Tennessee: Ice As Art

In winter, the glasslike menagerie of icicles in the Cumberland Plateau will send a chill down your spine.
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In winter, the glasslike menagerie of icicles in the Cumberland Plateau will send a chill down your spine.

When a deep chill grips the Cumberland Plateau on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, Old Man Winter picks up his sculptor's tools and creates a frozen wonderland. Above every rocky bluff and over each secluded alcove, water slowly seeping into the frigid air forms long icicle bands delicately suspended from sheer sandstone cliffs.

After a few consecutive days of freezing temperatures, I like to hit the trails at Pickett State Park and the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, both located in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau. The lush forests hide a rugged landscape of canyons, cliffs, waterfalls, and stone arches.

The 10-mile Hidden Passage Loop in Pickett State Park and the adjacent 7-mile Rock Creek Loop in the Big South Fork hug the base of the caprock that forms the Cumberland Plateau. These trails are prime for viewing the icy tendrils that grace the plateau's many rock formations.

The Cumberland Plateau is beautiful year-round. But in winter, the glasslike menagerie of icicles will send a chill down your spine.

Getting There:

The Big South Fork National Recreation Area and Pickett State Park are 15 and 25 miles, respectively, west of Oneida on TN 297 and 154.

Prime Time:

January, February.

Guides:

Hiking the Big South Fork, by Brenda Deaver, Jo Anna Smith, and Howard Duncan (University of Tennessee Press, 931-879-3625; $14.95).

Contact:

Pickett State Park, (931) 879-5821.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation

Area, (931) 879-3625; www.nps.gov/biso.