Explore Challenging Trails To Do - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Challenging Trails To Do Map
VIEW FULL MAP

Tough but nice. Technical in many places. The campsites were awesome.

backpacking
3 days ago

Overall this is a great backpacking loop. There is no log book at the trailhead, apparently if you don’t book a site, they don’t know if you’re out there. We started at the overnight lot and hiked to campsite 2 passing campsite 1. The first 3.5-4 are super easy to campsite 1. This took us about an hour and a half. We hung out at the bottom of the gorge for a while as all the waterways were rushing with water after a week of rain. The ascent up the gorge kicked our a$$. This definitely makes the trail a hard trail if you’re doing it with a full pack. Campsite 2 comes at the perfect time and I thought everything was well marked to campsite 2. There are two outhouses at campsite 2 along with a well that we used iodine tablets just to be safe. #3 is the best campsite I would say at campsite 2. From campsite 2 to the overnight lot was overall pretty easy. The reason I rated this a 4/5 was because the trail markings became sparse after hitting the fall creek falls area and especially the nature center. The nature center is under construction and we had to guess where to go. There was also an area where you had to go on the road that wasn’t clear before getting back to the trail. We ended up just taking the road back to the parking lot. Overall a great trail, I would probably pack lighter for that ascent in the gorge as it took almost as long to go that last mile as it did the first 5. Overall my Fitbit said 6.17 miles in 4:15 to campsite 2 then 7.22 miles in 3:57 to the parking lot.

Great day hike. Nothing too challenging.

Absolutely gorgeous, both along the rim and through the gorge. I started at Stone Door and hiked the loop clockwise, going down through the gorge first, and finishing the loop by hiking the trail along the rim. The trail through the gorge is difficult, trust the reviews and be prepared for uneven terrain and a strenuous climb out at the end. Also, watch your step. We saw 3 snakes while at the bottom of the gorge, and 2 of them were copperheads. Regardless, this hike is incredible, one of the best I've found among the dozen or so areas I've hiked through in TN. After emerging from the gorge, the hike along the rim is pretty easy and there are multiple overlooks that are ideal for taking in some stunning views of the gorge from above. This one is definitely worth the effort!

Angela Jones and I had hiked over 10 of 13 miles at Fiery Gizzard yesterday before realizing that we were not gonna make it out before dark. We never thought it would take us that long but there were miles and miles of huge rocks we had to climb over so it took way longer. Last minute prep we bought these cheap little headlamps(lesson learned)which gave us just enough light to make sure we didnt fall off a cliff, in many places the trail was on the edge of a drop off, but it didnt give enough light far enough to see the markings on the trees.

hiking
9 days ago

Beautiful hike. My wife and I hiked Virgin Falls in a day, left out around 8 AM in a foggy drizzle and by the time we reached Virgin Falls it was sunny and perfect. We did the main trail, spur to overlook, sheep cave, top of the falls and bottom of the falls and came in just over 11 miles total. Both Big Laurel Falls and Virgin Falls are pretty awesome. The trail has some sections over rocks on the descent in/ascent out that I would assume give the trail it's rating...they were tough, but not too bad. Once you reach Virgin Falls, I highly recommend the short climb down to the base, it's so worth it, (be careful it's muddy) and the short climb around to the top (again, so worth it!). We spent 45 minutes to an hour at Virgin Falls and at least another 30-45 at Big Laurel Falls, took our time and were still back to the lot in 7 hours total. I hiked it in chacos, the wife had boots...I could see where chacos might be an issue for some on the way down. Probably going to go back in a few weeks when the leaves are peaking. Also think it would be a great overnight and the camping options look great. Almost rated it a 5 but wasn't as well marked in some places as I expected, but still an excellent hike!

