Dark skies, miles of trails, sandstone natural wonders and small crowds make this Tennessee State Park the perfect staging ground for exploring the wilds of the Cumberland Plateau.
What Makes It Great
If you are interested in hiking for natural sandstone arches, rock houses, waterfalls and overlooks, Pickett State Park has the trail, or rather trails, for you. Between the trails within the park boundary itself, the surrounding state forest land and the adjacent Big South Fork Recreation Area, there are miles of trail to explore, connect and experience. Fortunately, the State Park has a campground, cabins and inn-style rooms available so you can establish base camp and check it all out.
Straight out of the campground or picnic area, a network of trails can be linked together to build a loop around and through some of the most interesting sandstone features of the area. From behind the playground, take the Natural Bridge Trail over this disconcertingly thin arch. From the arch, connect to the Hazard Cave Trail to pass under this giant rock overhang. Take note of the peculiar “Cumberland Sandwort” growing on the sandy floor of the cave and continue on, either taking the Lake View Trail for some great overviews along the bluff of Thompson Creek or take a longer loop along the Ridge Trail.
Just past the main park entrance on the right is an inconspicuous trailhead for the Hidden Passage Trail. At approximately 8 miles in length, not including the mile detour to Double Falls, and with a mild elevation profile, the loop is certainly not one to miss out on. Taking the loop counterclockwise, you will scramble through “the passage”, stop by the small, but pretty “Crystal Falls”, cross several grand overlooks of Thompson Creek canyon, skirt past dangerously abrupt cliff faces and wander through the secluded “Group Camp”. The side trail to Double Falls, a two tiered waterfall surrounded by sandstone rock outcrops, is worth the extra little climb back up.
On the way back south on Hwy 154, a large grass field welcomes you to the Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area. In 2015, Pogue Creek SNA and Pickett SP became certified dark sky viewing locations by the International Dark-Sky Association. The lack of light pollution in this corner of Tennessee makes that grass field the perfect stargazing spot! In addition, a short 1.5 mile hike out of the parking area leads to a stunning overlook of Pogue Creek Canyon.
Who is Going to Love It
The views across these tree blanketed canyons are spectacular. The erosion-resistant sandstone features are great to explore. The Cumberland Plateau is the canyon country of the East and the area in and around Pickett State Park is one of the best places to see it all.
Hikers of all abilities will enjoy the trails of Pickett State Park. Most trails form loops and offer choices regarding length. Also, the low elevation profiles make these trails of the fairly less strenuous kind. Navigating the boulders around the rock houses requires some finesse, however, so don’t overestimate your pace. There will be plenty of photo opportunities to slow you down as well.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
-Everything is located off HWY 154, north of Jamestown, TN. Heading north, first you pass the trailhead to Pogue Creek Canyon, then a few miles later the main park entrance and a mile or so further the trailhead to the Hidden Passage loop.
-Most park trails have several access points, but most can be started at the picnic/beach area.