Chattanooga Now Trail Review: Big Soddy Creek Gulf to Broad Camp Creek Overlook

Chattanooga Now Trail Review: Big Soddy Creek Gulf to Broad Camp Creek Overlook

February 1st, 2018 by Review by Elise Hawkins | Photography by Bryant Hawkins in Get Out - Features

Elise checks out giant icicles scattered along the trail.

Photo by Bryant Hawkins

Gallery: Trail Review: Big Soddy Creek Gulf to Broad Camp Creek Overlook

+5
more photos

BIG SODDY CREEK GULF TO BROAD CAMP CREEK OVERLOOK

Type: Out-and-back

Distance: 5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Time: 2.5 hours

Traffic level: Moderate to high

Dog-friendly: Yes

Highlights: Creek views, small waterfalls, picnic tables, summer swimming

Rating: 4/5 stars

This past week we ventured toward Soddy-Daisy to explore Big Soddy Creek Gulf. Covering 285 acres, there is plenty of great scenery to view and explore.

When we set out, we planned to do an 8-mile, out-and-back hike suggested by the website AllTrails, a resource I use regularly. However, we soon learned that hikers should always double-check their sources, especially when using the internet.

We set out from a parking lot on Back Valley Road, following a wide, gravel path along Big Soddy Creek. The initial path is very level with no elevation gain, so it is approachable for people of all ability levels. Follow this stretch for 1.25 miles to a large clearing where you can settle at one of several picnic tables. There are also benches and tables scattered along the way.

Once you reach the clearing, cross the wooden bridge to link up with the Cumberland Trail for a longer, more challenging hike. You can either continue straight or turn right, which is what we did. When you turn right (i.e. head north), you will follow along Broad Camp Creek.

At 1.4 miles, we encountered a brown gate. There was no signage, so we stepped around the gate and continued ahead. Keep an eye on the creek because you will soon discover a small, beautiful swimming area on the right.

Continue approximately 0.4 miles, gaining elevation with two switchbacks. Immediately after the second switchback, look closely at the trees for white trail markers. These markers indicate the Cumberland Trail. While the path continues on ahead, do not go straight. We went straight because it seemed like a well-established trail, but after a mile or so the "trail" completely fizzles out into wilderness. We were then forced to turn around.

At this moment, I checked my phone and noticed that the 8-mile hike on AllTrails did not match the actual trail system at all.

Look closely for those white trail markers on the trees if you want to connect with the Cumberland Trail. Head right at the trail markers, going down and around a large boulder. The trail becomes narrow at this point, but the white markers are frequent and visible.

Since we wasted time being lost (oops), we didn't make it as far down the Cumberland Trail as I'd hoped. However, at 2.5 miles into the overall hike, there is a fantastic picnic spot overlooking Broad Camp Creek. At this point, the Cumberland Trail passes under a large, overhanging rock outcrop. Sit here to enjoy a snack in the shade and look out over the creek. It was still very cold during our excursion, so we also got to admire giant icicle structures clinging to the rock face.

Overall, I really enjoyed this hike, even if it was not what we intended to do. Plus, I learned two valuable lessons. First, always cross-reference your sources to ensure the trail you plan to hike is correct, especially when utilizing a review-based website like AllTrails. Second, always bring emergency equipment for a day hike in case you get lost. Fortunately we were not in serious trouble, but if we had become legitimately lost, we probably did not bring enough gear to deal with an emergency. I recommend packing extra layers, extra food and a whistle at the very least. If you plan to hike or backpack regularly, you may also want to invest in a GPS messenger or personal locator beacon.

In late December, Bryant and Elise Hawkins, recent Chattanooga transplants, kicked off a yearlong hiking project. Every week, they choose a different trail, varying in length and difficultly and located within one hour of Chattanooga, to hike and review.

Bryant is a photojournalist, whose works has appeared in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other places. Elise is currently working on a Master of Education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Together, the adventure enthusiasts hope to discover the region's endless outdoor opportunities.

Bryant and Elise Hawkins

Bryant and Elise Hawkins

Photo by Bryant Hawkins

Meet Bryant and Elise

In late December, Bryant and Elise Hawkins, recent Chattanooga transplants, kicked off a yearlong hiking project. Every week, they choose a different trail, varying in length and difficultly and located within one hour of Chattanooga, to hike and review.

Bryant is a photojournalist, whose works has appeared in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other places. Elise is currently working on a Master's of Education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Together, the outdoor enthusiasts hope to discover the region's endless outdoor opportunities.

You can follow the Hawkins' hiking adventures by "liking" Get Out Chattanooga on Facebook, where we share their write-ups every Friday.

Have a trail suggestion for the Hawkins? Email them at info@bryanthawkins.com.