(Last Updated On: December 2, 2022)
Head of the Sequatchie with Views of Hinch Mountain at Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park

Head of the Sequatchie with Views of Hinch Mountain at Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. Photo: Park Facebook Page.

Just imagine what a trail made by experienced hikers would look like. That is Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. It offers trail lovers every experience they could ever dream of in the most sustainable way.

You get to experience the US in a way you never have before without harming any natural flora or wildlife. It is an experience of a lifetime. The trail links State Park lands, State Natural Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, and National Parks.

Cumberland Trail State Park follows the line of pristine high ridges and deep gorges along Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau. This was designed by hikers for hikers with sustainability in mind.

It is a single-file back-country trail that also forms part of the Great Eastern Trail running through more remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains.

One of the special things about this trail is that it gives hikers access to areas that have been preserved due to their natural or scenic beauty. These areas wouldn’t be otherwise accessible so you get to experience a rare wilderness that isn’t all too common in the US.

Cumberland trail is mainly rugged and runs through sparsely populated ridge lines. The trail was uniquely designed by hikers for you to enjoy spectacular views and drinking water resources that would be usually hard to find. As the trail dips into gorges, you will find swimming holes and waterfalls.

Cumberland trail was designed to minimize potential negative environmental impact on any endangered species, sensitive wildlife and their habits, and any unique aquatic or terrestrial habitats.

Park History

This incredible trail runs through 11 Tennessee counties and two time zones. Before the State Park, the Cumberland Trail was established as a State Scenic Trail in 1971. It became the 53rd Tennessee state park in 1998.

Then in 2002, the state park was renamed after Justin P. Wilson to honor his work in the completion of the magnificent 11-country corridor. Wilson served as Tennessee’s Deputy Governor from 1996-2003. In 2009, Wilson served as Tennessee’s 34th Comptroller. He went ahead to serve six terms until January 13, 2021. He now serves as Comptroller Emeritus within the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.

What’s incredibly impressive about the Cumberland trail is that its construction process was supported by many organizations and volunteer groups. The acquisition of the land, subsequent construction, and maintenance of the trail were funded and supported in partnership with the Cumberland Trails Conference, the Friends of the Cumberland Trail, and other 501c3 organizations and volunteer groups.

Once completed, the Cumberland Trail will encompass over 330 miles. Of the over 330 miles, 185 miles and 41 trailheads will be open for public use.

This incredible trail offers hiking, rock climbing, and spectacular beauty. If you need to be in nature after spending days on months in the concrete jungle, this is the place to visit. The routes are specially made for hikers and rock climbers and along the way, you get to see some incredible waterfalls and swimming holes.

Activities

For hiking devotees, this Cumberland Trail State Park is the ultimate place to visit. The park offers you one of the most iconic trails that access areas that would usually not be open to the public. The main activities in the park are hiking, rock climbing, and a visit to the head of Sequatchie.

Visiting the Head of Sequatchie

Head of Sequatchie is a picturesque area in the Cumberland Trail State Park that’s known for its serene and beautiful environment. The area is named after the headwaters of the Sequatchie River and prides itself in serving pristine beauty, history, and hiking. It looks like a paradise frozen in a snapshot.

The head of Sequatchie is open every day from 9 am central time. On weekdays, it closes at 4:30 pm while on weekends it opens until 5 pm central time.

There is an easy to moderate half-mile Falcon Warrior Trail here which starts at the source of the Sequatchie River. The Falcon Warrior Trail then meanders gently to an overlook of Devilstep Hollow Cave. It passes through the Sherrill Cemetery where the first sheriff of Cumberland County Craven Sherrill rests.

These grounds also have trails used by the first European settlers and Native Americans. At the beginning of Sequatchie Valley, as it stretched into Alabama, there was a perfect place for outings, picnics, and gatherings of all kinds. This area is open and accessible to all every day of the week.

Rock Climbing

The Cumberland Trail State Park has rock climbing at Black Mountain, Deep Creek, and Laurel Snow. The Cumberland Trails span a large area some of which are rugged and hilly. It’s an ideal route if you want to add rock climbing to your hiking journey.

Ensure you read all the information regarding rock climbing on the trail prior to your visit. Make sure you register online or with the park management before you climb into Tennessee State Parks.

Hiking

As mentioned before, Cumberland Trail State Park is a trail designed and constructed by hikers for hikers. The routes are specially made to ensure that you enjoy hiking as much as possible and view as many sites as possible. Since the trails run along a ridge and gorges, there are several high points and descents which take you to waterfalls and swimming holes.

The trails also run through parts of untouched wilderness in the U.S. that you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
It is considered one of the best hiking trails in the U.S.

Here are the main trails in this state park:

  • Cumberland Mountain Segment: Difficult trail of 11.0 miles made of natural surface.
  • New River Segment: Moderate trails of 40 miles made of natural surface.
  • Frozen Head Segment: Moderate trail of 20 miles made of natural surface.
  • Obed Wild and Scenic River Segment: Difficult natural surface trail of 15 miles.
  • Grassy Cove Segment: Moderate natural surface trail of about 12 miles.
  • Stinging Fork Segment: This is a moderate trail of 3 miles that is made of natural surface.
  • Piney River Segment: A moderate trail of 8.5 miles made of natural surface.
  • Laurel-Snow Segment: This is a natural surface trail of about 9 miles mainly classified as moderate.
  • Rock Creek Section: This is a 9.6 miles trail mainly made of natural surface. The trail has been classified as moderate.
  • Possum Creek Section: This is a moderate trail of 9.5 miles. It is made of a natural surface.
  • North Chickamauga Segment: It’s 7.2 miles of natural surface trail. It has been classified as a moderate trail.
  • Tennessee River Gorge Segment: This is a moderate trail of 32 miles mainly made of natural surface.

Educational Programs

Like most state parks in Tennessee, the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State park offers educators learning opportunities for their students. The park provides your students with programs coordinated by a Park Ranger.

The programs have been made to be accessible and experiential in order to engage and educate students. You could pick one of the programs or curate one with the ranger that will suit your class.

Here are the programs offered by the Cumberland Trail State Park:

  • Field trips to the park
  • Ranger classroom or school yard visits
  • Custom programs

The Cumberland Trail offers programs that cover topics such as:

  • Natural History
  • General Biology
  • Regional History
  • Animal Adaptations & Keystone Species
  • Park Career Options

Park Location

Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park
220 Park Road
Caryville, TN 37714
Phone: 423.533.2928

Website

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video with some aerial footage of Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park: