Lower Loop Overnight Trail

HARD 48 reviews

Lower Loop Overnight Trail is a 13.2 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Pikeville, Tennessee that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

13.2 miles
1948 feet

dogs on leash





nature trips







wild flowers


2 days ago

We did this hike in April. If you go counter clockwise then campsite #2 is pretty much the halfway point. That’s where we stayed. It’s a pretty nice area, and there is a well there, but we still filtered the water just to be safe. The only really difficult part of the entire loop was hiking up out of Cane Creek gorge. It wasn’t all that bad, but it was fairly steep in some spots. Altogether you cross 3 suspension bridges on this loop, so that’s cool.

4 days ago

First time on this trail. Went because it said it was hard. It says overnight, but is easily done as a day hike by anyone with enough time or experience. My total time on trail was 5h20m. Honestly, the trail is pretty boring, and just mileage, with the exception of the gorge (which in spring was gloriously flowery) and the falls (which, ya know, are falls) A word of advice I either missed or wasn't there. To hike the upper and lower loop, they want you to have a permit from the camper check in. No cost involved, just some paperwork for your dash and to keep on your person. It's basically like the sign in sheet at your usual trail head, only requires more effort. They say it's for safety, it was just a 15 minute delay to me. To get to the check in, overshoot the last left and drive straight until you see a building with camper check in on it. Just past the last left, on the left, is a friends of the park depot. They have maps and other souvenir type things. Got a magnet for my efforts there.

1 month ago

4 months ago

Great trail that got me hooked on backpacking. Amazing views of the falls, great campsites with plenty of water available along the way. I love the suspension bridges. Great two day backpacking/camping adventure. Definitely some tough elevation changes.

5 months ago

This is hard trail due to hiking out of the gorge into back country campground 2. It wasn't very scenic except for the falls. I did enjoy the hike, I didn't get to finish it because I took a wrong turn. Apparently several blazes and signs have been stolen and many hikers take a wrong turn. I also blame this on the crappy map they give you, and the women in the office have no knowledge of the trail! The ranger had to pick us up. He was very helpful and said they are working on putting up new blazes and he has had to pick up several other hikers. I felt defeated because I wasn't able to finish. The camp sites are nice...bring a saw or hatchet! I recommend staying at the second site. I will come back in the spring to do the whole trail. I was about 2 miles short. You will take 3 suspension bridges, after the third, you will get on the paw paw trail..this is where we made our wrong turn.

5 months ago

Fairly easy hike except about 1.5 miles in the middle where you are just climbing over boulders.

5 months ago

It was a great hike! What 4 miles I got to do... I broke my ankle and had to be carried out. I liked it though and plan to go back.

6 months ago

6 months ago

The trail was in great condition and had markers and signs to keep you on track without a map or even this app the whole time. Campsite 2 was a great cozy spot with that water pump being amazing to get to. Definitely a hard trail with the western dip and ascension, that killed me. I went counterclockwise and made it to camp site two an hour before sundown starting at 11. With a hour and half sheltered sitting in the rain :(

7 months ago

The campground #1 is nice. Sites are spread out enough for privacy. There is a stream 8 minutes down the hill from it. However, it was just puddles when we were there and several people camping by it. The water was a bit dirty after filtering. The hike up to this camp spot is easy. There are no view points until after #1 (over an hour). I will go clockwise next time to get in views and harder hiking before camping.

9 months ago

First trail my wife and I hiked. The hard rating is definitely rings true in this case. the hike between camp 1 and 2 is the most difficult. the first 3 miles were so easy I made the mistake of attempting to conserve water. the trail is rated as 13.2 miles but I'm not so sure that's accurate. Fitbit and GPS on my phone confirmed the round trip was just over 18 miles. The trail kicked my ass but we both loved it. Great first overnight hike to break me in. Will without a doubt be doing it again very soon. Also due to a couple of the drop off between camp 1 and 2, I would rethink bringing my dogs on this one.

