Where to explore in South Cumberland State Park (Sponsored Content)

Photo by Adam Johnson / Climbers at Denny Cove.
Photo by Adam Johnson / Climbers at Denny Cove.

As the weather grows cooler and the holidays offer time to be together with friends and family, there is no better place to get out and enjoy the peaceful beauty of a Tennessee winter than South Cumberland State Park. Just a short drive from Chattanooga, this area provides scenic and recreational opportunities to explore for novices and experts alike.

South Cumberland State Park

South Cumberland State Park's nine separate areas sprawl over four Tennessee counties: Grundy; Franklin; Marion; and Sequatchie. The park boasts tons of activities like hiking, picnicking, backcountry camping, fishing, rock climbing and more. The South Cumberland Plateau, with its unique and varying topography, is considered one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet, providing habitat for a variety of rare and endangered plant and animal species. While the time for fall foliage has just passed (mark your calendars for next year!), the park is home to numerous deciduous tree species, such as the sugar maple, buckeye, basswood, and Tennessee's state tree, the tulip poplar, all of which produce stunning fall colors in a range of reds, oranges and yellows.

Fiery Gizzard Trail

The Fiery Gizzard Trail and surrounding area are considered one of the most intact, biologically diverse, natural landscapes remaining in the eastern United States. Every month, thousands of visitors hike the 13-mile trail to see unique sandstone formations, flowing waterfalls and breathtaking panoramic vistas. Backpacker Magazine has rated it one of the best hiking trails in the U.S. The Land Trust for Tennessee has partnered with private landowners, other conservation groups and Tennessee State Parks to protect more than 8,300 acres in the Fiery Gizzard Conservation area. This iconic Tennessee trail is not to be missed!

Denny Cove

Located just down the road from the Fiery Gizzard Trail, Denny Cove is a 685-acre landmark that has been hailed as one of the premiere rock climbing destinations in Tennessee. While climbers can pick from 150 exciting climbing routes on the almost three miles of cliffs, there is also plenty to experience on the hiking trail with numerous scenic overlooks and a 70-foot waterfall. Once a property belonging to a timber investment company, Denny Cove is now protected through a partnership among the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, The Conservation Fund, The Land Trust for Tennessee and Access Fund. The cove was dedicated as a part of the South Cumberland State Park in 2017.

Sherwood Forest

For those looking for a more leisurely hike that is suitable for all skill levels, the 2.75-mile Sherwood Forest Loop fits the bill. Nestled in the 3,075 acres of the Sherwood Forest State Natural Area, this trail offers the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful vistas and views down into Lost Cove and the Crow Creek Valley. This trail is also a great destination for bird watchers. In 2016, The Land Trust for Tennessee and The Conservation Fund partnered to purchase the property from a private mining company. The property was later transferred to the state and incorporated into South Cumberland State Park and the Franklin State Forest.

When looking to get out and explore the outdoors this winter with family and friends, South Cumberland State Park is an option that holds something for everyone, just outside of Chattanooga!

Partnerships Key to Conservation Successes

Strong partnerships have allowed for the protection and expansion of South Cumberland State Park as a public recreational space for generations to come. In 2008, The Land Trust for Tennessee and State Parks worked together on their first joint acquisition near the Fiery Gizzard Trail in South Cumberland State Park. Since then, The Land Trust has helped Tennessee State Parks and the Division of Natural Areas to add over 18,000 acres to 17 of Tennessee's most beloved public open spaces. They continue to work together to protect critical tracts of land for the state's parks and natural areas, urban and rural alike, across Tennessee.

"When we work with The Land Trust for Tennessee, it is not a one-size-fits-all situation," says Jim Bryson, Tennessee deputy commissioner for parks and conservation department. "They're able to build relationships with landowners that make meaningful, lasting things happen for public access to open space across Tennessee. We couldn't do this work without them."

For more information about The Land Trust for Tennessee and their work in the South Cumberland State Park, visit LandTrustTN.org. To explore the South Cumberland State Park, visit TNStateParks.com/parks/south-cumberland.

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