Abrams Falls at Smoky Mountain National Park

July 25, 2012 in Tennessee Hiking Trails

Abrams Falls Trailhead

Abrams Falls Trailhead

Abrams Falls Trail

We kicked off our trip to the Smoky Mountains with a trek along the very popular Abrams Falls Trail. Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the country and this trail certainly ranks among the most crowded that we’ve hiked. While it was crowded, this moderately difficult trail led us to the impressive Abrams Falls and swimming hole.

  1. Scenery:  3.5
  2. Difficulty:  3.0
  3. Length:  5.0 miles
  4. Dog Friendly Factor: 3.0
  5. Convenience:  1.5
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 5.0
Trail Map:

 

Abrams Creek

Abrams Creek

Scenery (3.5 out of 5.0): The Abrams Falls trailhead starts off at a bucolic setting along Abrams Creek. The creekside views are almost continual throughout the hike. As we hiked along the dirt path, the laurels were in bloom, which made it all the more scenic. The highest point along the trail provides a lovely view of the surrounding area.

While the rest of the trail provides some idyllic scenes, the main event comes with the arrival to Abrams Falls. While Abrams Fall is only 20′ tall, the volume of the falls is tremendous. The pool that forms at the base of the falls makes for a great swimming hole that was filled with people of all ages. If you can get around the crowds to the base of the falls there are some large boulders that are perfect for soaking up the sun and enjoying the roar of the falls.

Base of Abrams Falls

Gorgeous Abrams Falls

Difficulty (3.0 out of 5.0): While the pathway is well maintained and the footing is very easy, there are a couple of good climbs during this 5 mile trek – an elevation change of about 1,800 feet. There were people of all ages on this trail – lots of kids who seemed in pretty good spirits on the way to the falls, but were definitely dragging on the ascent back up the highest ridge. While the end result of the trail is a beautiful, family friendly swimming hole, flip flops and strollers are not suggested for the 2.5  hike to get there.

Abrams Falls Trail Crowds

Hikers in drove to Abrams Falls

Length: 5.0 miles

Dog Friendly Factor (0 out of 5.0): Dogs are not allowed on trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so the pups stayed at home this day.

Convenience (2.0 out of 5.0): The trailhead for the Abrams Falls is about 4 hours from Nashville and located at the far end of the drive through Cade’s Cove. It’s an easy drive and readily accessible, just a ways away from Middle Tennessee.

Bonus Funtimes (5.0 out of 5.0): Aside from the awesome swimming hole at the base of Abrams Falls, you will certainly find plenty of ways to be entertained while at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are dozens of campgrounds and seemingly hundreds of trails. If lazing on the river is your preference, there are plenty of tubing outfitters and a few kayaking spots.

Cummins Falls Trail

July 18, 2012 in Tennessee Hiking Trails

Cummins Falls Trailhead

Cummins Falls Trailhead

As Nate mentioned in last week’s weekend destination, we had tried to make it to Cummins Falls in June but got sidetracked (read: lost) before we made it to this newest state park. Fortunately last weekend we were handed an unusual July combination – rain and temps in the low 80s, so we took it as a sign to venture to Cummins Falls again. If you go, make sure to bring your swim gear and water shoes or sandals – it’s a soggy but impressive trek!

Check out the complete pics on our MMT Cummins Falls Flickr page.

  1. Scenery:  3.5
  2. Difficulty:  3.0
  3. Length:  3.25 miles
  4. Dog Friendly Factor: 3.0
  5. Convenience:  3.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 3.5
Trail Map:

 

Mist on Cummins Falls Trail

Misty day on the Cummins Falls Trail

 

Scenery (3.5 out of 5.0): As the state’s 8th largest waterfall by volume, Cummins Falls is a dramatic and inspiring sight. While the overlook provides a decent view of the falls, it pales in comparison to the view from the base. From the overlook, the hike down to falls first starts out in a wooded forest then crosses back and forth across the Blackburn Fork River. A few spots along the river reminded me of scenes from a fly fishing movie, but we certainly never saw any trout.

After crossing the river a few times and climbing over a few sets of small boulders we finally arrived at the base of the falls. It didn’t take long to understand how these falls ranked so high in water volume. The water from these broad falls rushes down onto a terraced, almost stair-stepped landing. The water cascades down these stair steps into a broad, wide open swimming hole. As long as you don’t mind getting pretty wet, you can climb up these stairs and crawl directly under the base of the waterfalls.