9 months ago

The 3 miles between campsite 1 and campsite 2 is the toughest part. So if you're trying to stretch it before nightfall... it doesn't come recommended. Falls are amazing. Great tough hike. Picked a few ticks and wasp stings, but hey that's what camping is for

11 months ago

I went back in April and it was a great trail. Hard is a good rating for it. This was my first solo backpacking trip and the hardest past by far was the gorge. This trail definitely showed me what I was made of being that I am a beginner. The trail was marked well and taken care of for the most part besides the downed trees. Would hike again!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

I had two+ days and was easily able to hike both upper & lower loops, and camped at both sites. All the trails were managed well and easily navigated. The staff did let me know ahead of time that due to the summer's dry spell, that there wasn't much water. I stayed at a site near the river, and there was enough to filter for dinner and refilling. The second site did have a well pump that worked perfectly.
Had a great time, beautiful scenery, and good work out too. Will go back again.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Great Trail...Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau hiking at it's best. Very scenic with many great views of the waterfalls within Fall Creek Falls State Park. Great suspension bridge creek crossings throughout the trail. Trail was very well marked and easy to navigate. The gorge crossings between Campsite #1 and Campsite #2 is the most challenging section of the trail...the rest of the trail is smooth sailing. It took my group 9 hours to hike the entire trail allowing plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, take pictures, and a extra long lunch break. Have fun...it's well worth the effort.

Appalachian Trail Thru Hiker,
Georgia to Maine 2007

Monday, February 27, 2017

One of my favorite trails, maybe for the distance. It definitely has moments to show you what you're made of! For the most part it is very well marked, but getting down to the gorge, things change. I spent an hour looking for blazes to continue, but couldn't find the trail on the other side. Needless to say I went back the other way. They definitely need to work on setting the trail up down there, but there's such a variation of scenery and it all holds its own beauty making it one of my favorite trails! I hope the next time I attempt the trail it's marked clearly, I'll take someone with me too to help search.

Friday, November 25, 2016

If you are considering hiking this trail, please take this review into consideration. It is going to be lengthy, but it is information you need to read before hiking this trail. I recently backpacked this trail with my parents last month (October 2016). After our experience on the trail, I felt passionate about giving a recent, accurate, unbiased review of this trail. Understand that I am an experienced hiker---my idea of hiking is 20 mile day hikes at high altitudes in the rocky mountains.

Prior to our hike, we had to stop at the nature center to get overnight permits. Campsite #2 was full, so we were told we had to stay at Campsite #1 (about 2.5 miles in on the supposedly 13 mile trail). We were given a map of the trail. I am 26 years old and have great vision, and could hardly tell what was on the map. It was hand drawn, no mileage markings, nothing truly helpful on the map other than the general outline of the trail.

To get to the trailhead, we drove a couple of miles down a road leading away from the nature station. The grassy parking area for the trailhead was behind a ranger housing area. We started on the trail. It was grown up in some areas, but not too bad. The trail was easy and flat and winded through the woods. Soon, we crossed the road that we were driving on earlier. The trail continued through the woods. Very flat, easy hike. There was a small foot bridge that crossed over a dried up creek bed. The foot bridge was a nice little sight considering there hadn't been much scenery other than trees, trees, and more trees.

After about 2.5 miles, we came to a sign that said "campsite #1". At the sign, the trail forked, and it was not clear which way the actual campsite was. We continued on up what was the main trail about a tenth of a mile and came up on some other campers. We assumed this was the campsite and we found a secluded spot to camp. The sights were not labeled or anything. You could just tell where people had camped before. The campsite was a nice, flat, woodsy area for camping. There was no water available at this campsite, but there was an outhouse.

The next day, we got up early and continued on. We knew that it was only about 2.5 miles to campsite #2, and figured we would be reaching it pretty soon. So far, there had been no signs on the trail informing you of mileage, so we were using the campsite as a gauge.

Shortly after leaving our campsite, the trail started to descend into the gorge. The descent was very steep. I had to be very careful not to slip. I am 26 years old and in shape, and I almost lost my footing several times. It seemed like it took forever to reach the bottom of the gorge because we were being so careful with our footing. When we reached the bottom it was rocky, and the trail was VERY poorly marked. There was a pretty cool suspension bridge that went over a large, dry creek bed. We continued on. I can recall about 5 or 6 times where I, along with my parents, had to literally spend several minutes looking all around, searching for a trail marker. We were also baffled because it seemed like we had gone AT LEAST 2.5 miles, and were wondering where campsite #2 was. We figured it was pretty close and continued on.

We began our ascent out of the gorge. Just like the descent, the ascent was VERY steep. Again, it was very poorly marked. There was a time where it looked like trail ended. There were NO markers anywhere. There was another couple of hikers behind us and we all literally had to walk around for 5 minutes trying to figure out where the trail was. I could have easily gone in the wrong direction, and almost did. Once we found our way, we continued hiking up very steep, slick inclines.

