Noteworthy Waterfall Hike In TAG
By Kelly Smallwood
Pisgah Gorge, Sand Mountain
Pisgah, Jackson County, Alabama
Number of waterfalls = 3+
Activities: Hiking, Waterfalls, Rappelling, Nature Appreciation
Easy to Difficult Hike
Sand Mountain is a plateau approximately 20 miles wide and 60 miles long. Atop the mountain, in the northeast corner of Alabama near the town of Pisgah there is a beautiful gorge that has been able to remain pristine for thousands of years. This gorge is known as Pisgah Gorge. It is here that three creeks form a canyon that run from the top of Sand Mountain and in just under two miles drops more than 1,000 feet into the Tennessee Rive at Jones Cove. It is unknown to many and it is seemingly one of the most beautiful natural areas in the state.
Access to the Gorge is through the Pisgah Civitan Park. The town of Pisgah is located off of SR-71 and can be accessed from the North via SR-117 or from the South via SR-35. From SR-71 take CR-58 and head North towards the town of Pisgah, turn left at the sign to the Pisgah Civitan Park. Once you make the turn a cemetery will be on your immediate right. Follow the road shortly until you reach the park on the left. If the gate is closed, you can park just outside of it. If the gate is open park inside with caution that you could get locked in! Walk in past the ball fields and you can access the trail behind the pavilion and picnic tables.
You will also immediately see a newly built amphitheater. It was built by the 7th & 8th grade science classes at Pisgah School. They received grants from Lowe’s “Toolbox for Education”, Representative John Robinson & the Jackson County Legislative Delegation, and University of Alabama’s “Science in Action” grant program to construct a community amphitheater at the park. Walk just beyond the amphitheater into the woods and you will find the trail that follows the rim of the canyon along Little Bryant Creek. It starts at an old dam site and then follows the rim of the canyon above three waterfalls, two of which are at least 100 feet. The trail ends at an inspiring overlook 150 feet above the canyon floor atop a rock bluff. From there you can look upstream to view the second waterfall or look far down the canyon toward the Tennessee River. This is an easy hike, suitable for most anyone except for the fact that the overlook has no protective barriers. Dogs are also welcome. If you stay on the trail it is approximately 1.5 miles roundtrip to do this portion of the hike.
If you are up to the challenge and a more strenuous hike, there is a steep trail leading down into the gorge before the overlook. When following the trail along rim just after you cross over a wooden footbridge you will see the faint trail leading down below. Please take note that the trail can be steep and slippery. You may also find that some rocks and boulders could easily become dislodged. If you decide to make the journey to the bottom of the canyon you will be highly rewarded. Once at the bottom you will immediately be at one of the waterfalls and can even hike back upstream to get a view of another or continue hiking off trail down stream to the Bryant and Little Bryant confluence that forms Jones Creek. After reaching the confluence, if you head further downstream on Jones Creek it will not be far before you find a small branch flowing down the side of the canyon. If you make your way up the side of the canyon you will reach a 4th waterfall. If the water is flowing it is well worth the effort to get to this point.
A few miles away, on the other side of Pisgah is another Alabama treasure of a different sort, Gorham's Bluff. One of America's top rated bed & breakfast lodges offers a spectacular view overlooking the Tennessee River Valley. They also rent cottages, offer gourmet dining and occasional entertainment in their amphitheater. If you are in the area it is worth it to stop by and check out the overlook.