EXPEDITION PLANNER: Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail
Drive Time: The western and eastern trailheads are both about 30 minutes north of Chattanooga.
The Way: From I-24 in downtown Chattanooga, head north on US 27 (pay attention to highway numbers). For the eastern trailhead, take US 127 into the town of Signal Mountain and follow signs for the National Park Service’s Signal Mountain site. For the western trailhead, take TN 27 north and follow the signs for Prentice Cooper State Forest. Once in the forest, drive south on the gravel Tower Road to the signed trailhead.
Trails: This section of the Cumberland Trail (CT) is 13 miles (one way). The western end connects with the Mullens Cove and Pot Point loops in Prentice Cooper State Forest, where you’ll find an additional 22 miles of trail.
Elevation: The trail crosses North Suck Creek at 1,300 feet, then climbs to the western trailhead at 1,850 feet.
Can’t miss: Eye-popping views from Signal Point and Edwards Point across the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee River.
Crowd Control: Prentice Cooper State Forest and the CT west of TN 27 are closed on designated fall weekends for deer hunting. Check with either of the contacts listed below for details.
Guides: Hiking Tennessee Trails, by Evan Means (Globe Pequot Press, 888-249-7586; www.backpacker.com/bookstore; $12.95). Download a trail map from the Cumberland Trail Conference Web site (see Contact below); the CT is not yet shown on U.S. Geological Survey topo maps.
Walk Softly: Camping along the CT is permitted at designated sites only. Indian Rock House (at the western end of the trail) is a protected archaeological site.
Contact: Prentice Cooper State Forest, (423) 658-9201. Cumberland Trail Conference, (931) 456-6259; www.cumberlandtrail.org.