Tennessee's South Cumberland Plateau towers 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain.
At the highest point of elevation between Chicago and Miami exists a land of enchantment, unparalleled natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.
Passersby traveling along the I-24 corridor between Nashville and Chattanooga seldom realize the treasure trove of adventures at their disposal atop the South Cumberland Plateau. The area is home to one of the largest state parks, the oldest family-owned bakery and one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls in Tennessee. As colorful as its fall foliage is the community, which was forged by earlier generations of Scotch-Irish and Swiss immigrants, coal miners and entrepreneurs who shared one common characteristic: grit.
Tennessee's South Cumberland offers something for everyone. Within an hour, you can get your homemade moonshine cakes at the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City, explore the coal mining coke ovens at Grundy Lakes and go for a refreshing dip in the waters of Foster Falls. History buffs might prefer to spend their day on a scenic country drive between the 23 sites in Grundy County and Sewanee listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, they can even sleep at these sites if they happen to have a reservation at the Beersheba Springs Assembly, DuBose Conference Center or Monteagle Sunday School Assembly.
The next time you approach the Mountain, take the turnoff at exit 127, 134 or 135 toward adventure. You may just fall in love and never leave. I know from experience.
1. South Cumberland and Savage Gulf State Parks
Beersheba Springs, Altamont, Gruetli-Laager, Tracy City, Monteagle and Sewanee, TN
Descend the 10-foot-wide Great Stone Door during a 2-mile, round-trip
hike from Savage Gulf State Park's Savage Gulf North trailhead.
Adrenaline junkies have the finest rock climbing opportunities at Denny Cove, Foster Falls at South Cumberland State Park. At nearby Savage Gulf State Park, there's Stone Door, Savage and Suter Falls. Additionally, those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground are not in want of hiking opportunities. There are over 150 miles of hiking and backpacking trails at the state park and on the Domain of the University of the South. The crowning glory of the trail system is the 12.5-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail, rated one of the top 25 trails in the United States by Backpacker magazine and not for the faint of heart.
2. The Caverns
The Caverns in Pelham, Tennessee.
Music aficionados flock from all 50 states and abroad to see the greatest show under the earth in Pelham. The venue hosts a breadth of artists ranging from the SteelDrivers to "Weird Al" Yankovic, and cave tours are available seven days a week.
3. The Smoke House Patio Grill
Smoke House Patio Grill in Monteagle, Tennessee.
Hot food, cold beer and music from the best artists and songwriters in Nashville make the Smoke House the place to be on the weekend. Friday show; 6:30 p.m.; Saturday show; 4:30 p.m. (happy hour), 6:30 p.m. (main show), 8:30p.m. (songwriter show).
4. Coalmont OHV Park
Coalmont OHV Park in Coalmont, Tennessee.
The first city-owned off-highway vehicle park in Tennessee is set to officially open this April. Explore 1,347 acres and over 35 miles of scenic and varied terrain. For a weekend getaway, RV camping options are available on-site.
5. Bigfoot Adventure
Tracy City, TN
Bigfoot Adventure in Tracy City, Tennessee.
Opportunities for hiking, biking, RV camping and fishing (not to mention zip lines and disk golf!) make 500-acre Bigfoot Adventure a perfect mountain getaway for the entire family. The location is an ideal home base for those wishing to explore South Cumberland State Park.