cloudhiking - maps and adventure guides

Site Links


Contact Us









Friends' Links

Appalachia & Beyond

Family Wilds


Marking My Territory

Outcast Hikers


196 Big Creek Loop 2010-03-01

Stone Door Overlook

With near perfect weather on Saturday we headed to Savage Gulf Natural Area, part of the South Cumberland State Park. Our drive to the Park was uneventful, but as we chatted we drove past Exit 127 and had to go all the way to Monteagle before we could exit I-24.

Back on course we continued north along Hwy 56 to Beersheba Springs and then on to the trailhead. The detour only cost us about a half an hour. We started walking a bit before 11.

We were hiking to Stone Door, Big Creek Gulf, Ranger Falls, Big Creek Rim, and back to Stone Door. There were lots of trails but a little less than ten miles.

The first part of the trail to Stone Door is paved. It is not a bike path, but a wheelchair accessible trail to the Laurel Gulf Overlook. Where the pavement ends the mud began. The frost and thaw had left the trail with a shim of slick mud. It was not bad walking, but we slowed down to keep from taking a mud bath.

where the pavement ends

After a short stop at the Stone Door Overlook we were on the trail again descending through the Door. From the Door long switchbacks through a slope of rock slabs and boulders lead to the junction with the Connector Trail. Going right, it was a short hike to Big Creek.

At the junction with Ranger Falls we met three backpackers who were carrying big, heavy looking packs. We talked a bit and then continued to Ranger Falls. The falls is located about .40 miles off of the trail. It is a worthy hike.

icy Ranger Falls

Back on the Big Creek Gulf Trail we looked for a side trail to the Big Creek Sink but never found it. We were however in walking, not exploring mode.

When the trail starts the climb out of the Gulf you will know it. Starting up steep root steps and wooden stairs, the trail joins an old road. The steeply graded road continues to Alum Gap. A nice creek and cascade is to the side of the road. On a warmer day it would have been a necessary rest stop.

At Alum Gap we met the three backpackers we had talked to at the Ranger Falls Junction. They verified that the steep road was indeed steep.

In the afternoon it began to cool so we tried to throttle our pace to match the temperature. The Big Creek Rim Trail wove from overlooks to creek crossings. Contouring at an easy grade the trail added distance for the sake of the gentle slope.

Rim Trail overlook

The overlooks had great views of the Gulf. The trees has a soft hue.

Soon we recognized the cliffs of Stone Door and rejoined the path leading back to the trailhead.

We returned to the Ranger Station before four, about five hours total.

A few trail notes…

  • Most of the trails were easy to follow. A few sections leading through the boulder area below Stone Door were not very trail-like. Look for the blazes.
  • Trail signs are at every junction.
  • The Big Creek Trail makes couple of climb away from the creek; but then rejoins it.
  • Never throw rocks off the top of a cliff. We didn’t have trouble with rock throwers, but there were warning signs at the top of Stone Door.
  • All of the overlooks are exposed. The trail leads next to the cliff’s edge. Keep children in tow.
  • We didn’t see any litter.
  • There was lots of water along the trails. I would definitely treat, boil, filter or purify it.
  • The trail to Ranger Falls follows a dry creek bed. The creek goes into a sink at the falls.
  • The Alum Gap campsite had quite a few campers. One remarked that it was really cold at night.
  • The heated restrooms at the trailhead are quite lush!
  • Maps and water are also available at the trailhead.
  • There is a register at the trailhead for hikers.

We really enjoyed this hike. It was just hard enough to be challenging without being grueling and the scenery was great.


Happ Big Creek trails.


Name (required):

Comment (required):

Please Introduce Secure Code: