South Cumberland State Park
11745 US 41
Monteagle , TN 37356
Stone Door: 931-692-3887
Savage Gulf: 931-779-3532
Hiking may be the most appealing aspect of South Cumberland State Park. The park includes some of the most noted hiking trails in the country including:
Buggytop Cave-A Cool Hike for a Hot Day
Beginner Backpacking Hike to Horsepound Falls
**Detailed trail maps are available in the park office.
Enjoy yourself but remember to protect the trail features and the rights of other visitors. Take pride in knowing that no one could tell you have used the trail after your visit. If you see something on the trail that needs repair, please inform the Visitor Center or a Ranger.
Visitors to Buggytop Cave should take special care to provide for all cave trips, and never explore the cave alone. Wear protective clothing, bring multiple light sources and a helmet. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Beginners are encouraged to contact the visitors center to arrange for a ranger to accompany their group and interpret the cave environment. Remember, safety comes first when planning a rewarding backcountry outing.
Hunting: During late November, December and early January, Big Game Hunting is allowed on the Private Property which portions of the trails traverse. Hikers during this period should wear 500 sq. in. of blaze orange and hike with caution.
Litter: The trails are operated on a carry-in carry-out trash policy. All disposable items that you carry onto the trail should be packed out. If anyone before you has been careless enough to leave litter along the trail, you are encouraged to carry it out.
Motor Vehicles: Motorized vehicles, both two- and four-wheeled, are prohibitied on area trails. Horses, bicycles, and pack stock are also prohibited on hiking trails.
Other Rules: Firearms, fireworks, axes, hatchets, alcoholic beverages and drugs are not allowed on the park area or trails. Dogs and other pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
Carved like a giant crow foot into the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau, the Savage Gulf State Natural Area is one of Tennessees most scenic state outdoor recreation areas. At a length of five miles each, the Big Creek, Collins River and Savage Creeks tumble down over 800 feet in elevation through narrow gorges, locally known as "Gulfs." Rimmed by sheer sandstone cliffs, the rugged canyons offer the hardy visitor a fine glimpse of the true wilderness still remaining in our States midsection.
The rocks which make up the Cumberland Plateau were laid down 250 to 325 million years ago. During that warm tropical period, shallow seas advanced and retreated across the land, and the landscape was a profuse growth of swamp forests which were later buried by advancing seas. Today the vegetative remains of these swamp forests form the coal seams visible at the 1800 foot elevation. The fossils found in the park bear mute witness to the ancient animals and plants which once called this area their home.
The Stone Door was used for centuries by the Indians as a passage way from the top of the escarpment into the gorges below. Like a giant door left ajar, the crack is 10 feet wide and 100 feet deep. The spectacular cliffs offer one of the best scenic overlooks in Tennessee. Big Creek, 750 feet below the overlook, mysteriously disappears and reappears as it cuts its way thru the diverse layers of limestone and shale. All of the larger streams flow underground before reaching their mouths, making dry streambeds a common feature. But, during periods of heavy rainfall, these streams can become swift and treacherous torrents, so flash flooding is a very real danger. At the heads of the gorges the streams drop off the hard caprock in breathtaking waterfalls. Greeter Falls on Firescald Creek near Altamont drops over a 15-foot upper ledge and then plummets over a 50-foot lower ledge into a cold, clear plunge pool. Savage Creek enters its gorge over the cascades and a 30-foot drop of Savage Falls. Collins River and Ranger Creek have disappearing waterfalls, deep in the gorges, these streams drop over limestone ledges and flow into sinks.
Logging has occurred in some sections of the gorges, but the forests are recovering rapidly. The forests of the area abound with oaks, hickories, maples, yellow poplars, hemlocks, pines and many other species of trees. Beneath the forest canopy is a vast array of shrubs, vines, wildflowers, mosses and ferns which rival the flora of the Great Smoky Mountains in number and variety. Wildflowers peak between April and mid-May.
Animal life is abundant at Savage Gulf. Many species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians are found in the diverse habitats of the area. Squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and skunks can be seen. The skilled woodlorist can expect to find deer, bobcats, fox, grouse, and to hear the cry of the hawk and owl. A word to the wise: This is rattler and copperhead country, so it is a good idea to stay on the trails.
Savage Gulf was designated in 1973 by the Tennessee State Legislature as a Class II Natural Scientific Area. Development in a Class II Natural Area is restricted to foot trails, foot bridges, and overlooks. Access points will be from the Ranger Station just north of Savage Creek and the Ranger Station at the Stone Door. The trail system in the Savage Gulf Natural Area has been developed to enable the hiker to walk through and view the resource, but reduces to a minimum the impact that will be made on the area. This will help to preserve the area for future generations.