HIDDEN TREASURES #2 – Tennessee

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Welcome to part two in our exploration of the most amazing places in the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountains — this time exploring some of our most fabulous Public Lands.

Fiery Gizzard Mountain

Photo by Brad Kennedy

Located in the heart of the South Cumberland Plateau, Fiery Gizzard Mountain remains one of the most pristine landscapes in the Eastern United States. At 12.5 miles long, the trail climbs and descends through Fiery Creek Gorge and is considered one of the most diverse and difficult treks in the area.

Despite its unique allure, the mountain was under threat for a long time. Almost half of the trail and many of the most cherished views were owned by a private timber investment firm; it was not until recently that more than 6,200 acres of the mountain came under full protection and were made public for all to enjoy.

The trail starts out at the Grundy Forest Day Loop and follows the Fiery Gizzard Creek for five miles through rugged terrain, but the pristine landscape makes the jaunt worth the effort. At Raven’s Point, there is a chance to camp and extend your enjoyment of the spectacular views. Continuing to Foster Falls, the elevation gain eases up for several miles only to pick back up when you reach Laurel Branch Gorge at the 9.7 mile mark before easing off again. Beautiful overlooks, waterfalls and swimming holes make Fiery Gizzard a must-hike, but be sure you are in top shape before setting out.

Storytellers debate on how Fiery Gizzard got its name. Some legends say the mountain was named after Davey Crockett burned his tongue feasting on a turkey gizzard with local Native Americans. Other legends tell that a Native American chief ripped the gizzard from a turkey and threw it into the campfire to get the whites’ attention during a peace conference. Who knows what really happened on Fiery Gizzard? What we do know is that now the mountain will be around long enough for the stories to keep passing down. — JR

More Info: Accessed via Highway 41/56 in Tracy City, Tenn. Visit: secretfalls.com/hiking/215-fiery-gizzard-trail or friendsofscsra.org

Pickett State Park

Photo by Paul Beaver

Mountain streams, natural sandstone bridges and large rock formations define Pickett State Park, located in the Upper Cumberland Mountains of Jamestown, Tennessee. The park was built on land donated by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company in the 1930s, and construction by the Civilian Conservation Corps began immediately. Many of the original buildings, including cabins, a lodge and ranger station, were constructed out of sandstone and have earned the park recognition on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pickett State Park is a well-rounded place for family recreation and includes hiking trails, a 12-acre lake for boating and fishing, cabins, a lodge and ranger station. Unlike some Tennessee state parks, Pickett’s remote location in the Cumberland Plateau attracts visitors who want to travel slightly off the beaten path. — JR

More Info: Located in Jamestown, Tenn. Visit: tn.gov/environment/parks/Pickett

The Tennessee Wall

Photo by Justin Eiseman

Known as one of the premier cliffs in Appalachia, the Tennessee Wall offers vigorous rock climbing with fantastic rock quality in the scenic Chattanooga mountains. A gem for the avid rock climber, the fine-grained orange and gray sandstone wall is nearly two miles long and is located deep in the confines of the Tennessee River Gorge. Most of the Tennessee Wall routes range from 5.7 to 5.11 in difficulty. Whether you are new to the sport or a climbing enthusiast, the T-Wall has something for everyone. Because the Tennessee Wall faces south, it gets very hot in the summer, so get there early and bring lots of chalk! The best time to plan a trip is September through June. Want to maximize a multi-day climbing fix? Primitive campsites are available in the woods nearby. — MH

More Info: Located 15 minutes from Chattanooga on Hw. 27 North. Visit: outdoorchattanooga.com

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