FYI- When you get to the Loop to the falls where it's 0.5 to the falls one way and 0.8 (Sheep Cave then falls) the other way, it might help to know that the shorter trek to the left is a fairly steep descent followed by a climb the last 0.2 mile or so to the falls. The slightly longer route to the right (also to the falls via Sheep Cave) is much flatter and possibly even quicker.

hiking
9 days ago

There are several areas of the trail that are difficult to follow due to fallen trees. A few fallen trees were trees that once marked the trail but the blazes were on the ground- not very useful. I would recommend doing this clockwise, so start on the paw paw trail part and then continue. It’s rough for a one day but kind of easy to split into two days. If you go clockwise and stay at the last campsite you’ll get about 10-11 miles in and only have about 2 to hike out. Those sites are backcountry 1 I believe. The section of the trail near the nature center is closed but you should be able to circumnavigate this, or just begin the trail at the nature center instead of the overnight loop trail head

We did not do the loop as outlined here because the campsites all along the North Rim Loop were full so we ended up hiking to Stage Road/Stagecoach #2, camping for a night, and hiking back out the next day. Savage Falls was a great way to start the day Saturday and end the day Sunday! Cold therapy on the joints and a great spot to eat. It was a fairly easy cruising-type hike. On the second half of the hike, branches of trail marked blue took us out to views along the way. Don't forget to reserve a campsite! In peak season, may need to do it 1-3 weeks in advance. Hobbs cabin looks like it books out months ahead for weekend nights. https://tnstateparks.itinio.com/south-cumberland

Started in the trail at 8 am with full packs on an 80+ degree day. The first several miles of the trail were beautiful and peaceful. Light broke through the trees while walking along a stream. Next we began the boulder portion of the trail ( my least favorite ). It was hard to view the scenery due to constantly watching where you had to place your footing. We were moving at a mile per hour.
Once we passed the boulders we came to Ravens point which was awesome. We stopped for lunch and took in the views. Several other hikers were there and we all swapped stories of different trails we had taken in the past. Our next portion of the hike was the newer sections, the ups and downs of the stairs. Wow what a beast of trail on the legs. After we completed this section the trail began to smooth out and we were able to pick up our pace as we were worried about not reaching camp till after dark. We were able to get to Father Adams campsite just before dark and enjoyed a great meal then turned in for the night. This trail
Is amazing and I would recommend it as one of my favorites. I had been wanting to hike this trail for years and am finally able to check it off as completed.

Great trail to day hike. About 5 hours return, up the Fiery Gizzard and down the Dog Hole. Lots of rock scrambling which made it fun and a good steep climb out of the gulch (but it’s not too long a climb). Beautiful scenery walking alongside the stream. Nice views from Ravens Point. Interesting how much the temp changes from down by the stream to up on the ridge. Loved it.

In my opinion some of the best views and waterfalls in the park. We started at Collins West trailhead and made the trek to Sawmill campsite #2 then dumped our packs put our tents up then decided to take the short trip over to the historic cabin built in 1910 .Very cool little cabin sitting in a green field. The next morning we took the Connector Trail over to Stagecoach and then over to the South Rim Trail and out to the Savage Gulf Ranger Station. I'll spare you the true details about how we ended up waaay over there at the ranger station instead of the CG loop back to to Collins West trailhead...

hiking
19 days ago

Great place for hiking, definitely get a stick to take down the spiderwebs. Also, wear plenty of bug spray, especially around your ankles. We stopped to fish a few times and got covered in Seed Ticks. Nothing 10 days of antibiotics can’t solve.

Great hike. The gulf will test your meddle a little. Took the trail clockwise saving the push up out of the gorge until after the creek trail. It will give you a great cardio workout, Was tougher than the climb down from the Stone Door area other than the rocks but they were not bad at all. Watch out for the climbers by the SD. Didn't want to put on water gear to cross to Ranger Falls. I will catch it next time. Creek was high and running fast. The rim is good but there is a lot of forrest time. Great overlooks just would love to have seen more. There was a group of Hawks hunting up and down the gulf flying right above my head. Really a great tough hike. I clocked in 10.2 miles and 1945 feet elevation. And 4 hours of moving time. (Take your lunch down at the creek bed you will love it.)

Went after about a week of steady rain and the river was roaring the whole way through the gulf. Fantastic views, lots of great spot on the rock bars to stop for lunch, and the falls were rolling.
Crossing to Ranger Falls was at least waist deep and pretty swift, so didn't get to see that. This trail earns its hard rating as BCG is pretty rocky. The climb down from Stone Door is bouldery but you can stay upright the whole way so not quite a scamble.
Very cool tough trail.

hiking
27 days ago

We absolutely loved this hike on our honeymoon. The terrain is beautiful and unique with some of the coolest caves and waterfalls I’ve seen on a single hike. It took us about 7 hours. We hiked to Sheep Cave as well as to the top of Virgin Falls.

