Grundy Forest Natural Area

Driving southeast on Interstate 24, one encounters the first ridges of the Appalachian Plateau (known in Tennessee as the Cumberland Plateau) about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga.  The highway soon climbs onto one of those ridges at Monteagle, a pleasant town that provides close access to many components of the South Cumberland Recreation Area; established in 1973, this Recreation Area consists of ten State Parks and Natural Areas scattered across the ridge.

After discussion of dayhike opportunities with a staff member at the Visitor Center (about 4.5 miles from Monteagle on U.S. 41 South), we settled on the Gundy Forest Natural Area, just southeast of Tracy City.  A two mile trail loop leads down to Big Fiery Gizzard Creek, broken by scenic rapids and cascades and hemmed in by its spectacular limestone gorge.  Giant slump blocks, having broken from the walls, lie in or near the stream and massive Canadian hemlocks, relics from the Pleistocene, rise within the creekside forest.  Before ascending back to the parking area above Little Fiery Gizzard Creek, we hiked further south along the main branch to Sycamore Falls and Chimney Rock; the entire 3.2 mile hike took about 2 hours to complete (including stops for photos and wildlife observation; the latter included a copperhead snake on rocks above the creek).

Before leaving the area, we also visited Foster Falls, a 60-foot cascade 8 miles southeast of Tracy City and the Sewanee Natural Bridge, 2.5 miles south of Sewanee via Route 56 (about 8 miles south of Monteagle).  My next post will cover our visit to Lookout Mountain, which rises above Chattanooga and extends southwestward into Georgia and Alabama.