Piney River Section - Cumberland Trail Hiking

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Sweeping views, steep drop-offs, rocky overhangs, bluffs, waterfalls, cascades, seasonal creek crossings make this "pocket" wilderness a treat.

Written by

Rodger Ling


8.5 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

49.2 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

4 hours

3-5 hours


All Seasons

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




The 8.5 mile long trail at Lower Piney River provides stunning natural scenery without steep ascents or descents. The Cumberland Trail is so diverse and beautiful that it is difficult to pick any single section as a favorite, but this one is definitely a contender. 

What Makes It Great

The trail starts across Shut-In Gap Road from a picnic area and parallels Piney River upstream. For those who need a workout, the optional Twin Rocks loop climbs 500 feet vertically for an outstanding view, but the main trail is predominantly level. Rocks and technical sections where you must watch your feet do occur but are short-lived. 

Three miles in, the trail crosses the creek on a suspension bridge and for the next two miles follows an old narrow gauge railroad bed with the creek alongside. This route passes through dense mountain laurel, rhododendron, hemlock, and hardwood and softwood forests until reaching its terminus at Newby Branch Trailhead. Along the way you'll see too many beautiful cascades, campsites, and beckoning swimming holes to count. 

You'll love the diversity of wildflowers in the spring while the colors in the fall are spectacular.  Hiking, backpacking, or running at Lower Piney River is a treat!  With no extended technical or steep sections, you can knock of the miles happily here.

Who is Going to Love It

Trail runners and hikers looking for great scenery without great exertion will love Piney River. Your family will like the picnic area and short loop trails nearby, too.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The Piney River Trailhead is about an hour from Chattanooga. Follow Highway 27 to Spring City, exiting onto Highway 68 North. In just over a mile, turn left onto Shut-In Gap Road (if you cross the bridge you've gone too far) and proceed another mile to the picnic area. 

To get to the other end of the trail, go another five miles up Shut-In Gap Road, where two much more rustic trailheads are accessed via moderately rough dirt roads - don't drive your Prius. 

See for details. Overnight camping is permitted (online permit required).

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Piney River Section - Cumberland Trail

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