Breaking free of the typical Tennessee climbing experience, Devil's Race Track towers above the treetops of Cumberland Mountain. Airy sport and traditional routes on huge fins of coarse sandstone offer thrilling exposure and panoramic views.
Knoxville climbers often complain that decent climbing is too far away or that the familiar Obed crags get too crowded. Some people gripe of getting burnt out on the predictable style of Obed sport routes. If you are one of these jaded Obed regulars, then you may find relief in a fresh adventure at Devil’s Race Track. Because of its unique rock, tall climbs, easy access, and thrilling scenery, Devil’s Race Track is a true East Tennessee gem that deserves more attention than it gets.
What Makes It Great
Devil’s Race Track, hidden in plain sight above I-75 near Caryville, is a seriously under-rated crag that is actually fairly close to Knoxville—only 35 minutes from downtown to the parking area. The place has a small concentration of fun climbs, and never sees crowds. However, it is not an area for inexperienced climbers or for those prone to the heebie-jeebies.
In addition to a handful of sport lines with fun movements, Devils Racetrack offers Knoxville’s nearest multi-pitch climbs and quality trad routes. The rock type here is coarse sandstone and conglomerate, and the climbing it affords is rather different from standard Obed fare, At times it actually feels more similar to the quartzite of Carolina, or to the bullet sandstone found in some parts of Colorado.
The 'race track' formations are huge rock fins that protrude from the Southwest flank of Cumberland Mountain. Climbing these earns some airy exposure high above the mountainside, and topping out reveals sweeping views of Caryville, Lafollete, and the surrounding mountain range.
Devil’s Race Track has earned a reputation over the years for a certain few sub-prime qualities that are necessary to make note of.
The rock quality here is not always bomber. Although most of the bad spots have already been broken off, rotten rock is still prevalent on the less well-traveled climbs, so be wary of this, especially when placing gear. Overall, holds and placements are usually secure. The rock itself is hard and textured, but you can never be too careful of loose blocks and frail flakes.
Because of dying popularity in recent years, hardware at the crag is no longer maintained. Bolts and chains are nearly all rusty, but so far remain intact everywhere. Be extra careful, and if anything looks too janky, try to use alternative protection. Hopefully this place will receive a much-needed revamp in the near future.
There is not a huge number of routes here, especially not sport routes. Even though it is not likely to become anyone’s weekly getaway, Devil’s Race Track is more than worth the occasional trip, once you learn to love its oddly endearing sketchiness.
Gear heads will have endless fun cruising up long cake walks like Russian One-Step (5.7), or sweating on pumpfests like Welcome to the Jungle (5.11). Anyone who likes to get air under the feet will get their kicks on the two-pitch classic Lucy in the Sky (5.9, sport), or on any of the tall trad routes. Even diehard bolt-clippers who prefer a quick up and down will find it hard to fatigue of great sport routes like Little Wing (5.10), Trick or Treat (5.10), or Gargoyle (5.11d). Climbers looking for a change of scenery, a break from the norm, or for a little extra spice on unfamiliar rock will appreciate frequent trips to this off-the-beaten-path destination.