After we finally made it to the top, the trail flattened out again and winded through the woods, similar to the beginning. We kept our eyes out for campsite #2, but still hadn't come across it. We left campsite #1 at around 7:30 that morning, and it was around 12:00. Regardless of how steep the trail was, there is no way that it took us that long to hike 2.5 miles. We were definitely starting to feel slightly concerned, knowing that there was still about 8 or 9 miles to go considering we had not even reached campsite #2 yet.

So, we walked, we walked, and kept on winding through the woods. Where is campsite #2??? We had to have walked for another HOUR AND A HALF before we got to campsite #2, and by this time we were walking quite briskly knowing that we didn't want to get stuck on the trail at night. It was about 2:00 by the time we reached campsite #2. Now, how in the world had we only covered 2.5 miles since 7:30 in the morning? THIS IS NO EXAGGERATION.

There was a water spicket at campsite #2. There was no sign about the water, so we assumed it was clean. It was. Campsite #2 did not look as nice, but it is a flat area good for camping. The trail continued on through the woods on what I think was a dirt bike trail. Nothing scenic. Just more woods. I wa

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Definitely isn't a hard trail. We started in at 3 and hit our camp site at 5. We camped between site 1 and 2 at the suspension bridge. Lots on firewood and the sound of the river/creek all night was fabulous. The next day the hike was much longer. Quite a scramble to get from our site to camp site number 2. Confusing trail twists at times but nothing to get overly excited about. Getting back to the parking lot was a bit confusing. We ended up going to nature center and walking the road but it was pretty scary with hardly a shoulder and speeding vehicles around the curves. Would definitely do it again.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Most of the trail was great-- very clear, well marked, etc. But the gorge (the hardest part of the trail) was NOT clear or well marked. Many sections were straight up inclines with little to nothing to help keep your balance.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Have done this trail twice now. It is quite vigorous climbing if you're going up the trail from paw paw. Better going down the rock mountain by starting at Piney. We pushed it both times to do it in about 6 hrs but plan to slow down next time and enjoy the beautiful scenery more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I just completed this 13 miles as an overnight camp at campsite 2. It was moderate with a little strenuous climb back up the 6-700' elevation to reach camp. We detoured to other trails making it a 15 mile hike total but can be less depending on your route. Beautiful overlooks, creeks and falls. it is well worth it!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Contrary to what the overview says, the lower loop is 12 miles total. We broke it into a leisurely two days with intention of hiking down to the falls, the Paw Paw trail, all overlook side trails, and the upper loop. We opted out of the upper loop since there wasn't much to it.

It's about 2.5 miles to the first overnight campsite and the first stretch is not really difficult but there were a couple of times that we had to scramble off trail because of downed trees. Some of the fallen trees had white blazes on them, so be sure and keep a look out. Despite this, the trail is very well-marked. There was an additional 2.5 miles from campsite #1 to #2 and there is a moderately rigorous climb (about 500 feet over a half mile).

Although there are about three creek crossings, one of them the larger Sugar Cane Creek, these are all dry. It was a drag crossing the suspended bridge over a huge bed of rocks and almost being out of water - but I suppose that's the season. Fortunately, campsite #2 has a really cool working pump well. Overall it's a nice campsite with a small open field. Problem is, people have been trashing it. I took my trash-bag liner out of my pack and picked up at least 5 pounds of trash, possibly 10. Please clean up after yourselves and keep this site nice.

To be completely honest, I wouldn't do this one again at this time of the year. Either way, hiking any trail is better than nothing.

Monday, August 03, 2015

We took this trail with the plan of camping but had to cut our hike short after crossing paths with a timber rattlesnake. Other than that, the first part of the trail was easy (I am new at hiking). It's very well marked with white reflective papers however there are lots of downed trees and it's hard to crawl under and over with a heavy pack on your back. We did see deer which was awesome but could t complete the trail bc of the huge timber rattler. We had zero cell phone reception and was too far away from any road or help from anyone so we just turned around and went back.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Since they do not really a review for this loop, here is what I hiked.....Paw Paw to Lower Loop to Upper Loop to fire lane to TN 284 to get back to the car. It was 6.02 miles to form this loop. There was several area where trees had fallen across the upper trail and had not been cleaned up. 2hr 10min Had my 7 year old golden dragging his tail at the end!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

