RITCHIE HOLLOW TRAIL
Distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Time: 2.5 hours
Traffic level: High
Highlights: Tennessee River views, Blowing Wind Falls, connection to other trails
Rating: 5/5 stars
With the help of donors, volunteers and the Southeast Conservation Corps, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust recently opened a new trail in Prentice Cooper State Forest. The Ritchie Hollow Trail connects the Tennessee River to existing Prentice Cooper State Forest trails, allowing hikers to access the Pot Point Loop and Cumberland Trail from River Canyon Road. While sections of the trail are strenuous, this short hike provides worthy views of Blowing Wind Falls and the Tennessee River for any adventurous hiker.
The trailhead is located at the gravel parking lot across from Pot Point Cabin. The first section of the hike is a moderate difficulty level, winding through the forest parallel to the river. There are a couple of creek crossings as well as small dips and climbs throughout the first mile. Make sure to keep an eye on the blue painted markers, because the trail quickly cuts away from the river.
As you complete the first mile, you move away from the river and climb deeper into the forest. The grade transitions toward a strenuous level at this point, so be prepared for an uphill push. You will recognize the shift when you approach a set of steep stone stairs. After the stairs, you then climb straight uphill about 170 yards. Unfortunately, we did not bring our trekking poles and definitely wished we had.
After the leg-burning ascent, you are rewarded with a marvelous waterfall at approximately 1.5 miles in. While the main trail veers to the left, a short offshoot trail leads down to the falls for a closer look. If you're hiking this trail in the winter months, be aware of sharp icicles overhead as you make your way to the falls.
If you want to pursue a longer hike to Snoopers Rock on the Cumberland Trail or connect with the Pot Point Loop, continue ahead for approximately 0.7 miles. This final section of the trail is moderate, winding through beautiful hardwood forest. If you want to keep the hike short and sweet, turn back at the waterfall to complete 3 miles round-trip. Hiking just to the trail junction itself is anticlimactic.
Overall, I really enjoyed the brand-new Ritchie Hollow Trail. The trailhead is easy to access from River Canyon Road, the hike is challenging, and the views are worth it. I look forward to linking up this hike with other trails in the future.
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 outdoor enthusiasts hope to discover the region's endless outdoor opportunities.
You can follow the Hawkinses' hiking adventures by "liking" Get Out Chattanooga on Facebook, where we share their write-ups every Friday.
Have a trail suggestion for the Hawkinses? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.