Base of Cummins Falls

Base of Cummins Falls

 

Narrow path at Cummins Falls Trail

Narrow path at Cummins Falls Trail

Difficulty (3.0 out of 5.0): The path down to the falls starts out easy enough with a slight downward slope. To get to the falls, you have to hike downstream along the ridge about a mile. The final descent to the river is decently steep and narrow. The day we hiked it was raining, so the dirt path had also turned to slippery mud along the descent.

Once down to the river, you begin to hike upstream — it’s at this point that you want to make sure you’re wearing river-friendly footwear. The trail at this point kind of disappears and you’re left mostly following the river and crossing back and forth at the most shallow points. At the points where we were crossing the river never got much higher than calf-to-knee deep.

The wet, rocky terrain of the river and boulders along the base of the falls are also pretty slippery, so be sure to watch your footing all along the trail.

Length: 3.25 miles (We spent about 2.5 hours hiking down and hanging around the base of the falls.

Dog Friendly Factor (3.0 out of 5.0): Since it was a freakishly cool July day and we knew there’d be plenty of water, we brought the dogs along for the hike. For the most part they handled the trail pretty well, although there were a few spots were we had to reroute because the trail narrowed too much and dipped into the river at places where the dogs would’ve been in a little over their heads (literally). Once we got to the base of the falls, Coltrane scurried over the boulders and maneuvered pretty well, but Ezra was  overwhelmed by the volume of water and lack of steady terrain, so we found a safe spot for him to hang out and tied up his leash so he could relax while we checked out the base of Cummins Falls.

Convenience (3.0 out of 5.0): Located north of Cookeville, this trail is about 90 minutes outside of Nashville, but is well marked and easy to find from the interstate.

Bonus Funtimes (3.5 out of 5.0): After the final “stair step” at the base of the falls, the water drops into a large, open swimming hole – making it the perfect spot to cannonball into the water below. Travel & Leisure recently ranked Cummins Falls as one of the top 10 swimming holes in the nation and there were a lot of people taking advantage of it while we were there. A few people along the river had fishing poles, but just about everyone had swimming trunks on.

 


For other hikes like this, check out Hiking Tennessee, get your own copy now from amazon.com.

Stinging Fork Falls State Natural Area

June 27, 2012 in Tennessee Hiking Trails

Stinging Fork Trailhead

Stinging Fork Trailhead

Given that the greater Nashville area will be holding steady in the mid-to-upper 90s for the next couple of months, you can bet that you’ll find us heading east to the trails along the Cumberland Plateau, Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains for cooler temperatures and scenic vistas this summer. Thus was the case when we headed out for a day of hiking waterfalls in Tennessee’s eastern region. Our first destination on our day trip from Nashville was Stinging Fork Falls State Natural Area in Rhea County.

  1. Scenery:  3.5
  2. Difficulty:  3.5
  3. Length:  2.2 miles
  4. Dog Friendly Factor: 3.0
  5. Convenience:  1.5
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 2.5

 

Trail Map:

 

Stinging Fork Falls

Serene Stinging Falls (at least on this day)

Scenery (3.5 out of 5.0): The beginning of this trail can’t be much more opposite than the end when you reach the waterfalls. Starting out, this trail is almost arid with a mix of evergreens and prairie grass on the dirt path. The terrain starts to get a little more lively during the quick trek on the spur trail to Indian Head Point. Here rocky terrain starts to replace the dirt path. The overlook actually didn’t provide us any really good views — this might be a different story in early spring or later in fall when the trees along the valley aren’t as filled in with leaves. However, from this overlook we caught the first sounds of a soft rumble from the hidden creek below.

The descent down to the waterfall is when the scenery started taking a substantial turn for the better. The rock-strewn path becomes heavily shaded by the forest. The more you descend during this short hike, green moss starts taking up residence over the small “boulder fields” that become the path. Closer to the creek, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of the smaller falls, about this time we also started seeing lots of mountain laurels in bloom.

At the base of the creek is Stinging Falls, one of the many lovely spots for waterfalls in Tennessee. The day we were there, there was only a trickle streaming down over the falls – but that didn’t make it any less scenic. The cove was quiet and very serene. The little bit of water from the falls tumbled into a swimming hole that was equal parts clear, blue and green. No doubt the serenity of this spot changes dramatically after a rain storm, but the day we were there it was pretty much perfect for taking a dip in the cool, calm waters.

Stinging Fork Falls Cove / Swimming Hole

Peaceful swimming hole at Stinging Falls

Difficulty (3.5 out of 5.0): The short length of this trail makes judging the difficulty slightly deceptive. Once you begin the decent, the trail becomes very rocky so it’s critical to keep you eye on your footing.There are a couple of spots where the state installed short staircases to help with some of the steeper parts of the descent.

