Cumberland Trail Conference, a Tennessee State Scenic Hiking Trail.

Cumberland Trail
Tennessee River Gorge Segment

Click for PDF Description of Tennessee River Gorge Trail

Click for Detailed Nat Geo Explorer Topo Maps of Tennessee River Gorge Segment Trail

32 miles; Rating: easy, moderate, difficult

Follow U.S. 127 to the town of Signal Mountain and follow the directional signs to Signal Point National Park parking area.  The trail starts about halfway between the parking area and the Tennessee River Gorge Overlook.  The trail follows bluff tops and ridges and crosses Middle, Julia, and Suck creeks.  The view from Edwards Point covers a long stretch of the "Grand Canyon of the Tennessee," with historic Williams Island below on the left and the city of Chattanooga in the background.

Two primitive campsites are located on the first 11 miles of the trail, and camping is permitted only at these sites.  It is possible for backpackers to enjoy a one-way trip, stopping overnight at one of the campsites, if the backpackers arrange for someone to drop them off, or to meet them, at one of the parking areas.  The National Park Service recently closed the Signal Point Parking area after 10pm, and vehicles will be impounded if left after 10pm.  Fortunately, overnight parking at the trailhead in Prentice Cooper is permitted.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to hike the 11 miles in one day because the trail crosses several rock fields. 
Day hikes of interest are from Signal Point National Park to Middle Creek with a side trip to Rainbow Falls, a mighty rumbler in wet weather.  This jaunt takes about three hours; six to eight hours are required to hike round trip from Signal Point to Edwards Point or from Signal Point one way via Edwards Point to Tenn. 27.  Between Edwards Point and Tenn. 27, the trail follows the tops of the bluffs some 2.5 miles with beautiful views of the Suck Creek gorge, then drops down to a campsite on North Suck Creek.  At this point the trail continues across a 225-ft. swinging bridge over North Suck Creek to Tenn. 27.

Starting on the Suck Creek Mountain side, look for the Prentice Cooper State Forest sign on Tenn. 27 and travel to the new parking lot near the fire tower.  This section attracts many backpackers. It takes three to four hours to hike down to the roadside park on Suck Creek Road (Tenn. 27).

An interesting side hike is available on a leg of the Cumberland Trail across Tenn. 27, starting at the roadside park (the present end of section 9).  This leg consists of approximately 30 miles of two loops in Prentice Cooper State Forest.  Pot Point Loop Trail overlooks the Tennessee River canyon at many points, and Mullins Cove Loop includes spectacular views of Mullins Cove in the canyon. 

Evan Means - Hiking Tennessee Trails

 Tennessee River Gorge Trail Map
Map contributed by Trail Volunteers Don Deakins and Caroline Woerner

GPS Readings For Important Points:
LocationGPS Waypoint in WGS 84 format
Trailhead ParkingN35 07.966 W85 25.165
Indian Rock HouseN35 07.662 W85 25.127
Lawson Rock OverlookN35 08.244 W85 23.426
Popular Spring CampsiteN35 08.264 W85 23.574
Signal Point TrailheadN35 07.224 W85 21.996
Mushroom RockN35 09.656 W85 23.222
Snoopers RockN35 06.110 W85 25.450
Natural BridgeN35 05.219 W85 24.784
Raccoon Mtn OverlookN35 04.353 W85 24.838
Hemlock Branch CampsiteN35 06.087 W85 26.298
Mullens Cove OverlookN35 06.106 W85 26.624
McNabb Gulf CampsiteN35 04.445 W85 26.218
Ransom Hollow OverlookN35 05.120 W85 26.694

We share public lands with other outdoor enthusiasts.  Much of the funding to manage these lands comes from the sales of hunting and fishing licenses and the taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.  TWRA lands are entirely purchased and managed by license fees and taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.  Much of the Cumberland Trail is located on TWRA lands and we consider our partnership essential to building this protected greenway that will act as a buffer to protect water quality and provide natural habitat for animals.  Hikers and hunters share interests in the environment and conservation and a love of wildlife, of being outdoors.  TWRA and Tennessee licensed hunters are among the biggest supporters of the Cumberland Trail.
With the exception of a few managed hunt dates, licensed Tennessee hunters generously share access to TWRA lands with hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.  For this reason, many hikers purchase annual licenses to support the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.  Visit the TWRA website for up to date information on big game and turkey hunts in the Wildlife Management Areas before planning your fall and spring hikes.
On the following dates in 2009 and 2010 the Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area will be closed for managed hunts and the section of the CT in this area cannot be accessed by hikers:
  • October 15 - 17, 31
  • November 1, 6 - 8, 28 - 30
  • December 1 - 3
  • April 6 - 11, 14 - 16, 22 - 24, 27 - 30
  • May 1 - 2
Hunters take pride in their record of keeping hunting safe while sharing the public lands, and are very careful to look past their target before shooting.  Hunter orange makes you much more visible to hunters and increases their confidence that they are aware of the location of any hikers or other hunters before firing.  For this reason, hunters are very uncomfortable when hikers not wearing blaze orange enter big game hunt areas. Most hunters feel that not wearing hunter orange is discourteous and disrespectful.  As a courtesy to hunters, we STRONGLY recommend that hikers wear hunter orange during the fall and spring in ALL Wildlife Management Areas.


So many more people are discovering the Cumberland Trail, especially in Prentice Cooper.  In order to help large organized groups of Prentice Cooper visitors to experience the State Forest at its best, Jim Lane would like to help large groups coordinate their visits and be aware of other groups scheduling visits at the same time.  You may desire to alter your plans if you are aware of other large groups' plans.  Just a few friends getting together for an outing need not contact Jim.  But if your group is more than five or six, drop Jim a note or give him a call.

Jim asked us to post the following:

If your organization is planning an event or outing on Prentice Cooper State Forest, we would like to hear from you. There are many different activities that take place on the forest.  We would like to be aware of them.  When you are planning an event, drop us a note.  We would like to know what the activity is, where it will be held, when you plan to have it, and about how many people you expect.  We can help spread the word and make sure there aren't any conflicts with any other planned events.  If you are planning a large event with twenty or more people, we will issue you a permit. Come use the forest, it is a great place.

Jim Lane
State Forest Supervisor
Tennessee division of Forestry
P.O. Box 160
Hixson, TN 37343
Phone: 423-658-5551

Photo by Volunteer Don Deakins

Photo by Volunteer Don Deakins

Photo by Volunteer Don Deakins

Photo by Volunteer Don Deakins

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