The Cumberland Trail is one of the quiet secrets of the Chattanooga area, but it’s not known for easy running. This route within the Three Gorges section shows runners a bit more mercy, though. So when you’re tired of running Lookout and Raccoon, come over to Walden’s Ridge for something new.
What Makes It Great
From the southern trailhead at Mowbray Pike, it’s a short descent to an all-season view of the valley and the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in the distance. The trail runs close to a boulder field, and you’ll even go through the “Little Stone Door” between the boulders, and past a rock house that Native Americans once used for shelter.
Near the midpoint of the trail are the remains of a massive strip mine which moved tons of earth to create a small man-made valley in the hillside. The trail follows the sometimes narrow crest of the gulch, now filled with pines, maples, and other trees that can withstand the acidic soil. It’s a sobering sight, but a fun place to run.
At the opposite end of this five-mile section near Hotwater Road is the fascinating Little Soddy Historic Mining Area, which is marked with numbered signs corresponding to an online guide. Starting with the first mine in 1886, Little Soddy Gorge became a hub of industry with mines that extended for miles into the hillside, an incline railway down to the valley, a barn for the mules that pulled the coal underground, a switchyard, and a blacksmith shop. A yellow-blazed trail loops through the historic area.
The Cumberland Trail crosses the footbridge over Little Soddy Creek to continue on the more challenging Soddy North segment. To reach the Hotwater Trailhead, follow either the blue-blazed access trail.
Who is Going to Love It
Every year on January 1st, no matter how cold it may be, a group of seasoned trail runners meet for the “Frosty Challenge” of running this section of the Cumberland Trail. It’s either a testimony of love or insanity, but either way, runners of all levels can appreciate the charm of this trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To reach the southern trailhead at Mowbray Pike, drive north on Dayton Pike through Soddy Daisy and take a left onto Mountain Road. Go 1.8 miles on Mountain Road (which becomes Mowbray Pike) to the top of the mountain, looking for a gravel drive that turns very sharply back on the right. Or more likely, you’ll go past the drive and have to turn around to get to the parking lot and kiosk.
To reach the Hotwater Road trailhead, turn left onto Durham Lane just before the ballfields across from the lake in Soddy-Daisy. In a half mile, go right on Back Valley Road then back left onto Hotwater Road. The trailhead is two miles up the mountain on the left at the intersection of Sluder Lane.
With two vehicles, it’s a quick shuttle between the two trailheads if you’d like to do a one-way trip. See the Cumberland Trail website for excellent maps and more details.