After 18 months of intensive work, an approximately 2-mile rerouted section of South Cumberland State Park’s Fiery Gizzard Trail is now complete.
Though additional acreage in the Fiery Gizzard has been acquired by the park over the years, much of the Fiery Gizzard Trail remains on private land. In 2015, a landowner on the trail near Raven Point requested the trail be removed from his property. This resulted in a massive project to reroute a 1.5-mile section of trail. While the section being closed was on the relatively level plateau top, the reroute section dropped over the bluff and traversed the much more rugged slopes of the gorge. Then, in 2016, another landowner also requested the trail be removed from their land, just past this section. This necessitated another reroute of a mile or so.
As part of the recent kickoff event for the Friends of South Cumberland’s 2017 hiking challenge, Hiking in Mack’s Tracks, I had an opportunity to join a group hike on the new trail section. Although we were shuttled to a shortcut and able to start the hike near Raven Point, normally, you’d have to hike from the Grundy Forest trailhead. I would recommend taking the Dog Hole Trail, as it’s an easier hike than the Fiery Gizzard Trail. This will be a 4.3-mile hike to where the new section starts. With about 2 miles of the new trail, the round-trip hike will be 12.5 miles or more. Add another mile, if you wish, to take in Raven Point, which I recommend, unless you’ve been there and just want to experience the new trail section.
Beginning at the intersection of the Dog Hole and Fiery Gizzard trails, the trail soon begins to drop into the gorge, with a high rock bluff on the right. We soon descended a long wooden staircase, then a section of rock steps alongside the lower cascades of Anderson Falls. Many of the rock steps are constructed of blocks of sandstone that were purchased with funds from the Lyndhurst Foundation and hauled in from above. I found the terrain to be some of the most rugged I’ve seen a trail traverse, yet the hike was surprisingly easy because of the many steps built into the trail.
The trail then crosses McAlloyd Branch below the falls on a 28-foot pole bridge that was dropped in place by helicopter. After climbing along the other side of the cascades, a short spur trail provides a view of the upper drop of Anderson Falls. Reaching a higher elevation, the next section of trail travels just below a short bluff and through an area where an October wildfire burned over 300 acres.
Shortly after the trail returns to the top of the plateau, a short unmarked spur trail on the right goes to an overlook with a view of McAlloyd Cove and Raven Point to the right, and the main Fiery Gizzard straight ahead. Soon, the trail begins to descend into another cove, though not as deeply this time. Eventually, we came to another waterfall. Here, the trail actually passes behind the falls with a cable to hold to. I managed to make the crossing without really getting wet. If the falls were swollen much, though, that could be tricky. This was our turnaround point, as the trail now begins to work its way back up to the plateau top to rejoin the original trail.
Find directions to the Grundy Forest trailhead here.
Download a topo map of the Fiery Gizzard Trail and access other South Cumberland maps here. Note: This topo map doesn’t show the new section, but it will get you to it. Also, the Raven Point Camp Area, which is where the new section begins, is no longer there.
Watch videos chronicling the reroute project here.
More volunteer opportunities
No need to despair if you missed out on the Fiery Gizzard reroute project. There are several projects ongoing that need volunteers, including trail work at Denny Cove, Grundy Forest and the Collins Gulf Trail, as well as other types of work. Learn more on the Friends of South Cumberland website.
Bob Butters explores nature and the outdoors, primarily in and near the South Cumberland region, and publishes the blog www.Nickajack-Naturalist.com. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.