Sunday Hikes: Prentice Cooper State Forest

The Prentice Cooper State Forest is 25,000 acres of land around the Tennessee River gorge about 10 miles west of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It has 35 miles of hiking trails and free camping.

Josh and I wanted to get in a solid hike in the area and chose to take the dirt road to the Snoopers Rock trailhead. From there we could check out “Snoopers Rock” and hike to Natural Bridge and back. This would be a 6 mile round trip distance.

We parked at the trailhead and followed a spur road for a 1/4 mile and discovered that we could have driven down and parked right there at Snoopers Rock. Snoopers Rock is a rock overhang with gorgeous views of the Tennessee River gorge.

There were quite a few folks at Snoopers Rock since it was so easily accessible. After soaking in the unearned view for a moment. We then followed the signs towards Natural Bridge.

This route was much less traveled. The trail followed the river from on high. There were many trees down across the trail which made it more fun rather than difficult. After a mile or so we reached somewhat of a hiking crossroads in the forest.

We followed the path to Natural Bridge of course, while making a mental note to come back and check out these other trails. The hiking thru this area felt like we were hundreds of miles from civilization as it was quiet and secluded. We passed several rickety wooden bridges and soon we arrived at Natural Bridge.

We hiked over the rock bridge and down under it and then back up the top. It was impressive and a lot of fun pretending to rock climb.

After playing around a bit we hurried back and made much better time on the return trip. This was a great hike and a lot of fun. I highly recommend the Prentice Cooper State Forest if you are visiting Chattanooga and want to get in some nature too. rk

An Afternoon at Shiloh National Military Park.

I kind of stumbled into this park when I missed my turn driving through the boondocks of Tennessee. It was late afternoon but I thought I might as well take advantage of the situation.

They have a nice visitor center and the park itself has memorials all over it to recognize all those who fought and lost their lives here at the Battle of Shiloh. This was a bloody battle with over 23 thousand casualties during the American Civil War. This one battle had more casualties than all of America’s previous wars combined.

The fine folks at the Visitors Center suggested I hike the tick infested Sunken Road. This was a nice 1.2 mile round trip flat hike leaving from the #3 stop on the driving tour and ending at the W Manse George Cabin. It passes through the area also known as the Hornet’s Nest as the worst of the fighting occurred in this area. The hike itself was a nice easy jaunt and I was surprised to see a peach orchard growing near the cabin at the turnaround point.

After removing the small ticks from around my ankles, I drove across the park to see the Shiloh Church and then departed back on my way towards Alabama.

This small Park is quick to get around and see everything. I enjoy history in general so it was a good time. If you are in the area stop in and check it out. rk

Sunday Hikes: Little Cedar Mountain

Dad and I met up at the Nickajack Lake in Tennessee one Friday. I had the day off and he was driving down from Nashville so we met in the middle to kayak! After kayaking to an island in the lake and looking around it we decided to kayak back and hike a little before heading home. I had seen the Little Cedar Mountain trail on my map earlier in the day so we decided to do that.

The hike is right off of I-24 making it a great place to get out and stretch your legs on a long drive. The trailhead begins from the parking lot paved and crosses a bride before turning to a dirt trail. The trail takes you in a three mile loop around Little Cedar Mountain (its more of a hill than a mountain).

We came to a split in the trail not too far in and took the left fork towards the water.

The trail climbs a little up and over the rocky hill and once we came down the other side we spotted a small stone wall running along the trail. We figured this used to farmland of some sort just like all the surrounding areas and kept on hiking.

The trail took us around some classic Tennessee granite boulders and along the lakeshore. About halfway through the lakeshore section of the hike, the trail ascends steeply and levels out with views of the lake through the trees. We enjoyed looking out at the island we had kayaked to earlier in the day from the best view point we could get through the trees.

After this the trail heads inland and splits. To continue on the loop go left. The right fork takes you back to the trailhead as well over the top of the hill. The left fork goes around the edge before coming back down to the bottom of Little Cedar Mountain.

It goes through the woods where many birds hang out and there are some wooden fences and even a little treehouse or hunting stand in the trees. The trail meets back up with the other end of the loop and takes you out into the parking lot.

This hike is a great option if you are traveling through the area and is mostly flat. The area is typical Tennessee woods and very pretty but if you are looking for great views and something very unique you won’t find it here. If you are looking for something quick and convenient but still very enjoyable then this hike is perfect for you!

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Old Truck in the Woods

We came across these old rusty cars in the woods while wandering around in the woods in Tennessee. Stuff like this is always cool to me and makes me wonder about a place’s history.

Thanks! – Josh

Spring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The first signs of spring in the Great Smoky Mountains NP are the jonquils blooming on the hillsides. I happened to see these flowers late this afternoon on a hillside near the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Looks like spring is here!

Picture of the Day: Great Smoky Mountains Elk

Elk were reintroduced to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001 after 300 years of an elkless east coast. On our last trip up to the Smokies we were lucky enough to catch some elk grazing in a field in the Cataloochee Valley!

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: The Piney Point Trail

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The Piney Point Trail is one of my favorite short hikes.   At only 2 miles round trip it packs some great scenery in a short trail.   Piney Point is located on top of Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee.   If you are a Midwesterner driving south through Nashville towards Atlanta (probably on the way to Florida) you are familiar with Monteagle.    At the summit of Monteagle take exit 134 on I-24 and head west towards Sewanee: The University of the South.   After a mile or so you will see the sign welcoming you to the University campus and immediately after the sign is a gravel parking lot on the right.   The trailhead offers several trails including one that is an 18 mile loop.

Upon leaving the trailhead you take the right fork and follow the signs.   Shortly down the trail it splits again (take the right fork again).   The left fork has a rock face that seeps water and the creek you pass over taking the right fork has a pretty waterfall in the springtime that you can only see by venturing down the left fork for about 20 feet.    In the spring and early summer, it is worth a quick peek to see the small waterfall.  In autumn, the creek is often dried up.

The Piney Point trail will shortly come into a field, walk left and the trail picks up again with a boardwalk over a wet area.   This spot can be confusing the first time you hike it.  After you continue to pass through hardwood forest you will eventually come to a big overlook where you can see the valley below.   The overlook is actually a large rock protrusion out of the mountain with a several hundred foot drop straight down if you take one step too far.    This is a great place to sit and soak in the view.   There is a second rock about 200 feet to the left with a similar view of the valley as well.

It is a quick walk back to your vehicle from overlook and you can be back on your way.   I hope the next time through central Tennessee you are able to try the Piney Point trail.

rk

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