Worth noting:
On our way to Virgin Falls, we went the shorter way (Left) and came back by Sheeps Cave trail. The sign indicates that Sheeps Cave is a longer hike but I’ll say that the trail seemed much easier and I know it didn’t take us as long either. Both trails are beautiful but getting to see Sheeps cave and also having a bit easier hike leads me to say I’d go to the right to Sheeps Cave trail despite it being longer.

Remember to pack plenty of water and food and possibly a change of clothes at the least. We are fairly experienced day hikers and this trail is certainly hard but not grueling. If you prepare correctly, start early and take breaks when you need, it’s a very enjoyable long hike. This would be a great trail to hike to the falls and camp for the night, hike out the next day. I think we will do that next time as it is a long and tough single day hike for us.

backpacking
27 days ago

This was a great overnight hike. The falls were amazing. We did this hike on a weeknight so it was not crowded. We camped at the falls, but I think on our next trip we will stay at Martha's point.

The beginning of the trail is well marked and kept, but I decided to take the Merrit Ridge Trail to be near the lake; first part of trail was kept up, but after about a mile in the trail was overgrown.

what an awesome hike! I decided to go counter clockwise so my first 3 miles were along the ridgeline; some great photo opportunities while on the ridge. the return was through the gorge and although it was just as fun, coming out was a bit tiresome with the extreme accent; the valley line would have been more enjoyable if I had come after a rain, because there was no water

hiking
1 month ago

Loved this hike! There is beauty everywhere you look! Me and my friend completed this hike in one day. If I was ever doing it again, I would do it as a overnight trip. It is a hard hike. We thought it was harder getting down to the falls instead of back up. We did all the side trails Sheep’s Cave, Martha’s Pretty Point, we took the trail to top of virgin falls to see the cave. Very nice and a good place to cool yourself off! Wish we would have had more time to hang up a hammock and relax but had to make it out before dark. Our record time from AllTrails was 9:33 hours to complete. We did eat lunch and sit down at the falls and explore some! AllTrails clocked us at 13.9 miles not sure if that is correct or not my garmin watch said 12.8 miles so not sure which is right. It is so beautiful and worth the hike! Start really early if your not camping overnight!

Hiked the entire loop today. Would say the trail is fairly easy but the distance makes it hard. We clocked better than 20 miles via GPS. Parked at the Memorial Cross and left out at 8:15am. We halted and did lunch and a hammock nap at Dotson’s. Trail is well marked and quite well maintained. Took a second break at the cabin. Pretty views all along the perimeter on the west side. I can imagine these would be prime at fall time. The most difficult part of the trail is def Shakerag Hollow which we did on tired legs since we chose to hike this loop clockwise. It was a steady descent for a while then straight up to the University Gates. We followed the trail along the greenway and again through the woods back to the cross by 6:30 pm. Just in time for a beautiful sunset! Take plenty of water/electrolyte replenishment for this all day trek.

The bolder field with test you. Best to wear boots. The climb out of the gulf is steep. Be ready.
I love this trail and the complete Fiery Gizzard Gulf.
Pack water.
The view from Ravins Point is something you will remember!
Don't forget to stop by Warner's Overlook on the Dog Hole Trail.
Thi is part of the top 25 trails in the US and it's easy to see why. If you agree please donate to the parks to help keep it alive. And pick up any trash you find. I did find some to carry back myself.
I will be back!

this trail is TOUGH. My dad and I went hiked the Gizzard trail up to the point where you can go back down the Dog Hole trail. 75% of the trail going up is straight rocks so be sure to wear shoes with A LOT of ankle support because every 30 seconds your ankles are going to be tested by nature. It is a very challenging, long hike so if you plan to make the whole loop so just prepare yourself. The trail itself is beautiful but because of how difficult it was, i’m not sure if i’d ever do it again. It took us 7 hours to make the whole thing and we only stopped 2 or 3 times to rest. Also, having a walking stick is big help going up those rocks. We just cut our own sticks from inside the woods so don’t waste your money buying one. Good luck!!

We started really late so we only went to the overlook. The Ranger was awesome and super informative about time and distance. Loved the trail and rain. Apparently it rains often there. The trail is rated as hard, but up to the overlook it’s not difficult. The ascent up I guess is why it’s rated that way. Going to take another trip and go to the falls next time.