I'm a little baffled by people who are saying the trail is well marked. There are a few places crossing creeks where it can be difficult to find your way. The trail is moderate but very boring overall. I did this trail in the summer and it was extremely hot and buggy. Piney falls was a welcome site...there is actually a side trail under the suspension bridge that has older blue diamond markings that has since been overgrown, that will take you to the edge of the falls if you cross the creek. We were so hot we actually waded through the creek and ate our lunch on the edge of the falls. Campsite 2 has an ice cold well pump that is absolutely amazing. It really was like heaven after an extremely hot hike. Look out for Granddaddy long legs when picking your camping spot. They were everywhere.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

This trail was boring. We did enjoy the well pump at camp site 2. The rocks were slippery and there was a difficult climb between campsite 1 and campsite 2. The trail was nicely marked and had no problem staying the course.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What is not to love about this trail except for the instant where you are not 100% positive you will make it out of the gorge. Ahh, the Fall creek falls gorge, going down isn't so bad, it felt like we stepped into a rain forest upon arrival at the basin. This trail gives you such a plethora of ecosystems that it overwhelms your senses with intrigue and a desire to come back for more. The falls at the gorge with the bridge, is breathtaking. The trail up out of the gorge to the second campsite is dangerous so equally breathtaking but in a much less desirable way. Most markers are nonexistent due to what you start to wonder is a purposeful mess of lumber with what was left of a marker buried under rubble. The footing is unstable due to being on top of a rocky bluff. Getting lost is inevitable, because there is virtually no trail for some 500 feet on all boulders. Slipped, got a hefty puncher wound that immediately started gushing blood. It's still visible now after a couple months. It finally regains some similitude of trail after rigorous exploration to find a fallin marker among debris and climbing your way up out through rock and timber. And leaves you wishing you had started earlier so you would not be so pressed for time getting to the second campsite in time to set up before dark. Should I expect any less from Fall Creek Falls, I've learned that I should not. If its an adventure you seek, you are in luck. Maybe they've replaced the markers by now, however from what I am told probably not. Do yourself a favor when you get to the nature center; find a park ranger to give you a ride back to your vehicle or in our case a local country boy who is not afraid of dirty hikers. By this time you are sufficiently exhausted and you're not missing out by foregoing the paw-paw trail, 3 miles through boring trail seems much more than 3 miles at the end.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

great trail...pace yourself

Friday, October 12, 2012

This was a fun but brutal hike for me. It was my first hike that wasn't just a couple of miles and I wasn't in shape. It was well worth the tiredness though! The trees were beautiful!

Friday, October 05, 2012

A tough little nut of a trail. Didn't get 5 stars because of several key areas where the trail was poorly marked.

First off, you need to stop at the Nature Center to get an overnight permit. They'll ask if you want a fire permit too. I started at the maintenance building parking lot and hiked 5.5 miles to Campground 2. Campground 1 was only about 2.5 miles in. Both campgrounds are well marked, spacious and are equipped with an outhouse and a well pump.

The first couple of miles was a good workout, but nothing compared to what we encountered after the first suspension bridge. Wow. Boulders. Rocks. Uphill. Downed trees. It was a scramble, and I had a 25 lb pack on my back which made it even more fun. Plus, the trail blazes are hard to see and there is no discernible trail, so pay attention going through here. Once through that, you pop out at a waterfall overlook. Then on to camp 2.

Day 2 was about 6.5 miles, but much less technical/strenuous than day 1. And the sun came out (we were rained on all day and night day 1). There were TONS of spider webs and I think I broke everyone of them with my face - yuck. That aside it was a pleasant day 2.

When you get back to the falls, nearing the Nature Center, there is no sign for the Nature Center - so at the 3 way split, go down the stairs and cross the suspension bridge and there's the nature center. I was pretty tired at that point, so a sign would have been helpful. Again, once you get to the nature center, you should be able to pick up the trail again to get you back to your car. Good luck. I never found a sign or the trail back to the parking lot, so had to walk the road.

FYI - people speed through the park like crazy, there's no shoulder on the road most of the way, so this tactic can be pretty dangerous. But I was pretty much done at that point and just wanted to get back to the car. A sign, people? Would have helped me a lot.

Overall a great trail with some great views of the waterfalls. We didn't see many animals save for a few deer. At night we heard coyote and owls, but it was pretty quiet. We went during the week and we were the only ones out there, so that was nice too. The suspension bridges - I think there are 3 total - are fun too.

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