5.30.09: Fiery Gizzard Trail, Monteagle TN

Waterfalls, gorges, breathtaking views, streams, forests and boulders the size of houses.  This trail has it all. The Fiery Gizzard Trail has been rated as one of the best in the Southeastern United States and one of the most challenging in all of Tennessee. 13 grueling miles encompassing about 1000 feet in elevation change…and the verdict is…this trail really is AMAZING.   The views, gorges, waterfalls, streams and forest are totally worth the strenuous hike.  We spent roughly 9 hours on the trail and I’m completely worn out, but again, totally worth it.  This hike is difficult and I would not recommend it for beginners or young kids (unless they are getting a free ride in a backpack!). Since I’m too tired to think, much less type, here are some descriptions and pictures.  Seriously, my arms and hands are still shaking in agony.  Oh, and The River Monster did awesome and really enjoyed the day.  We made sure he had plenty of play time where he could get in the water and run on the trail.  He’s still talking about the “wawa” (waterfalls):

Description of the trail from FSCSRA:

This thirteen mile one-way trail features cascading streams, numerous waterfalls, panoramic overlooks, extremely rocky gorges, gentle slopes and lush woodlands.  This trail is one of the most diverse and beautiful in the state and has been ranked as one of the top twenty-five backpacking trails in the U.S. by Backpacker Magazine.

Description taken from the map:

 This trail is perhaps one of the most divers and beautiful in Tennessee. The section which starts at the Grundy Forest Natural Area picnic shelter and climbs the plateau to Raven Point is possibly on of the most rugged and difficult trails in Tennessee.  The terrain in the gorge is steep and extremely rocky.  The millions of rocks you must step on, or across, all seem to move as you step on them, making the footing very precarious.  The section from Raven Point to Foster Falls is a completely different sort of experience.  A full 90 % of this section is on the easy terrain of gentle slopes and flatness on top of the Cumberland Plateau.  An exception to this is the 10 % which crosses Laurel Branch Gorge.  The trail drops precipitously into theis 200′-deep tributary of Little Gizzard Creek and climbs very steeply out after fording the rocky stream.


We actually began our hike at Foster Falls and ended the trail at Grundy Forest.  I prefer it this way as my favorite section is the part leading to Grundy forest…the portion towards Foster Falls is a bit boring in my opinion.  It’s always nice to finish on a high note 😉






Ooh, nice view:


Hey honey, watch your step:



Splash break:


The lunch stop:


After about 10 miles and 1000 feet in elevation change, we had to take a break to rest our feet and to cool off.

Ahrg, urhg..uh, oooh…


…ahhhhhh, spring fed creek water (read: cold) feels nice and numbing…


We continued onward with one motivation in mind…the upcoming blue hole that happens to be an awesome swimming spot.



 Taking a break:


Could there have been a more goofy picture of me?  Whatever, I’ll take what I can get since I’m the one normally behind the camera:


The swimming hole, FI-NAL-LY:


At the top of Foster Falls:



Wow.  Now THAT was a hike. I’ll be adding this one to the “take a hike” tab.  Now, I need to go lie down with a cold drink :)

8 thoughts on “5.30.09: Fiery Gizzard Trail, Monteagle TN

  1. Lori

    that hike looks incredible!! :^D

    (and i thought that picture of you was great! :^)

    we won’t be taking any 13-mile hikes, unfortunately — the boys aren’t up to that grueling of an outing. even with waterfalls. we have a propensity for getting accidentally off-trail and/or missing our “wimpy people now loop back” signs, so they’ve taken a few long hikes — one with a lot of stairs that my older son will never forget and still makes him break out in a cold sweat when someone says h-i-k-e. ;^) (we say w-a-l-k!)

    i have those same keens and i love them for everything outdoors!

  2. Ratty

    I love the name of this trail. I lived in Tennessee for a few years when I was a kid. It was probably the best time of my life, and it was because of the nature all around us. It was probably where I first developed my love of nature.

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  5. Scott May

    You took some great pics. I spend the summers in near by Monteagle, TN and have enjoyed the South Cumberland Rec Area for a lifetime. Did you know SCRA is mostly on private land and made possible by the Friends of SCRA group? You should think about joining and helping out. It is very rewarding.


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