We went Labor Day weekend 2018 and just did the short loop with all the smaller falls... we took kids ages 6-10 and they had a great time jumping in the water and hiking. Safety first: my husband got in the water first and made sure what the depth was before the kids jumped!
Beautiful trail! So peaceful and was fun for the kids as well! We just did a shorter loop 4miles or so...

Made a day hike out of this loop. Took clockwise route beginning with big creek gulf trail out of stone door. Views around the cliffs at stone door are some of the best around. Descent into the gulf was fairly technical at times with some large boulder scrambling, not too difficult though due to the short length. Added ranger falls trail at the base, nice lunch spot and good water source (worth it). Ascent out of the gulf up to the rim was a steady climb with a few steeper switchbacks and had fair share of lose rock, but again like the descent it is a fairly short run to the top. Made quick time of the flat and easy rim trail. Several nice lookout pointe along the way similar to those around stone door with similar views. Did this trail in 5 hours, plenty of time spent taking pics at bluffs and hanging by the waterfall. Water sources were available throughout most of gulf trail. Could see making this an overnight trip if adding greater falls or connector to Collins section. My fitbit clocked this trail a little over 11 miles, park map has it at around 10 (including ranger falls trail)Happy Trails

hiking
1 month ago

Unspoiled, rugged beauty. This trail is hard, but I guess it doesn’t help when it thunderstorms all the way back to the trailhead! GPS clocked 8.6 miles round trip to just go to Virgin Falls and back. Took me 5.5 hours but I was really slowed down by the torrential rain. Trails are well blazed and maintained with good signage. Passed several other hikers but it was still a very secluded and quiet hike. The streams and waterfalls are absolutely stunning. Be prepared with hiking boots and plenty of water or a way to filter water. Lots of exposed roots and rocks along the trails and some boulder scrambling. Be sure to stop at the station at the trailhead and speak to the ranger and get a map if you need one. He was a big help!

Awesome...We know why it is one of the USAs top hikes

This was my third hike and my first one in August. The area looks completely different in the summer and not nearly as pretty as winter or fall. The spring was just a trickle. According to my tracker which is Wickiloc it was right at 14 miles, which when you are dead tired at 12.6 that extra mile or so is a killer. Do this COUNTER CLOCKWISE. Get the really bad boulder field out of the way at the beginning. This is really more suited as an overnight hike that a day hike. Just take plenty of water and give yourself way more time than you think you will need. The difficulty is up there with the Fiery Gizzard (maybe even more difficult). You are gonna feel it for a few days afterwards.

hiking
1 month ago

Favorite hike in Tennessee! My first time here we did a big day hike and covered 8.5 miles round trip. We stopped for lunch and took our time taking pictures of the mushrooms along the trail and 2 snakes that we saw, so in total our round trip was about 5 hours.

All of the waterfalls were raging like crazy, which I did not expect as many waterfall hikes in August are barely flowing. It wasn't so hot that I felt like jumping in but there were definitely nice areas that you could take a dip. The trail isn't too difficult but heading back to the trail head was mostly uphill which is where the "hard" rating comes in. It was really interesting to see the river and falls come out from underground cave areas. We hiked by the Sheep's Cave but didn't venture in.

We didn't see any campers but I think this would be a great place to backpack and explore the area more. The sites near the Virgin Falls seemed like the best.

I definitely recommend stopping by Welch's Point afterward -- the view is a great payoff that is only a short walk from the parking!

backpacking
1 month ago

Great place. Not to hard. Also presents a smaller waterfall/cave 2 miles in that would be a good turning around point for those worried about it being too hard.

When you get to too bigger waterfall make sure you take to spur trail to top. Real easy. It has an awesome cave where water comes from.

If you do go up there, the trail will continue to “lost creek”. This is a whole other site. I went 3.25 miles up this old atv trail before turning around. From the map, I was almost to lost Creek but ran out of time. It exhausted me. Had to run a lot of it to try to make it back to pick up kids from after school care.

It would be a cool hike to see both Virgin and Lost Creek. It would be a hard full day or two cars placed so you didn’t have to backtrack. Or overnight. There were some cool campsites by cave entrances and by creeks. Signs say the must be reserved. No one was there when I went Aug 27.

Load More