Noteworthy Hike in TAG: Collins Gulf, Savage Gulf State Recreation Area

Noteworthy Hike in TAG by Kelly Smallwood

Collins Gulf, Savage Gulf State Recreation Area

Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Camping

Photography, Nature Appreciation, Caving

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

About South Cumberland State Park; Home of Savage Gulf, Stone Door & Fiery Gizzard Trail:

The Cumberland Plateau, the largest remaining forested plateau in the continental United States, is home to South Cumberland State Recreation Area. The wilderness park includes some of Tennessee's most diverse and spectacular scenery. Totaling over 24,000 acres, the South Cumberland is comprised of ten districts scattered over 100 square miles in Franklin, Marion, Grundy and Sequatchie counties, but is managed as a single park. A popular destination for hikers, numerous miles of trails and a number of primitive campgrounds service the area. In addition to hiking and camping, the park offers opportunities for picnicking, swimming, fishing, caving, visiting historic ruins, rock climbing and rappelling, viewing spectacular rock formations, wildlife and waterfalls.

Savage Gulf State Natural Area

This tract of about 18,000 acres contains some of the most spectacular natural rock formations in Tennessee. Purchased by the state in 1973 to protect one of the last known stands of virgin timber in the Eastern United States, Savage Gulf has over 55 miles of trails and nine primitive campgrounds. The Savage Gulf Ranger Station is the eastern access point to the Savage Gulf-Stone Door trail system that traverses the most rugged and scenic areas of the South Cumberland complex. The Stone Door Ranger Station is within the Savage Gulf area and is accessible off State Highway 56 near Beersheba Springs. It is named for the Great Stone Door, a 150-foot deep crevice at the crest of the Plateau. It is the western access for the Savage Gulf-Stone Door trails network.

Greeter Falls is part of the Savage Gulf Natural Area and located in the northeast corner of the South Cumberland complex, Greeter Falls features a day use trail that is part of the Savage Gulf trails network. The parking lot and trailhead are three miles from the town of Altamont and is just off Highway 56. Greeter Falls and Boardtree Falls are highlights within this strikingly beautiful area. Greeter Trail connects this section with Stone Door and other features within the Savage Gulf area.

The Collin's West Trailhead is an access point near the Swiss Memorial School in Gruetli-Laager. The parking lot is on 55th Avenue, about three miles south of State Highway 108. Collins Gulf is a spectacular area for spring woodland wildflowers.

My Trip: On Friday, February 5th, 2016 I decided to hike a portion of the Collin’s West Trail to Horsepound Falls. It is 2.5 miles each way from the trailhead to Horsepound Falls and never having visited before, I was not exactly sure what to expect. The trail did not disappoint. It had sandstone overlooks, waterfalls, numerous springs, house sized boulders and even a sinking river! This short five mile round trip was a great introduction to the Savage Gulf Recreation Area. I began at the Collins West Trailhead which is located of off 55th Avenue in Gruetli-Laager. From here it is a short quarter mile to the first waterfall, Suter Falls. When approaching the falls you make your way around the large sandstone bowl and eventually down and over a suspension bridge that made my husky Roxy quite nervous crossing! After Suter Falls, you begin a stretch that takes you over boulder fields and eventually you start making your way down the bluff with numerous switchbacks. The hike down is gradual and I did not find it very difficult on the way out. Once you begin to near the bottom you start to see the Collins River. Once you near Horsepound Falls, there is a short spur trail down to it. Shortly after the water goes over Horsepound Falls the majority of it sinks and there is another stream, Fall Creek that comes in just a few hundred feet further on the trail and also goes into a cave. As you can see per the maps of the area below, there are many options for hiking in the Savage Gulf. I look forward to spending more time in this area and will be planning a backpacking trip soon. To download a printable copy of the map, go to:

Horsepound Falls

Suter Falls