then, there's always the backpacking option. This hike occurred on Saturday, June 13th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap over Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Little Hump Mountain, finishing at Big Hump Mountain. I would return the same way. I would also take the spur trails to Grassy Ridge Bald and Overmountain Shelter.
Big South Fork National Recreation Area: Leatherwood Loop, Sunset Overlook, and Angel Falls Overlook, Oneida, Tennessee
The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River is one of the biggest to bisect the Cumberland Plateau. It flows through a rugged gorge in extreme northern Tennessee and then into Kentucky, before flowing into the Cumberland River near Somerset. This hike is one of the best for your first visit to the area, as it encompasses the shear beauty of the gorge and surroundings, culminating in one of the most beautiful overlooks I have ever encountered anywhere - Angel Falls Overlook - making this one of the best hikes in Tennessee. This hike occurred on Thursday, April 16, 2015. My plan was to start my hike at the East Rim Trailhead. I'd first see East Rim Overlook and do the short hike to Sunset Overlook. And then, I would do the Leatherwood Loop and follow the John Muir Trail to Angel Falls Overlook and back.
The Piney River is one of the larger waterways that the Cumberland Trail intersects or follows. Amidst its large watershed, the Cumberland Trail visits five cascades and waterfalls, and also provides excellent water views. In addition, visit Twin Rocks Overlook and make a fun rock scramble to reach the views at the top. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 28th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Cumberland Trail from the Piney River/Shut-in Gap Road Trailhead to at least White Pine Cascades with a side trip to Twin Rocks Overlook. Time permitting, I would continue all the way to the western Shut-In Gap Road Trailhead.
Citico Creek Wilderness: North Fork Trail to Headwaters of North Fork Citico Creek, Tellico Plains, Tennessee
Located to the north of the Cherohala Skyway in southeastern Tennessee, the Citico Creek watershed offers rugged, wilderness hiking opportunities for true hiking enthusiasts. On this hike, you'll have a chance to see three waterfalls in the beautiful setting of the headwaters of North Fork Citico Creek. In addition, you have an option of continuing past the waterfalls and attempting to return down Brushy Mountain Trail - maybe your luck will be better than mine. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 21st, 2015. My plan was to hike the South Fork Trail to the place where North Fork Trail starts, and then to follow the North Fork Trail to Cold Springs Gap Trail or perhaps to Cherry Log Gap. I would either take the Benton Mackaye Trail or Cold Springs Gap Trail to Brushy Mountain Trail. Then, I would start down the Brushy Mountain Trail and hopefully make it down back to South Fork Trail without any major problems. My plan didn't materialize, and I ended up backtracking from about 1 mile down the Brushy Mountain Trail.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Rainbow Falls Trail to Mount LeConte and Bullhead Trail, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Mount LeConte is the most famous mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Being in the list of the top 25 highest peaks in the eastern US, it is also the tallest peak in the eastern US measured directly from its base near Gatlinburg. The mountain is home to a hikers lodge, accessed only by foot. The lodge provides amenities in all times of the year except winter. Due to the popularity of LeConte, five trails lead to the summit. If you have followed this blog for a little bit, you might have seen that I have already hiked to Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail. Unfortunately, I came to a fogged in overlook. This was my second attempt of seeing the views on Mount LeConte, with an even more challenging hike. And this time, due to my hiking partner not being in shape, the 4000-foot climb took considerably more time than expected. I arrived at the summit in the dark, but at least I was able to capture a good night picture of Pigeon Forge - even that wasn't possible last time. One day I'll set out on my third attempt to hike up to LeConte to see the views, and I know I won't fail that time. This hike occurred on February 28, 2015. My plan was to hike up to Mount LeConte via Rainbow Falls Trail, see the views from Cliff Tops, Myrtle Point, and Rocky Spur, and then return by Bullhead Trail.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 105.3 Miles