Stevenson Branch Trail is a 9.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
We started at the barker camp trailhead we didnt really care for the gravel road and jeep trail you had to hike before starting the trail. Coming from that end we camped for a couple of days at the stevenson campsite. It rained two of the three days but we still had a good time. On day 2 my friend and I hiked from the campsite to the other trailhead (since this isn't a loop) this part was NO joke. I have only hiked virgin falls as a comparison but I found this segment to be every bit as hard. A lot of UPHILL on the way out. Once we got to the trail head we had lunch then made our way back to the stevenson campsite which we found a lot easier. On the last day we had to hike from the campsite back to the barker trailhead and go back up some switchbacks which were pretty challenging with packs. All in all it was a great trail but it would be a tiresome day hike for the inexperienced and the ladders could make it hard if you tried to bring a pet. Overall I found the trail to be pretty well marked and would hike it again.
The way I read this trail, it was an out and back that was 7.8. So if you parked two cars, one on each end, then it would be 3.9. Not so! It was definitely worth doing that though. We parked one at the Montlake end and drove up to the Barker Camp end. No real parking area. You have to walk about 1/2 mile to the trailhead. Which was not marked. We ended going 45mins down to the creek on what we thought was the trail and it just ended. Went back up and found it. It was a great trail moderate until you started descent to the creeks. The first major creek crossing was either out or water too high. We had to take shoes off and wade across. The campsite area is wonderful. All the waterfalls were beautiful and overlooks spectacular, especially with the leaves this time of year. Once you start going up from the campsite, the trail is straight up, poorly marked, and no more than 4inch rut. I don't see how a dog could make that part, especially the ladders. The cable across the waterfall had been knocked down by trees. This is 2/3 of the way and we were not going back! So we eeked across holding on to the downed trees. Very slippery with the running water and dangerous drop if anything went wrong. To top it off, don't rely on your phone to give you correct time! On part of the trail, you are in central time. So we missed judged the length of trail and almost did not make it out before dark. I would definitely do the Barker Camp section down to the campsite again but not the other part. So many beautiful waterfalls I actually got tired of them, lol.
This trail was challenging with steep inclines & declines, poor markings & creek crossings. However, add in a considerable rain a few days prior & ankle-deep leaves - it was downright daunting at times. One of the 3 ladders was a little rickety but got us all down. Some cool overlooks & overhangs along the way. We slid down some sections (sometimes intentionally for safety, other times unintentionally) The views were gorgeous. We camped at stevenson branch - sleeping by the waterfall was a treat. Nice large area for tents & campfire. Our distance from trailhead to campsite (with several "inadvertent off-trails) 5.82 - felt like 10.
I tagged along with 2 hikers to continue the new segment. It was MUCH better maintained, marked & relatively leafless. Switchbacks were rough, but manageable. Then there was a long walk gradual incline along a jeep trail & gravel road. (Neither are blister-friendly) I didn't see any "critters" but another spotted a buck.
Do it in the spring. Print out map, topo, AND the written directions. (Saved us on more than 1 occasion)
If you want to primarily enjoy the campsite, head in from top & go back that way.
Creek crossings can be a smidge challenging after a rainfall, but it makes the waterfalls spectacular.
And, pack light. I learned how cumbersome an overweighted back can make a challenging hike, miserable. :-)