It’s been a while since I last did a trail report, so here we go. On Saturday I meet up with Bryan and a couple of other folks from Brentwood Hills to stomp around in Savage Gulf State Park. It’s kind of far away considering we have large areas that are much closer (Great Smokey Mountains and Big South Fork). Saturday also saw storms for a good part of the day in East Tennessee. Savage Gulf had gotten a little bit of rain on Friday night, but was clear on Saturday. The drive there was pretty slow going because the rain was so heavy all the way to Cookeville. As I headed south from Cookeville, it started to lighten up some. The meeting time was 12:30 Central. I figured I might show up first and have some time to spare, so I brought along the current book I am reading, Under the Banner of Heaven. After about 45 minutes, the rest showed up and we got on the trail at 12:55 Central. I remember this because at the trailhead, we had to sign in to register as a day hiker.
After being in the trail for a couple of minutes, you will encounter this sign. Most often when I am backpacking, all the hiking to the campsite is done at night using a headlamp. In Savage Gulf, this isn’t an option. A couple of friends have even said that the rangers will do a check to make sure nobody is out on the trail when it gets dark. One said this was the only place he’s ever been asked to see his permit when he was in the back country. A few of the things that I noticed where that there were signs almost everywhere. Don’t cut down trees. Don’t pick the flowers or any other plant. No bikes. Only two people on the suspension bridge. No running or jumping on the suspension bridge. Old moonshine still site, no camping. Every intersection of a trail was marked by at least 2 signs, leaving no doubt on which way to go. The trails were also blazed so that you can practically see the next 2-3 blazes from your current blaze. The trail is really well defined too. There shouldn’t be any excuse for a person getting lost based on all the precautions we observed.
Eventually you’ll come to an intersection in the trail where you can go left or right. Left will take you to the Falls and the South Rim Trail and right will take you to the North Rim Trail. I suggested that we go Right. This way we hit the highlights of the hike near the end. For the most part, this trail is fairly flat because you stay on the plateau and are hiking to the rim. The day loop trail is listed at 4.2 miles, but it will be closer to 5 miles if you take the extra trails that we took. The first extra trail we took was the Savage Falls Overlook. It’s like a tenth of a mile of the Day Loop Trail. As the sign warns, there is no access into the gorge from this trail. The second additional trail we took was to the falls. Its about .3 miles off the Day Loop trail. Getting to the falls is probably the most strenuous part of this hike. By all standards though, it is an easy hike to the falls. My GPS isn’t 100% accurate, but you can see for the most part, your elevation stays within 100 ft zone.