Tennessee River Gorge Trust's new campsites offer amenities, hiking, bouldering and more

Photo contributed by Eliot Berz/ Campsites are marked with wooden signs along the new extension trail.

What do Eagle Scouts, giant sandstone boulders and the Tennessee River Gorge Trust have in common?

They all came together to help form three new campsites near River Canyon Road.

The Pot Point Boulder Field campground opened in fall, but Eliot Berz, director of conservation and access for the trust, says that the new sites are already popular. Spots on the online reservation calendar have been filling up.

"We wanted to make it a beginner-friendly experience for those who haven't gone backpacking before," says Berz. The three campsites are all completely new, connected by a trail extension to the Pot Point nature loop - only a 1.4-mile hike from the parking lot to the campsites. The campground is accessible from the Pot Point Nature Loop and Ritchie Hollow Trailhead, with the trailhead located at 17805 River Canyon Road.

The sites were made possible by the Lyndhurst Foundation, Chattanooga Hiking Club, Black Creek of Chattanooga community and local Eagle Scout Ansel Brasel, who helped to build the third campsite as part of his Eagle Scout project. And they each have plenty of amenities, including a raised area for pitching tents, fire pits and picnic tables. Berz says there are plans for a composting privy, too.

Campers can come enjoy hiking, birdwatching, climbing and bouldering at these new sites. Part of what makes these sites special is the partnership that the Tennessee River Gorge Trust made with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition to develop over 30 bouldering sites at the campground. Berz thinks they're the coolest feature of the space.

"These towering, giant boulders are scattered throughout the terrace that the campground is on. They're made out of these extraordinary pieces of sandstone that over millennia have fallen from the bluff above. They're fun to hike around and have kids play on," says Berz.

As with all camping reservations through the trust, it's free to reserve a spot at these new sites. According to its website, there is a 10-day stay maximum at all of its campsites, including these new ones, with a maximum of eight campers allowed per site. A permit is required to camp at the Lower Pot Point, but the form for that permit can be easily filled out online a day in advance of your excursion.

Berz hopes that this project will help get more people outdoors. Already the campsite and new trail extension have been attracting trail runners, birdwatchers and climbers.

"The amenities make it a user-friendly experience," he says. "It's fantastic for anyone who enjoys backpacking, from the first-timer to families," adding that the area offers some beautiful scenic views, and that watchful hikers and campers will notice the fun, old moonshine stills along the trail.