Alabama's Little River is one of the few rivers in the United States that flows along a mountaintop. The headwaters of both the West Fork and East Fork of the Little River are in northwest Georgia on Lookout Mountain. Both forks of the river continue flowing along Lookout Mountain into Alabama, gradually carving out their own gorges on the mountain, before merging together and entering the Little River Canyon. Upon the end of Little River Canyon, the Little River flows into the Coosa River. One of the major landmarks on the West Fork of the Little River is De Soto Falls - an impressive waterfall that drops more than 100 feet into a rock amphitheater. The official view of the falls is from a rock outcrop on the side of the falls at the end of Desoto Falls Road. However, many people are not aware of an unofficial trail system that leads to the base of the falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, April 2nd, 2016. My plan was to take the unofficial trail from Desoto Falls Road past Icebox Cave to the base of De Soto Falls. Then, I would return to the road and take another unofficial trail to a view that would take in all of De Soto Falls and its basin.
Cloudland Canyon State Park: Overlook Trail, Bear Creek Backcountry Trail, and Backcountry Loop, Trenton, Georgia
You have probably heard about Cloudland Canyon. Cloudland Canyon State Park's Sitton Gulch and Daniel Creek's waterfalls are known very well throughout the hiking community. The park's West Rim Trail is also known quite well. However, many hikers are not aware of another hiking trail in the park - and one that is much more secluded: the Bear Creek Backcountry Trail. The Bear Creek Trail passes through the Bear Creek gorge and then cruises over hills in the eastern section of the park, before reaching a fantastic vista of Cloudland Canyon. Unfortunately, as of March 21, 2016, the Bear Creek Backcountry Trail is closed east of Bear Creek indefinitely. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 19th, 2016. My plan was to check out the "tourist overlook" of Cloudland Canyon near the trailhead. From there, I would hike the Overlook Trail to the Bear Creek Backcountry Trail. Then, I would hike the entire Bear Creek Backcountry Trail - my plan was to hike the loop section counter-clockwise and then return the same way. On my way back, I planned to hike the park's Backcountry Loop clockwise.
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.
Amicalola Falls State Park: Hike Inn Trail, AT Approach Trail, and East Ridge Trail, Dawsonville, Georgia
729-foot Amicalola Falls is famous for being the highest waterfall in Georgia. Nestled in Amicalola Falls State Park, the falls attracts a crowd of tourists all throughout the year. A network of hiking trails and pathways is positioned around the falls and both to the west and east of it. For those seeking a more intimidating hike that relatively has some solitude, the park has two trails that head out into nearby Chattahoochee National Forest. The Hike Inn Trail leads to a lodge that is accessible only by foot five miles from the park, while the AT Approach Trail acts as the access trail to Springer Mountain - the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. You'll be treated to continuous winter views and several year-round viewpoints on both trails. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 4, 2016. My plan was to take the AT Approach Trail from the Visitor Center past Amicalola Falls and to the Hike Inn parking area and trailhead. From there, I would take the Hike Inn Trail to the Len Foote Hike Inn and then to the AT Approach Trail near Amicalola Mountain. Then, I would take the AT Approach Trail to Springer Mountain. I would return to the Hike Inn Trailhead using solely the AT Approach Trail. From the Hike In Trailhead, I would take East Ridge Trail to the Visitor Center.
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.
Vogel State Park is nestled in a small north Georgia valley in the middle of Chattahoochee National Forest near Blood Mountain. The park is home to several hiking trails, including the Coosa Backcountry Trail, a well-known hiking trail that traverses two mountains in its dozen-mile course. On this hike, you will climb to a small vista of the valley in which Vogel State Park lies, before approaching Slaughter Bald and bagging Coosa Bald. This hike is especially good in winter, as much of the hike traverses ridges and slopes with great views when the trees are bare - as long as it is not foggy. This foggy hike occurred on Saturday, February 20, 2016. My plan was to hike the northern and eastern section of the Bear Hair Gap Loop and most of the Coosa Backcountry Trail.
When someone mentions Jones Gap, you may think they're referring to a low point on some sort of ridge... just like you would imagine with any other Gap. Jones Gap is actually the name of a deep depression, the Saluda River valley, that is located in the extreme northern tier of Greenville County, South Carolina. The Mountain Bridge Wilderness provides many hiking opportunities throughout the Jones Gap area. On this particular hike, you will ascend out of Jones Gap past seasonal views for a loop that circles along the south rim of the gap. This hike occurred on Saturday, February 13, 2016. My plan was to hike a short stretch of the Jones Gap Trail, and then to hike the Pinnacle Pass Loop by hiking the Pinnacle Pass Trail and the eastern half of the Rim of the Gap Trail.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 434.5 Miles