Nature Based Recreational Opportunities

Natural resources offering outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the picturesque landscapes of the Cumberland Plateau

Recreation on Land

Bee Rock, Putnam County

 

The following sites provide additional opportunities for the land lover. Activities include hiking, camping, horseback riding, picnicking, bird watching, nature watching, mountain biking, spelunking, rock climbing, and nature exploring. Scenic vistas and landscapes are commonly found among these recreational and natural resources.

Bearwaller Gap Hiking Trail

Smith County

Black bears used to “wallow” in the shady patches of woods of this area—earning it the name Bearwaller Gap. Considered to be one of the finest paths in Middle Tennessee, this trail extends six miles along the shores of Cordell Hull Lake. Experienced hikers will appreciate the challenge of the rugged terrain, as well as views to waterfalls, old home sites, wildflowers, and craggy overlooks. Backcountry camping is available at the Two Prong site for those interested in backpacking, and developed campsites are available at Defeated Creek Recreation Area.

Bear Wheels Bike Trail

Smith County

Located adjacent to the Bear Waller Gap hiking trail entrance, this mountain bike trail is a new addition to Cordell Hull Lake. It is located in Defeated Creek Park next to the Bear Waller Gap hiking trail entrance and the Defeated Campground. Parking is available at the trailhead. 

Bee Rock
Bee Rock

Putnam County

Bee Rock is on the edge of a Cumberland Plateau bluff and is a frequent hot spot for rock climbing. The popular climbing spot is on land owned by the Garden Inn B&B at Bee Rock who have been gracious enough to allow access, Though there is no camping at the rock and everyone except Inn guests must leave by 5:00 pm. The inn offers a stunning view of the bluff and a relaxing place to stay.

Betty S. Brown Memorial Walking Trail
Betty S. Brown Memorial Walking Trail

Roane County

Connecting four parks in just over three miles along the edge of Watt’s Bar Lake in Kingston, this paved trail is ideal for walking the dog, taking a stroll, jogging, fishing, picnicking, and other family activities. To the north the trail starts at Alton E. Byrd Park, adjacent to Kingston City Park, and continues to Gravel Pit Park, 58 Landing Park, and finally Fort South West Point Park. Attractive lakeside views toward Fort South West Point can be captured along the trail, as well as sights of waterfowl and other wildlife on Watts Bar Lake. Drinking fountains, benches, and picnic tables are available along the trail.

Black Mountain
Black Mountain

The majestic profile of Black Mountain is visible south of the Crab Orchard exit on Interstate 40. Just a fifteen mile drive to the top, on a clear day visitors can see Walden’s Ridge to the east along the Tennessee Valley, and just beyond that are the Smoky Mountains, about 75 miles away. To the south, Grassy Cove, which is a National Natural Landmark, can be seen. This site is frequented by rock climbers and offers impressive views for sightseeing. A rare plant community is known to inhabit the top of Black Mountain. Species once found here include Silverling, spotted Yellow Birch, red-flowering azalea Rhododendron cumberlandense, and the Showy Lady’s Slipper.

Catoosa State Wildlife Management Area

Cumberland, Fentress and Morgan Counties

Set in the rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau, visitors to Catoosa WMA enjoy sights of the Obed Wild and Scenic River as well as the forest Oak Savannas and the scenic “Devil’s Breakfast Table” area. The Wartburg entrance offers a scenic drive through a tranquil woodland area threaded with streams and rivers, offering ideal spots for watching wildlife and taking in the scenery. The Wartburg entrance also leads visitors to a place where the forest understory is outstanding. In the eastern section of the site, the forest canopy is dense, setting a mysterious mood through dim light. Uncommon birds on the Cumberland Plateau find habitat at Catoosa. Such species include Red-headed Woodpecker (very high densities), Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, White-eyed Vireo, and Common Yellowthroat. Occasionally a Swainson’s Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, or a river otter can be seen in through the dense foliage along the stream edges. Wild Turkey, White-tailed Deer, and Ruffed Grouse are also present on the site.

Clifty Creek Gorge TNC Preserve

Morgan and Roane Counties

Clifty Creek is an 80-acre hemlock-dominated forested site with a scenic gorge created by the creek over time. The picturesque bluffs are characterized by steep slopes that are almost vertical in some locations. Hiking, creek walking, and swimming are among the popular recreational activities that occur here. 

Cumberland Mountain State Park
Cumberland Mountain State Park

Cumberland County

This 1,720-acre park as originally acquired in 1938 to serve as a recreation spot for about 250 families homesteading on the Cumberland Plateau. The Homestead Museum, located one mile from the park, is dedicated to the Cumberland Homestead Community that was established during the 1930s. Among the recreational activities enjoyed at the park are opportunities to camp in rustic cabins, tents, or RVs. Visitors can rent canoes, paddleboats, rowboats, and fishing boats for use on Byrd Lake. Hiking trails are throughout the park, with one designated for overnight camping. The park offers fishing on Byrd Lake and visitors can expect catches of rainbow trout, catfish, bass, bluegill and bream. A Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, Bear Trace, is also located in the park. Other park facilities include picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a swimming pool, a recreational hall with meeting rooms, and a restaurant renowned for its catfish served on Fridays.

Cumberland Trail
Cumberland Trail

Cumberland County and 10 other counties

In 1998, the trail was designated the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, Tennessee’s first linear state park. This Tennessee State Scenic Trail, while currently fragmented, is planned to span 300 miles, from the Cumberland Gap National Park in Kentucky to Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park on Signal Mountain, just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The trail will mainly cross through public lands, two national parks, and a national scenic river area. This scenic footpath follows the picturesque landscape of Tennessee, from high ridges and deep gorges, to scenic vistas, waterfalls, and forests. The Cumberland Trail Conference (CTC) was organized to design, construct, and raise funds to support the trail development efforts. About 175 miles of the trail have been constructed and they are currently managed by Tennessee’s Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) and Forestry. 

Defeated Creek Park Campground/Recreation Area

Smith County

Defeated Creek Park Campground is located on Cordell Hull Lake, seven miles from Carthage. Recreational opportunities are many along the 381 miles of shoreline of the 12,000-acre lake. Water activities enjoyed here include boating, jet skiing, water skiing, sailing, as boat ramps and a marina allow for lake access. White bass, rockfish, largemouth bass, catfish, shad, and crappie draw fishermen to the area. Designated trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking surround the lake. Trails include the 6-mile Bearwaller Gap Trail, Turkey Creek Nature Trail, and Bear Wheels Mountain Bike Trail. 

Devilstep Hollow (future site)

Cumberland County

Though it is not open to the public at this time, there are plans to eventually make this cave, housing 750-year-old American Indian artworks, part of the Cumberland Trail. Plans are also in the works to include interpretive panels and a facility for hikers along the way. 

Edgar Evins State Park & WMA

DeKalb County

This 6,000 acre park is located on Center Hill Lake in the Eastern Highland Rim. In 1975 the park was dedicated and named after James Edgar Evins, 2-year term state senator, businessman and mayor of Smithville in DeKalb County. Evins was instrumental in the development of Center Hill Dam and Reservoir. The park’s mixed hardwood forests of Tulip Poplar, Oak, Hickory, Buckeye and Wild Cherry are abundantly inhabited by wildlife. Among the fauna at the park are three different owl species, hawks, wintering bald eagles, and the rare Cerulean Warbler. Popular activities at the park include boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, picnicking, and dining at the Gallery Restaurant at Edgar Evins Marina. Visitors interested in sticking around the park can stay at one of the modern lodging suites or the tent and trailer campsites with hookups to water and electricity.

Kingston City Park
Kingston City Park

Roane County

This 11 acre park is located on the scenic Watts Bar Lake and is the north eastern terminus of the three mile Betty Brown Memorial Walking Trail. Park features include playgrounds, tennis courts, sand volleyball, basketball court, picnic facilities, grills, rest rooms, boat ramps and docks. 

Lone Mountain State Forest

Morgan County

Lone Mountain State Forest is a 3,572-acre tract of land with almost 20 miles of trails available for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The state forest is located between the Cumberland Mountains and Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area. A hike to Coyote Point on a clear day will promise views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Kingston Steam Plant. Coyote Point is located on the southeast slope of Lone Mountain and consists of a table rock at the edge of a bluff overlooking the lower Emory River drainage.

View from Mount Roosevelt
Mt. Roosevelt Wildlife Management Area (TVA site)

Cumberland, Morgan and Roane Counties

The 11,000 acre Mt. Roosevelt WMA surrounds the town of Rockwood, and its overlook is believed to be one of the highest in the Cumberlands. Visitors to Mt. Roosevelt can access the scenic view overlook by car. On a clear day one can see the Great Smoky Mountains or witness the fall migration of raptors, songbirds, and butterflies. Small parking area and picnic tables are among the site’s amenities. Access to the Walden Ridge Trail is adjacent to the fire tower at the overlook. 

Paint Rock Refuge

Roane County

Located at Watts Bar River (mile 575) in Roane County, Paint Rock Refuge is a 1,600 acre WMA composed of forest, shrub edges and fields. From the boat ramp off of Paint Rock Road, visitors can drop in and enjoy the scenery of the Watts Bar flora and fauna. Commonly found nesting on poles in the lake are ospreys, often caring for young. Other waterfowl such as Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, and Great Egret can be found nesting on the lake’s islands. Eagles can also be spotted in the winter. On the water’s edge, it is not uncommon to see white-tailed deer, raccoon, muskrat, fox, and coyote. Hunting is allowed at the refuge on designated public access dates. Those interested in hunting should refer to the TWRA Hunting Guide. 

Fishing Pier at Roane County Park
Roane County Park

Roane County

Directly accessible from the Byway, Roane County Park offers a tranquil stop on Watts Bar Lake in Harriman. Visitors can take a swim at the beach, hike the walking trails, fish from the pier, or enjoy a picnic in one of the covered shelters. Lakeside primitive camping is available to those looking for a place to setup the tent.