Heading north along the Tennessee River Gorge, this hike begins at the main trailhead in Prentice Cooper State Forest. After crossing Tower Drive from the parking lot, the single track descends, crosses a dirt road and continues to a rock bluff with stone steps through a “stone door." The trail splits and you’ll head left along the base of the two-story Indian Rockhouse.
What Makes It Great
The trail is moderate with technical sections as it continues on to the escarpment above the Tennessee River. Stacked rock formations and additional cliff lines are especially prominent in winter, but visible all year. The trail continues across numerous wet-weather stream crossings, stone steps, and a wooden bridge. There is an overlook at Lawson Rock which is a great place for a water break and unhindered views of the beautiful Tennessee River Gorge. At a large creek crossing, a blue-blazed spur trail leads down a rocky path to Highway 27, while the main trail makes a gentler descent along the side of the hill. Following the white blazes, you’ll begin to hear road noise and soon find yourself at the top of the wooden steps down to the highway. To continue on the Cumberland Trail, you must walk down the road 100 yards and cross Highway 27 to the east. Across the guardrail is the section that goes to Mushroom Rock, Edward’s Point, and finally Signal Point.
This section of trail is mostly moderate with good footing and interesting features to keep you inspired. In addition to the glimpses of the gorge, especially when the leaves have fallen in the late fall, you’ll be treated to interesting formations, cliffs, a variety of birds, and tree and plant life. In the spring, keep an eye out for ferns, lady’s slippers and jack-in-the-pulpit. Additionally, because it is on the edge of the escarpment, there is no significant climbing or descending. Many enjoy this section for this reason, in addition to its natural beauty.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a moderate one-way hike (with shuttle) that can be enjoyed by anyone capable of handling some rocky terrain and climbs. Trail runners will enjoy the scenery and the extended level stretches along the escarpment.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking on Highway 27 (Suck Creek Road) is limited. There is room for a 3-4 vehicles with high clearance near the stairs, and paved pull-outs about a quarter mile up and down the highway.
The Cumberland Trail parking area on Tower Road, inside Prentice Cooper State Forest, provides access to the upper end of this route.