Big Soddy Creek Gulf is one of the Chattanooga area’s newest outdoor attractions. The 285-acre tract on the eastern edge of Walden Ridge was acquired by the city of Soddy-Daisy in 2014 and has become a popular outdoors destination.
Since my first visit shortly after access opened, the rather limited parking situation has been improved with the construction of a larger trailhead parking area.
The main attraction is an approximately 1.25-mile gravel road that provides a smooth and level hike alongside scenic Big Soddy Creek and access to its summertime swimming holes. The road is on the bed of an old railroad that carried coal out of the gulf, first from deep coal mines and later from mountaintop strip mines, between 1904 and 1923. Amenities today include benches along the way, a couple of picnic tables by the creek and mile markers located at 0.25-mile intervals.
On a recent visit, I found the creek a bit swollen from earlier rains. Wildlife I encountered along the trail included a rat snake and a box turtle. Upon reaching the end of the gravel road, I crossed a sturdy footbridge over Board Camp Creek and continued alongside Big Soddy Creek for about a half-mile on a more typical hiking trail before it ended on the creek bank.
Upon returning to the footbridge, I took a trail that is basically an old jeep road that climbs uphill alongside Board Camp Creek. Within a mile or so, the trail leaves the Big Soddy Creek property, crosses the Cumberland Trail, passes beneath an overhanging bluff on the left and comes within sight of an impressive waterfall downhill on the right. Continuing on, the trail split off into several options, all of which seemed to eventually fizzle out or become overgrown with poison ivy and such. This area would probably be best explored during winter, when there should be some great views of the gulf. Hiking the entire trail along Big Soddy Creek and up the mountainside as far as the waterfalls would total about 5.5 miles. Of course, using this trail to access the Cumberland Trail would provide potential for a much longer hike. Find a map and information about this section of the Cumberland Trail here.
The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Mountain biking is allowed on the road sections only. Dogs on leashes are allowed, but you’re required to pick up after them. There are stations installed with bags for that purpose. People over age 65 or with disabilities are allowed to drive in on the road on the third Saturday of each month from April to October between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. For more information, contact the city of Soddy-Daisy at 423-332-5323 or email them.
Big Soddy Creek Gulf is located about 23 miles north of downtown Chattanooga. From Chattanooga, take U.S. Highway 27 North to Tennessee Highway 111. Immediately after getting on Highway 111 North, take the first exit, turning left onto Back Valley Road. In about 0.4 miles and just before crossing Big Soddy Creek, turn right. After passing underneath the railroad, the parking area is on the right. You can also find Big Soddy Creek Gulf marked on Google Maps.
Even with an enlarged parking area, the place is very popular on summer weekends with people wanting to play in the creek, so I advise getting there early in the day for best chances of getting a parking space.
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 column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.