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Fall Creek Falls and Savage Gulf

The Basics:
Event Type:Hike
Event Location: Fall Creek Falls State park - Pikeville, TN   Hike: Fall Creek Falls and Savage Gulf  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Sat, Jul 20 2013  7:15 am >> Sun, Jul 21 2013 6:00 pm  (Carpool Departure: 7:15 am   *log in for location*)
Registration Opens: Mon, Jul 8 2013 8:28 pm
Registration Cut Off: Thu, Jul 18 2013 1:00 pm
Event Duration:1 Days 10 Hours 45 Minutes
Difficulty Rating:D5: Difficult
Trip Leader(s):
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:12
Minimum Group Size:4
Number Registered So Far: 14 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: No



Please read the ENTIRE event description; notes in the itinerary, Required to Bring, Recommended to Bring, and Additional Notes sections before signing up for this event.  There is important information to understand as well as options available.

This will be a fun filled weekend at two of the most scenic places in the Southeast.  We will spend Saturday exploring Fall Creek Falls State Park and Sunday at Savage Gulf - the two parks are only about 20 miles apart.

Fall Creek Falls State Park is a paradise of more than 20,000 acres sprawled across the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau.  It is a scenic and spectacular outdoor recreation area laced with cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams, lush stands of virgin hardwood timber.  It is home to the highest plunge (free fall) waterfall east of the Mississippi. While Fall Creek Falls, at 256 feet, is the highest waterfall in the eastern United States, there are many other spectacular waterfalls in the park including Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades.  This park was voted the best State Park in the Southeast by readers of Southern Living Magazine.

Savage Gulf is 15,590-acre natural area carved like a giant crowfoot into the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau; it is one of Tennessee's most scenic wilderness areas.  Its sheer sandstone cliffs and rugged canyons provide extraordinary views. A significant feature is Stone Door, a 10 ft. wide by 100 ft. deep crack, from the top of the escarpment into the gorge below. It looks like a giant door left ajar and was once used by Indians as a passageway. The spectacular cliffs offer some of the best scenic overlooks in Tennessee.  Breathtaking waterfalls form at the head of many gorges, where streams drop off over hard sandstone cap rock. Greeter Falls drops over a 15-foot upper ledge and then plummets over a 50-foot lower ledge into a cold, clear plunge pool.  Big Creek, Collins River and Savage Creeks each tumble down over 5 miles, dropping over 800 feet through narrow gorges, forming the "Gulfs." Many of the big streams go underground, periodically forming dry creek beds, and reemerge miles downstream as gushing springs.  The natural area is a part of the South Cumberland State Park and Savage Gulf is also on the Registry of National Natural Landmarks.



Saturday – Fall Creek Falls State Park:

Photo link - (https:// authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMjNjYHao7PaxAE&feat=directlink)

Distance ~5 miles; Difficulty D3

At approximately 10am, we will gather at the nature center and take a short hike to the first scenic spot - "The Gorge Hole".  After spending a short time here we will cross the suspension bridge and take a steep, but short, trail above the bluffs and circle back to the nature center.

We will then start hiking a loop trail that starts and finishes at the nature center. After hiking less than a mile, our first stop will be the impressive Fall Creek Falls waterfall – the highest (plunge) waterfall in the Eastern US. We will first admire the views from the top and then hike down to the bottom of the falls where we will have lunch and hang out for a bit. The hike to the bottom of the falls is only about 1/2 mile but it is very steep, so hiking back to the top of the falls is a little strenuous.  Once back to the top of the falls, we will finish the loop back to the nature center. Along the return route, we will make stops at several look out points on the trail – Fall Creek Falls, Rocky Point, Cane Creek, and Cane Creek Gorge. This section of the trail is only about a mile, but will take time due to the many lookout points. We will take the swinging bridge on the way back and check out the cascade falls. We will take a short break at the nature center when we return.

Next we will take the cable trail down to the swimming hole at Cane Creek falls. This is a very steep (I mean VERY VERY steep - almost vertical) trail where you have to scramble down the path utilizing the steel cable at many places. ( We will spend at least an hour and a half at the very large swimming hole.

Dinner plans for Saturday are completely optional/flexible.  However, your Trip Leaders plan to take advantage of the dining ( ocs/fcf_weekend_buffet_menu.pdf) at the State Park Lodge.  We also plan to have Sunday breakfast at the lodge prior to departing for Savage Gulf.

Saturday night – see below for lodging/camping options.


Sunday – Savage Gulf:

Photo link – (https://p authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCK2EwfPMk6rtogE&feat=directlink)

Distance ~11 miles; Difficulty D5

Although there are over 53 miles of hiking trails in the Savage Gulf, we will not be able to explore them all.  However, we have planned a route which will take us to many of the great sites, and sights.

