Three Plus Days at Savage Gulf

IMG_1764Along the southern edge of the Cumberland Plateau in TN lies an area known as South Cumberland Recreational Area. The SCRA encompasses Savage Gulf and the Fiery Gizzard Natural Area­, gotta love the names of these lands. I’ve hiked both areas several times and always in late fall for the spectacular fall foliage color. Last fall I began wondering what Savage Gulf would look like if stripped of all the leaves…I knew a springtime trip was in order.

Skip ahead a few months, I found myself planning a three-day trip for four backpackers from four different states, I would also be leading the trip, this was a first for me as I am a solo backpacker who usually avoids groups. Once we settled on dates and location I decided to go a day early so could hike a few miles and camp solo.


During the night the rumblings of thunder kept me awake, camped near the Rangers station where I parked and we were to meet I decided to pack up in the dark and hike out while all my gear was still dry. For the next few hours I napped in my truck until Charlie arrived and soon Chad rolled in.

NorthRimTrlDaylight finally arrived bringing a tornado watch with it; we decided to delay our start time by a couple of hours until the threat passed. And being hikers we did what most hikers would do…EAT…we drove to a nearby town for breakfast and wait out the storm. Upon returning to the Rangers station Chris had arrived, Joe would meet us the next day, we finally set foot on the North Rim trail and nine easy miles filled with views of the Gulf where we would hike the next day.

IMG_1794Late afternoon light rain gave way to a cool and breezy air before reaching Hobbs Cabin where we would tent camp the first night.

IMG_1818Chris, Charlie and Chad, the 3-C’s aka Clowns :-)


IMG_1821Day two brought a clear sky and an early morning start while descending over a boulder-strewn trail into the Gulf.


DryCreekFor the first three or some miles we could hear the rush of water before reaching the creek bed and finding it completely dry. Upstream 100-yards or so the water disappears underground through a sink. The water does not resurface within the Gulf, most likely not until it merges with other underground rivers before reaching Georgia or Alabama.



StoneDoorThis day’s goal was Stone Door a 100-foot plus crack in the escarpment once used by Native American’s allowing for easy passage from the rim of the Plateau to the Gulf.

ViewStoneDoorIn all of the South Cumberland area the view from Stone Door is worth the trip. This was the first time I have ever been there when it wasn’t in full on fall color. Even though the color wasn’t there I wasn’t disappointed.

CollectH2OIMG_1882From Stone Door we retraced our path four miles to the Stagecoach Historic Trail and a gentle ascent to Stage Road campsite for our second and final night. The Stagecoach Historic Trail was once a toll road built in the 1840’s connecting McMinnville to Chattanooga, TN. Sections of stacked stonewalls are all that remain.

CampfireNearing the top of the SHT we met Joe who would hike back with us to where we would camp for the night.

IMG_1913IMG_1916Next morning we arose early to a chilled air causing us to pack up and eat breakfast in fast fashion to begin our hike across the South Rim Trail back to Savage Gulf Rangers Station.


This fall I will again go back to SCRA for my annual submersion of fall leaf color.

Be sure to check out Chad’s trip report at Stick’s Blog

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7 thoughts on “Three Plus Days at Savage Gulf

  1. Awesome write up, and as always, even more awesome pic’s! Enjoyed reading it… I so want to get back out there, and with the kids. Hopefully I can squeeze something in… Anyway, thanks for taking us, and thanks for sharing this post!

    ~Stick~ (AKA: Clown #3)


    • thanks #3, I mean Chad :) it sure took me long enough to get this TR up. I too enjoyed seeing and hiking with you again and meeting Chris, Charlie and Joe.

  2. Pingback: 3 Days @ Savage Gulf! | Stick's Blog

  3. Great pics. As you know, I followed your freshly trodden path recently and I was far from disappointed. That area is an awesome secret that few seem to know about; since I saw no one for the 3 days I was there. I’m going back to see the other half of the park with my “old lady” on the 20th. I usually fly solo and it will be her first real foray into backpacking. After showing her Stick’s, Your’s and Mine’s pictures(excuse the grammar), she is stoked about seeing Greeter Falls and Stone Door and the rest. Thanks for all your help… And if you guys are ever lookin’ for an extra set of legs, please keep me in mind.

    • thanks Josh, I’ll keep you in mind when I return this fall usually the week of Halloween or the following week for the best color.

  4. JERRM,
    I too enjoy the Savage Gulf and Fiery Gizzard Trails. I have hiked all the trails in the park at least twice and some four or five times. A set of trails near there that I enjoy hiking is the trails in Prentice Cooper State Park combined with the first portion of the Cumberland Trail. This makes about a 30 mile loop that has some great views of the river. It is particularly good for fall color. It is not a strenuous trail, but has some ups and downs, particularly on the Cumberland Trail portion. You seem to be near there and thought you might like another recommendation.
    John Giesemann

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