Flora and Geology – This section of the Cumberland Trail exhibits typical tertiary and later regrowth mixed hardwood, pine and hemlock forest. Wildflowers are abundant as well as wildlife and birds. Larry Pounds has compiled a nice list of wildflowers the hiker might see along the Cumberland Trail.
The geology of the area is exemplified nicely on this trail in the form of exposed sandstone cap rock, boulders, bluffs and caves. The rocks and bluffs visible were created when the Pennsylvanian time period began about 300 million years ago and a great change in the deposition of sediment occurred. In Tennessee the Pennsylvanian age rocks reflect this change by being dominantly sandstone, siltstone, and shale rather than the carbonate rocks of the earlier Paleozoic time. The sandstone cap rock which is exposed in places underfoot as you walk this segment was created by the alternate transgression and regression of the vast Appalachian sea which created alternate layers of sandstone over shale over limestone. Later tectonic plate movement caused the upthrust of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. Erosion of the softer limestone created gorges and left the sandstone cap. Erosion also left arches of sandstone which in time broke and fell into the gorges below. This explains the presence of huge sandstone boulders in the gorges beneath the hills and ridges. Today the sandstone cap is exposed in places where wind and water have taken away the thin layer of soil. You see an especially good example of this at mile 2.3.
Note: Because parking for this section is off a connector trail, descriptions have been written three ways: