On Saturday we drove northwest from Chattanooga to Burgess Falls State Park, for a morning of hiking.
Burgess Falls State Park features three sections of a waterfall. I recommend going in the winter, so that you can see more of the river through the bare trees along the path.
A sign at the trailhead says that the trail is strenuous. I believe this may be because of the number of steps along the path, but Derek and I are intermediate-level hikers, and we thought it was fairly easy.
When we went, we had just had a week of rain, so the river and the falls were powerful and fast flowing.
This hike is great if you like maximum views. There are overlooks at the upper, middle, and lower falls.
We also walked an optional, short trail that leads to the top of the lower falls.
The path to the end of the lower falls is three quarters of a mile. There is a different, gravel path to take back to the parking lot, for a round trip total of 1.5 miles.
A section of a farm met up with the edge of the gravel path. Of course, I had to take photos of the cows!
We drove into the town of Sparta for lunch. We ate at The Coffee Collective, a nice café located on the historical square.
We walked around a bit, and saw a caboose on display, and a war memorial. We also walked on a pedestrian bridge across the Calfkiller River. Quite the name, huh? The river is named for a Cherokee chief.
We also shopped at the Fragrant Mushroom, a pottery store. The store had a calico cat named Josi. The prices were affordable, and the pieces were beautiful. We ended up buying a coaster and a mug.
A few weekends ago, Derek and I hiked to Piney Falls. We got lost a bunch of times, and we didn’t get the full experience that we had expected, but it was still a great hike.
The Piney Falls trail head is just north of Spring City, TN. It was about an hour’s drive away from where we live.
The Piney Falls trail is confusing, if you’re not sure of what to expect. This was our first time, and we ended up backtracking once, and turning off the correct trail twice.
The trail goes to both upper and lower Piney Falls. There is a junction and you can take either direction. The trail is a loop, but it can be avoided if you are not okay with a water crossing
We first went to upper Piney Falls, where we came out to the top of the falls.
It was here that we realized that we would have to cross the water. Since it was winter and there was a high flow of water, we decided that this was a bad idea. I would imagine that it is doable in summer months.
Because of this, we turned back around and headed back to the junction. If you go right, that takes you to upper Piney Falls, and left takes you to lower Piney Falls.
We got lost at least twice our way to lower Piney Falls. There are many different areas where it looks like the trail turns off. If you hike this trail, keep following alongside the rock cliffs.
We were treated to a great display of icicles along the cliffs.
At one point we were both sitting on a rock, frustrated and trying to look up trail maps and figure out our location on Google Maps. Just then, a couple came hiking through. They were familiar with the trail and led us to the waterfall.
The unique feature of Piney Falls is that you can walk behind the falls. I believe that if we had continued the hike behind the falls, and gone up the other side of the trail, we eventually would have come to the other side of the upper Piney Falls crossing. Maybe?
Unfortunately, there had just been a cold snap, so there was ice everywhere. I wanted to get a good shot of Piney Falls badly enough that I crawled on my hands and knees to get around!
Even though our hike was cut short and we missed half of the trail, the ice did create amazing photo opportunities!
Our first hike of 2022 was a good one, even though we did get a little lost!
We went to Foster Falls, part of the South Cumberland State Park. This is southwest of the Chattanooga area, about 45 minutes away.
Our hike was 2.3 miles long, but I think it would have been a little longer if we had gone the whole, right away.
We had cold, clear weather for the hike. When we started, it was 29 degrees with a windchill of 23. This allowed for beautiful ice formations.
The hike started out mostly flat, and then descended down to the bottom of Foster Falls. This was a rocky, stone step decent, but not too hard. We crossed a swinging bridge over Fiery Gizzard Creek as well.
After viewing the falls, and taking pictures of all the ice all around the edge of the water, the trail was a difficult ascent. There were times when we were literally scrambling over rocks on all fours.
It was here that we got confused, and accidentally cut the trail short. The trail is supposed to loop around, but there was a sign that said, “exit, climbers only,” which threw us off. So instead, we took the path that said, “Climbers loop access 1” and that was a short cut to the other end of the loop. When we realized our mistake, we doubled back a bit, not all the way though, to get the extra mileage in.
Thankfully, once you reach the top rim of the mountain, the trail levels out.
What I liked best about this trail was that the views of Foster Falls were maximized. We saw the falls from down below, up top, and from all sides. My favorite view was from above, where the light was hitting the falls just right to make rainbow colored mist.
There was even a smaller waterfall to the right of Foster Falls. I imagine that this smaller one is completely dried up in the summer. The trail actually crosses right over the top of this second waterfall. The edge has a cable barrier, so we safely looked over the edge and saw the water cascading down.
The hike ends (and starts as well) with an overlook where you can see Foster Falls from a further away vantage point.
We enjoyed this hike. It was just hard enough for our liking, and the right amount of mileage. The views of Foster Falls were fantastic. We are looking forward to finding new waterfall hikes throughout the rest of winter.
I am so happy that hiking season is returning! There are some extreme hikers that will hike year round, but we prefer to do it while staying cool, and not having to carry twice as much water.
On Labor Day, Monday morning, we got up early and we headed to the Glen Falls Trail. We started out small; this wasn’t even a mile and a half, but it was a good start nonetheless.
We were on the trail at 7:30 a.m. and we had the trail and waterfall to ourselves.
We hiked this trail last January, and this time around we had a totally different experience. The water was practically gushing compared to last time.
We wanted to take off our shoes and go wading in the water this time. We brought a towel so we could dry off our feet afterward. Last time, we learned our lesson, that the wet rocks in the base of the falls were quite slippery in our hiking boots. Our bare feet offered more traction.
The water was cold, but refreshing. It was a little scary in some places, where it was deeper and the water was rushing fast, but we waded back and forth safely.
This is a fairly easy hike that is good for beginner hikers and families. The parking lot is small though, and fills up quickly. I recommend getting to this trailhead early, or going on a weekday.
We hiked the Ritchie Hollow Trail on Wednesday morning, and a lot of lessons were learned.
Do not hike in warm, summer-like weather after a recent rain, because the humidity will be bad! Also, because of the humidity, we were sweating more, so we went through more water. We had to ration our water so we had enough to last the entire hike. Bring more water for warm weather hikes!
The Ritchie Hollow Trail is a newer trail, part of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, which opened up in 2018.
The trailhead is just across the road from the Pot Point Cabin. I was excited to see this cabin, because I have seen pictures of it and I have read about it online.
According to trgt.org, “Pot Point Cabin was originally constructed in 1835 of hand-hewn logs and planks reclaimed from a flat boat that wrecked on the “Boiling Pot,” a nearby rapid in the Tennessee River.”
It is a beautiful two story log cabin, with views of the Tennessee River. The cabin is owned by the trust, and can be rented out. I looked into it once, and a two night stay is over $800! The cabin is large, so that price could be split up between parties. I had to satisfy myself by just looking at it from the outside, and taking a peek through the front window.
The full trail is 2.7 miles one way (5.4 miles round trip), but we did not complete the full trail. I might consider this during a return trip, but it would definitely have to be a colder day. Instead, we stopped at Blowing Wind Falls, which is 1.8 miles in, for 3.6 miles total. This seems to be a popular choice. We saw two other couples who did the same thing.
The hike to the falls is a steady incline the whole way. It flattens out at times, but barely long enough to catch your breath. The path is extremely rocky, and there are a lot of rock steps.
The hike features a few water crossings, which were pretty low when we passed through. In the first part of the hike we came across two smaller water falls.
We saw a lot of interesting things on this hike, including a lot of insects and flowers. My favorite was all of the mountain laurel shrubs. Mountain laurel grows in mountainous, forested areas. It is actually the state flower of Pennsylvania. We used to live in Pennsylvania for many years, and I had only seen it in the wild once. Here in this area of Tennessee, we see it all the time!
The trail went up and up and up, until we felt like we couldn’t go any further. Then, up ahead a ways, we saw the sign pointing the way to the waterfall. We were so relieved to be able to get to the ending point, and sit and rest!
I should also say, once we got higher up in elevation, the humidity dissipated, which helped a bit. But the elevation was as grueling as ever! The coolness from the waterfall was welcoming once we reached it.
We knew it would be warm, so we planned on wading in the base of the falls. Blowing Wind Falls is perfect for that because you can get right up to the edge of the falls. I brought my water shoes, but Derek just cuffed his pants up. The water was so cold and felt so good.
The hike back was much easier, because then we were gradually descending all the way back down. Even though we were unprepared and we suffered a bit on the way going, we both said we would do this hike again!
Yesterday Derek and I hiked the Benton Falls Trail, which is over an hour away from Chattanooga. Benton Falls is located in the Chilhowee Recreational Area, part of the Cherokee National Forest.
Benton Falls is a popular trail because it is a relatively easy hike ending with a gorgeous waterfall. The trails in the area are heavily trafficked, partially because the area is home to a campground. There is a day use area with picnic tables, grills, and a man made lake with a beach. If you are visiting, it costs $3 to park. There are envelopes at the information kiosk in which to put your money in.
I like to research before we go out on any new hike. I look at pictures, read reviews, and even try to watch YouTube videos, if they are available. During one video, taken during the summer, I was shocked to see how many people there were at Benton Falls. Because of this, we left at 6:30 in the morning.
On the way into the Chilhowee Recreational Area, Oswald Road features a few overlooks. We stopped at these to break up the winding, slow drive in to the trail head. The overlooks are absolutely gorgeous, featuring views of Sugarloaf Mountain, Ocoee River, and part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The hike is a mostly flat path, and the trail is three miles total (1.5 miles there and back.) The trail only gets rocky toward the end, when you descend by the falls.
There is a spot where you can see the top of the falls flowing down. Derek found a path that lead to the middle of the falls, where you could stand next to the edge. It was cool (and wet)!
Derek and I have seen a lot of waterfalls on our hikes, and I think Benton Falls is the prettiest. It is a 65-foot waterfall, and it flows down over rocks that are in a stair-like pattern, which makes for a pretty water flow.
The water was flowing well when we went, but the pool of water at the bottom wasn’t so high that we were still able to walk across some of the bigger rocks out in front.
What I like best about Benton Falls is that you can get close to the water, if you want. We were able to walk right on the lowest ledge, and feel the water spraying us. I imagine that a lot of people hike here in the summer with their bathing suits on. The water is sure to feel good in the summer heat.
It was a good call to arrive early in the morning. We arrived at the trail head at exactly 8 a.m., and we did not see a single soul on our entire hike in. We had the waterfall to ourselves the entire time, which was at least 30 minutes. We started to see a steady stream of people while hiking the trail back to the parking lot.