Southern Terminus Trailhead (El. 1,734′ N35 42.954 W84 52.77)
Northern Terminus Trailhead: (El. 878′ N35 42.7649 W84 52.77)
- Traveling North on US Hwy 27 toward Spring City, TN, turn onto the cloverleaf for Hwy 68 West to Shut In Gap Road on the left.
- Traveling South on US Hwy 27 toward Spring City, TN, turn right on Jackson Avenue. Continue on Jackson until it dead ends into TN Hwy 68; turn right onto TN Hwy 68 and then an immediate left onto Shut In Gap Road.
- Traveling East on TN Hwy 68 toward Spring City, TN, turn right onto Shut In Gap Rd.
- Traveling West from Watts Bar Dam on TN Hwy 68 toward Spring City, TN, turn right onto US Hwy 27 then right onto TN Hwy 68 and continue to Shut In Gap Rd. on the left. Turn left onto Shut In Gap Rd.
- Once on Shut In Gap Road, continue to the Piney River Management Area/Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail on the right. Park anywhere in the gravel lot. The Northern terminus of the Piney River section of the Cumberland Trail is directly across Shut In Gap Rd. To reach the Southern terminus of the Stinging Fork Section of the Cumberland Trail, turn right out of the parking area and proceed about 900 feet along Shut In Gap Road crossing the Piney River bridge. From the bridge, you can see the confluence of Soak Creek and Piney River. In the curve in the road beyond the bridge, there is a yellow bar gate on the right. This is an old logging road that provides entry to the Stinging Fork Section of the Cumberland Trail. Note: this road is on private land for over a mile. Access is permitted. However, please practice Leave No Trace on this and all sections.
Approach to the Soak Creek and Piney River trailheads on Shut In Gap Road.
Day hikers may want to park one car at the Piney River Management Area parking lot near the Piney River trailhead and drive 3.9 miles further up Shut In Gap Road to the trailhead for the connector trail leading to the CT (white blazed). There is adequate gravel paved parking for several vehicles at this parking lot. This affords the option of hiking the trail either North to South from here or South to North from the Piney River Management Area.
North bound through hikers emerging from the Piney River segment will turn left on Shut In Gap Road. North bound day hikers will turn right out of the parking lot. Continue a short road walk (900 feet) North to an old logging road at the yellow bar gate on the right. Access to this road is permitted. Follow this road for 1.5 miles to the Stinging Fork trailhead.
Beginning at the yellow bar gate, this 5.8 miles long trail follows Soak and Little Soak Creeks through second and third growth mesophytic forest. This is a strenuous section to hike, but the hiker is rewarded with flora in a variety of habitats from stream margins in the gorge to the Cumberland Plateau at the Northern end of this section.
Wildflowers bloom in abundance from mid April to mid May. Much of the trail feels like it passes through rain forest especially in spring and early summer. Look for a variety of ferns from Maiden Hair to Christmas, partridge berry, jack-in-the-pulpit, and varieties of trillium. In mid May, mountain laurel blooms in profusion in places and in early summer rhododendron blooms.
There are cascades, falls and numerous stone bluffs along the way. These bluffs provide a unique habitat for varieties of fern, moss, stone crop, partridge berry and others. Soak Creek and Little Soak Creek afford many nice spots to step off the trail for lunch or to cool off in the waters.