Cumberland Trail Conference, a Tennessee State Scenic Hiking Trail.


Cumberland Trail
Three Gorges Segment - Rock Creek Section

Registration Required for Overnight Campers

Click for Detailed Nat Geo Explorer Topo Map of Rock Greek Gorge Trail

Click for PDF Description of Rock Creek Trails

This section lies between the Possum Creek Section and the Laurel Snow Segment of the Cumberland Trail.  It has 9.6 miles of through-trail and associated side trails near and in Rock Creek Gorge.  This is the northern-most section in the Three Gorges Segment of the Cumberland Trail, which altogether contains 36.2 miles of trail.

The Rock Creek section of the Cumberland Trail has something for hikers of all levels.  The Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail (the CT through-trail) extends 5.2 miles from the northern end of the Possum Creek Gorge Section at Retro-Hughes Road to the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead.  There is one backcountry campsite along the creek.  The Rock Creek Loop Trail, 3.3 miles in length, begins at the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead.  One can also begin at the Lower Leggett Road Trailhead and hike the 1.2 mile Rock Creek Access Trail to its junction with the Rock Creek Loop Trail.  Finally, a handicap loop trail from the Lower Leggett Road parking area makes it possible to access the creek by wheelchair.

The Rock Creek Gorge Section has two overlooks with views of the gorge--excellent habitat for hawks and eagles.  There are creeks for wading, and some beautiful cascades at the Leggett Branch crossing.  Destinations include the Leggett Point and Rock Creek Overlooks, the 80-foot bridge over Rock Creek, three log bridges over tributary streams, numerous smaller bridges, and visits to Rock Creek.  Wildflowers, including fire pinks, morning glories, jack-in-the pulpits, lady slippers, dwarf crested irises and bluets, are abundant in spring.  The Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail between Flat Branch and Leggett Branch has a beautiful stand of rhododendron.  The terrain within a mile of the Retro-Hughes Road Trailhead bears the evidence of the destructive nature of the southern pine beetle.  Recent efforts at replanting will hopefully help heal the scarred landscape.  The beautiful sandstone cliffs that hold the story of the formation of the gorge await geology buffs.  Deer have been spotted drinking in Rock Creek, and beavers have made attempts to dam it up.

Road Approaches and Parking

The southern end of this section is accessible from Retro Hughes Road. Coming north from Chattanooga on US 27:  At the second stoplight (Bakewell) beyond the US 27/ TN 111 split turn west (left) on Retro Hughes Road.  Proceed a total of 7 miles from US-27 to the trailhead on right, about 100 feet past graveled logging road.  Entrance to parking area is on right about 200 feet past logging road. See photo below. 

Approach to Rock Creek - Retro Hughes Rd. Trailhead
Picture contributed by Trail Volunteer Don Deakins
APPROACH TO RETRO HUGHES TRAILHEAD

The northern end of this section is accessible from Leggett Road.  Coming north from Chattanooga on US 27: Turn west (left) on Leggett Road just north of the Sale Creek community.  The lower Leggett parking area is on the left at 1.4 miles.  It is a paved parking lot with plenty of marked parking spaces.

The access trail and loop upper trailhead is accessible from upper Leggett Road.  The upper Leggett Road parking is another 2.1 winding miles further up the road.  Continue through the curve on Leggett Rd. and climb to the top of the escarpment for 2.1 miles to a lightly graveled parking area on your left.  The trailhead is only 50 ft. back down the road; look for the blazing.  At present, it is unimproved and there is parking for 3-4 cars.

Campsites; Water Availability

A campsite is located along the Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail, 2.8 miles from the Retro-Hughes Road Trailhead. The campsite is along Rock Creek and can accommodate a small group with 2 - 3 tents. Water is available from Rock Creek. Please treat all water!

Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail (the CT through-trail): 5.2 Miles

This trail begins at the Retro-Hughes Road Trailhead and descends into Rock Creek gorge, crosses Rock Creek on a 80-foot bridge, and proceeds downstream to its first junction with the Rock Creek Loop Trail.  From here it climbs to a second junction with the Loop Trail and continues to the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead.

Retro Hughes Trailhead
Picture contributed by Trail Volunteer Don Deakins
RETRO HUGHES TRAILHEAD

Trail Features

Mile 0.0 (5.2) Retro-Hughes Road
From the trailhead and kiosk, begin the Rock Creek Section of the Cumberland Trail.

Mile 0.1 (5.1) Clear-cut
This area was logged because of a pine beetle infestation.  What was once a managed pine forest now appears barren. Undergrowth has greatly increased in the absence of shade.  However blackberries can be enjoyed in season, usually late June or early to mid July.  The trail turns right along the plateau into the woods.

Mile 0.5 (4.7) Stone Slab Bridge
After crossing the stone slab bridge, turn left.

Mile 1.0 (4.2) Utility Road
Cross the junction with utility road used by logging company.

Mile 1.3 (3.9) Pine Thicket
Turn left into a pine thicket.

Mile 1.5 (3.7) ATV Road
Crosse an ATV road.

Mile 1.6 (3.6) Creek Crossing
Cross a small unbridged creek.

Mile 1.7 (3.5) Second ATV Road
Cross a second ATV road.

Mile 1.8 (3.4) Rock House
Pass a small rock house.

Mile 2.5 (2.7) Trail Descends
Begin descending switchbacks down into Rock Creek Gorge.

Mile 2.4 (2.8) Second Rock House
Pass another rock house.

Mile 2.6 (2.6) Ladder and Rock Creek Bridge
Descend a short ladder, then cross the 80-foot Rock Creek Bridge.

Mile 2.8 (2.4) Campsite
The primitive campsite is on the right.  There is space for 2 or 3 tents.

Mile 3.3 (1.9) Leggett Branch
Cross Leggett Branch.  The cascades on the left provide a great photo-op.

Mile 3.9 (1.3) Old Moonshine Still
Pass the remains of an old moonshine still.

Mile 4.4 (0.8) Rocky Branch Bridge
Cross the Rocky Branch natural wood bridge.

Mile 4.5 (0.7) Flat Branch Bridge
Cross the Flat Branch Natural wood bridge

Mile 4.6 (0.6) Spur Trail to Rock Creek Overlook
A short trail descends to the Rock Creek Overlook.

Mile 4.9 (0.3) Boiling Springs Bridge and Trail Junction
Cross the Boiling Springs natural wood bridge and come to a trail junction.  To the right, the Rock Creek Loop Trail proceeds 1.5 miles to a junction with the Rock Creek Access Trail.  (The Access Trail continues 1.2 miles further to the Lower Leggett Road Trailhead.)  To the left, the Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail continues to the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead.

Mile 5.1 (0.1) Rock Creek Loop Trail
After several switchbacks, intersect the Rock Creek Loop Trail for the second time.  Turn left to go to the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead.

Mile 5.2 (0.0) Upper Leggett Road Trailhead

Rock Creek Loop Trail: 3.3 miles plus 0.3 mile spur

This scenic loop intersects the Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail twice.  A spur leads to Leggett Point Overlook.  At the bottom of the loop the Rock Creek Access Trail leads to the Lower Leggett Road Trailhead.

Upper Leggett Road Trailhead Parking
Picture contributed by Trail Volunteer Don Deakins
Upper Leggett Road Trailhead Parking

Trail Features

Mile 0.0 (3.3) Upper Leggett Road Trailhead
Enter the pine forest and follow the trail to the left.

Mile 0.1 (3.2) Trail Intersection
Go straight to hike the loop clockwise.  To the right the Rock Creek Loop Trail proceeds counter-clockwise, first descending to Boiling Springs Bridge.

Mile 0.3 (3.0) Overlook Trail
The Overlook Trail, blazed yellow, turns off to the right.  This 0.3-mile spur trail is well worth the effort. An easy, gently rolling hike on an old road bed, the Overlook Trail leads to a panoramic view of the Rock Creek gorge below.  Hawks, eagles, and other birds may be spotted.  The fall colors are breathtaking.

Mile 1.5 (1.8) Rock Creek Access Trail
Follow the Rock Creek Loop Trail to the right.  Or you can turn left and follow the Connector Trail 1.2 miles to the Lower Leggett Road Trailhead.

Mile 3.0 (0.3) Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail
Join the Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail.  The Boiling Springs Bridge is to the left.  Continue straight on the Loop Trail, and begin the ascent to the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead.

Mile 3.2 (0.1) Close the Loop
Intersect the Loop Trail and turn left to go to the trailhead.

Mile 3.3 (0.0) Upper Leggett Road Trailhead

Rock Creek Access Trail: 1.2 miles

This 1.2-mile trail provides access to the Rock Creek Loop Trail and the Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail (the CT through-trail).
Trail Features

Lower Leggett Road Trailhead Parking
Picture contributed by Trail Volunteer Don Deakins
Lower Leggett Road Trailhead Parking

Mile 0.0 (1.2) Lower Leggett Road Trailhead
From the Lower Leggett Road parking lot, follow the paved handicap trail approximately 150 feet toward Rock Creek.  Turn right (upstream) onto the Rock Creek Access Trail.

Mile 1.2 (0.0) Rock Creek Loop Trail
To the right, the Loop Trail reaches the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead in 1.5 miles.  To the left, the Loop Trail heads first to an intersection with the Upper Rock Creek Gorge Trail near Boiling Springs Bridge, then to the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead, a distance of 1.8 miles.

Rock Creek Section
Map contributed by Trail Volunteer Don Deakins
ROCK CREEK SECTION

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GPS Readings For Important Points (in WGS 84 format):
Location GPS Waypoint
Lower Leggett Road Trailhead N35 23.166 W85 08.135
Upper Leggett Road Trailhead N35 24.606 W85 07.856
Leggett Point Overlook N35 24.335 W85 08.241
Boiling Springs Bridge N35 24.697 W85 08.085
Rock Creek Overlook N35 24.794 W85 08.304
Flat Branch Bridge N35 24.858 W85 08.331
Rocky Branch Bridge N35 24.933 W85 08.469
Leggett Branch N35 25.226 W85 09.197
Rock Creek Campsite N35 25.210 W85 09.544
Rock Creek Bridge N35 25.298 W85 09.704
Retro Hughes Road Trailhead N35 24.173 W85 11.021



Winter Off Trail Hike In Rock Creek Section


Volunteer Finalizing a Section of Trail
Volunteer Finalizing a Section of Trail

 

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ATTENTION OVERNIGHT CAMPERS

You are REQUIRED to register to camp and/or park after sunset at the trailheads. There is no fee. The information you provide will help us to provide security and also to determine if there is a need to expand the camping area and provide designated campsites in order to enhance your hiking and camping experience. As people discover this spectacular area, public use is increasing rapidly.

To register your group on-line, please complete the ONLINE CAMPSITE REGISTRATION FORM. You will automatically be emailed a copy of your submission for your records. A confirmation code will be supplied upon submission of the online form. Please be prepared to supply this confirmation code to the Park Ranger if asked.

To register your group by phone, please call 423-566-2229 and give the information required on the online registration form by phone.

Email the Cumberland Trail Conference

Send email to
cumberlandtrail@rocketmail.com

Cumberland Trail Conference
409 Thurman Ave, Suite 102
Crossville, TN 38555
(931) 456-6259