If you’re interested in taking the family for an easy & fun hike to see a waterfall, then visit the Frozen Head State Park – near Wartburg, Tennessee. The scenic 20-foot tall Emory Gap Falls is only a 3 mile out and back hike, and you’ll also pass Debord Falls along the trail.
Like many waterfalls on the Cumberland Plateau, the best time to visit is when there’s water present. This was my second trip to the falls; though autumn foliage was gone, by comparison, recent rainfall bolstered the volume of water flowing.
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I recently hiked four miles with a friend along the Point Trail at Obed Wild And Scenic River, near Wartburg Tennessee, situated on a ridge between the Obed River and Clear Creek. Though autumn foliage was passed-peak, there were several scenic views, especially Jack Rock Falls. See map of Obed.
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I recently visited Emory Gap Falls, a 20′ waterfall located at Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee, enjoying a pleasant autumn afternoon along my three-mile (roundtrip) hike. The trail also passed by a waterfall known as Debord Falls – more on that another time.
The trailhead is located at the end of the park, where the road stops at a parking area. It’s a half-mile hike to Debord Falls, and another one-mile until you’ll reach Emory Gap Falls. Initially, the trail is wide with good footing and limited changes in elevation. Follow the signs, and don’t cross the bridge –
The trail follows two streams – Panther Branch & Emory Gap Branch. At one point, it changes direction, leading up hill and away from the water. While this seems counter intuitive, hikers should follow the signs to stay on track –
Here are a few images which I photographed while hiking along the trail –
The trail eventually rejoined the stream, sounds of which grew louder as I approached the waterfall. As seen below, my first views of Emory Gap Falls –
Emory Gap Falls
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Observing a sign while driving along TN-298 S, I followed a narrow road down a long hill with several steep switchback turns. At the base was parking, restrooms and an old stairway leading toward the water. So, I began to hike along a leaf-covered trail parallel to the river.
After approx. 1/2 mile, I came to a clearing with some wonderful views of a rock-strewn waterway, featuring autumn colors reflecting across the river:
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Photograph (above, modified) & information (below) from placard located on site.
After the Civil War, saw and grist mills emerged in Tennessee’s Morgan and Cumberland counties. Corn meal, flour, logs, and other goods from the early lumber and pulp industries were shipped along this bridge.
The Cincinnati Southern Railway was built across the Cumberland Plateau here at Nemo in the 1870s. It became part of the Southern Railway system in the late 1890s. Many small extensions like the Catoosa Railroad were built to tap timber, coal, and other natural resources.
The epic flood of 1929 destroyed the means by which workers made a living, ripping up railway lines and washing away virtually every mill and building in its path – just as America sank into the Great Depression.
I recently visited Wartburg, Tennessee, where I enjoyed a 5 mile (roundtrip) hike along the Nemo Bridge Trail to Alley Ford. Located in the Obed Wild And Scenic River National Park, the trailhead begins at the Rock Creek Campground and continues 14.2 miles to the distant Devils Breakfast Table.
The hike to Alley Ford is rated as moderately difficult with several changes in elevation. There is also a very rocky downhill section of the trail near the end which requires deliberate footing. It was a cold 30-degrees when I began the hike, along which I encountered layers of rain-soaked leaves, creating slippery conditions and, periodically, effectively camouflaging the trail.
Along the way I enjoyed seeing many different sandstone cliffs, colorful autumn foliage, a large group of wild turkeys, and, at the end, the Obed River. Due to recent rains, though, many of the river-rocks otherwise visible at Alley Ford were covered in water.
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I recently enjoyed hiking to the Lilly Bluff Overlook at Obed Wild And Scenic River National Park, located near Wartburg, Tennessee. Following my visit to Northrup Falls (Allardt, Tennessee), this was a relatively easy hike to undertake along my return drive home. I enjoyed sweeping views from the high rock outcrop of Lilly Bluff, sheer cliffs, the “Jack Rock” waterfall and scenic views of Clear Creek.
There’s so much to see & I’m looking forward to hiking more trails in the park!
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Frozen Head State Park is situated in the beautiful Cumberland Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. The mountainous terrain varies from an elevation of 1,340 feet to over 3,000 feet on 16 different mountain peaks, with 13,122 acres of relatively undisturbed forest containing some of the richest wildflower areas in the state (better viewed during summer months).
A short 45-minute drive from Knoxville, Tennessee, I recently visited the park to hike the Chimney Top Trail, a steep, rugged trail with giant sandstone caprock and natural vista. It’s a 3.5 mile trek to the top with a total gain in elevation of 3,460 feet, as hikers ascend two separate mountains along the trail. Total time: 6 hours.
Here’s part of the Frozen Head State Park map featuring the Chimney Top Trail:
There were several points of interest along the hike, including the following:
Layers of Sandstone
Rocks Near Top
The challenges to this hike were several. First, the distance: 3.5 miles each way. Second, the mind – that is, after hiking up a mountain for 50 minutes, it’s somewhat discouraging to then be faced with having to hike down the backside, losing gains in elevation, only to then be greeted by an even taller mountain. Lastly, the finish: towards the top, hikers encounter the trail’s only flat surface along a ridge; however, this is short-lived, as the final stretch is by far the most difficult.
During this final stretch, glimpses on the rocky top can be seen through the forest:
Hikers must climb the sandstone caprock using one of several pathways, in order to enjoy the wonderful view from the peak of Chimney Top Mountain – seen here:
Chimney Top Mountain
View of Bird Mountain
This is a topographic computer simulation of Bird Mountain, as seen from the top of Chimney Top Mountain, provided in the park map:
Finally, I shot this panoramic video with my iPhone as I walked across the caprock:
Make sure you carry a walking stick, and…
Enjoy the Cumberland Mountains!
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