Stinging Fork Terrain

Rocky terrain on the way to the falls

On the way back up from the falls is where our legs really let us know about the difficulty. A couple of short spans left us a out of breath and pausing for a few breaks. However, the good news about those spots are that overall the trail is very short, and while it can be taxing in spots, you’ll be back to the trailhead in no time flat.

Length: 2.2 miles (It took us about 90 minutes, with plenty of time to linger at the base of the falls)

Dog Friendly Factor (3.0 out of 5.0): The dog friendliness of this trail may depend directly on how much your dog pulls while on the leash. While Ezra and Coltrane stayed home on this hike, I imagine they would have made the descent a little tricky by trying to pull on their leashes as we tried to navigate the unsteady, rocky path. Aside from that aspect, this would be a good trail for dogs as there is plenty of chances for a good refill at the watering hole near the waterfall.

Convenience (1.5 out of 5.0): It took us over 2 hours to get to this trailhead from Nashville. For those in eastern Tennessee, however, this is a much more convenient location.

Bonus Funtimes (2.5 out of 5.0): This trail is pretty much out on its own, but there are some great opportunities to linger by the creek and take a dip in the swimming hole near the base of the waterfall.

 


For other hikes like this one, check out Hiking Tennessee, get your own copy now from amazon.com.

Bryant Grove Trail at Long Hunter State Park

June 20, 2012 in Tennessee Hiking Trails

Bryant Grove Trailhead

Bryant Grove Trailhead

The weekend we hiked the Bryant Grove Trail at Couchville Lake, we were embraced by an errant June day: cloudy and cool! Taking advantage of the weather, we headed out for an nearly 8 mile trek along the shoreline at Percy Priest. It proved to be a nice, quiet, flat day in the great outdoors at the Couchville Lake area at Long Hunter State Park just outside of Nashville.

  1. Scenery:  2.5
  2. Difficulty:  1.5
  3. Length:   7.8miles
  4. Dog Friendly Factor: 0
  5. Convenience:  5.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 4.0
Trail Map:

 

turtle at bryant grove

The tortoise and the hiker.

Scenery (2.5 out of 5.0):  The lake views on this hike are certainly a highlight of the scenery. The bulk of the trail you’re able to frequently catch glimpses of Percy Priest Lake, especially at the beginning and end of this out-and-back trail. The trail is mostly shaded by tall, thin Tennessee trees.

As far as wildlife goes, we heard lots of birds throughout the hike, but didn’t see too many. We did, however, come upon a companion on the trail — a small turtle who didn’t move too fast, but provided for a few amusing moments while we checked him out.

Difficulty (1.5 out of 5.0): The author of 60 Within 60 rated this trail as moderately difficult, which certainly surprised us – perhaps he rated it that difficult because of the distance, but overall this was a very easy trail. There are a few gentle rises in the terrain, but not enough wear anyone out. This is actually a great place for trail running and we saw a couple of runners out that day.

Checking with our fellow hiker

Checking with our fellow hiker

Length: 7.8 miles (it took us about 2.5 hours w/a nice break at the midway point)

Dog Friendly Factor (0 out of 5.0):  While this would’ve been a great trail for the dogs, they are not allowed at Couchville Lake area.

Convenience (5.0 out of 5.0): Located just on the east side of Percy Priest Lake, this is a very convenient Nashville-area trail.

Bonus Funtimes (4.0 out of 5.0): The trailhead at Couchville Lake offers a lot of options for family fun. Canoe rental area available, along with impressive pirate-themed playground, sand volleyball courts, swimming holes and full functioning bathroom facilities at both ends of the trailhead.

Percy Priest at Bryant Grove

Percy Priest lake view

 


This hike and others found in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Nashville, get your own copy now from amazon.com.

Weekend Destination – June 15, 2012

June 15, 2012 in Tennessee Hiking Trails

Another weekend is upon us and the MMT crew is gearing up for another weekend on the trails. It’s going to be another hot one here in the Nashville area, so we’ll be heading to the Cumberland Plateau to gain some elevation and lose some degrees. Last month the state of Tennessee added a 54th State Park to its ranks, Cummins Falls State Park. Cummins Falls is a 75 foot waterfall that drops into a pool that is known as one of America’s best swimming holes, so we thought we’d check it out for ourselves.

The MMT crew would like to wish all the father’s out there a Happy Fathers Day!

Where are you headed this weekend?

Weekend Destination: Cummins Falls

Cummins Falls