The hike will begin at approximately 9:30 AM from the Greeter Falls Parking Area at the west end of the park.  We will follow the Greeter Falls Loop Trail for roughly 0.8 miles, making a brief stop at the top of Greater Falls and observing what will be our swimming location later in the day.  We will then continue on the Greeter Trail across a suspension bridge until we arrive at the Big Creek Rim Trail.  Following the Big Creek Rim Trail for 3.2 miles we will see views from the Big Creek Overlook, Sinks Overlook, and Split Rock (Stone Door) Overlooks.  There are numerous stream crossing along this trail, however, these are typically dry during the summer months.  We will stop for lunch and spend some time at the Stone Door overlook as it has absolutely incredible views.  We will then take the 4-mile long Big Creek Gulf Trail which steeply descends through the Stone Door into the gulf.  This is a rugged, rocky, challenging 4-mile trail.  We will take a short side trail to several resurgent springs where the creek comes back up after a nearly 2- mile underground stretch.  We will then take a 1-mile round trip side trail to Ranger Falls and the sink where Ranger Creek disappears underground - it’s amazing to see this huge waterfall plunge into a pool of water that just disappears underground.  Continuing along BCG trail, we will then take the short Sinks Spur Trail to the point where Big Creek disappears under an imposing, unstable, limestone bluff. After a very steep hike back out of the gulf, we will arrive back at the Greeter Trail, which we will take back across the suspension bridge to the spiral staircase that will lead us down to the swimming hole.  We will spend some time swimming in the cool, refreshing pool, and possibly some cliff jumping for those brave enough.  It will then be a short, ½ mile hike back to the cars.

We will plan to stop for dinner in Chattanooga at Sugar’s BBQ on the way back.



Difficulty Ratings/Pace:

  • The FCF hike will be leisurely with time spent enjoying the scenery and swimming.  However, the hike out of FCF basin is a little strenuous and the Cable Trail is extremely steep and technical.
  • The SG hike is approximately 11 miles long with about 1,800 feet of ascent. Typically a hike of this distance and elevation gain would be at the very upper end of a D4 rating. However, some of the trails are described as difficult, technical, rocky, and challenging, therefore, the event is classified as a D5.  Although we will be making many stops to enjoy the numerous views, we will also be hiking at a quick pace on certain sections to allow sufficient time at observation points – you will need to be able to maintain pace with the TLs.  You must have solid D4 or above hiking experience, good balance/coordination, and be comfortable on sections with extremely rocky terrain.  If you do not have D4/D5 hiking experience, the TL may put you on the waiting list until verification of your abilities.


Camping Lodging:

Your Trip Leaders will be spending the night (camping) at the Fall Creek Falls Campground Friday and Saturday nights.  Staying in TN is optional on Friday night; however, the event is designed for at least spending Saturday night.  There are several options for lodging/camping on this event and you can make your own arrangements to suit your needs/likes.  Your TLs will be staying in Area "C" of the campground, site C163, in case you are interested in reserving one nearby.

If you do not wish to camp there are Cabins at FCF as well as the State Park Inn/Lodge available. Please see the following website: /


If you are looking for something a bit more upmarket there is a Select Inn approximately 1 hour away at Crossville. :)



There may be several carpool options for this event.  The event has a posted carpool departure of 7:15 AM Saturday morning from Busbee P&R.  However, the Trip Leaders will be traveling / carpooling to the event Friday afternoon (tentatively 3-4 PM).  Once registration is full, we will contact participants to determine everyone’s travel preferences. If there are others who prefer to travel Friday afternoon/evening we will assist with arranging carpools on Friday.  For those traveling Saturday, we will arrange for one of the members to coordinate that carpool.

Required Items to Bring:
  • * Lunch and snacks for Saturday and Sunday.
  • * Dinner Saturday and breakfast Sunday (unless you plan to eat those meals at the lodge buffet).
  • * Water and/or sports drink. Sat. 1.5 – 2 quarts; Sun. 3 – 4 quarts.  Note: you can replenish supplies at FCF on Saturday; however, there is nothing available at SG on Sunday.
  • * Good sturdy Hiking Shoes/Boots – the terrain is especially rugged at SG.
  • * Swim wear or quick dry clothing that you can get wet.
  • * Change of clothes for both days and the ride home.
  • * Towel
  • * Camping gear – if you plan to camp.
  • * Cash for your carpool driver.
  • * Money for dinner/breakfast if you plan to eat at the lodge.
  • * A great attitude.
Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.
  • * Sunscreen
  • * Insect repellant
  • * Camera
  • * Water shoes/sandals
  • * Rain gear

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

The Trip Leaders will provide detailed driving directions and meeting location(s) as the event nears.

Carpool to Event Distance (round trip):320Mile(s)
Carpool Departure Time: 7:15 am
Carpool Location:   Log in for location
Carpool Directions:   Log in for directions
Carpool Cost: Estimated cost per vehicle for this event is $128.00 using a reimbursement rate guideline of $0.400 per mile. The total amount should be divided by the number of people in the vehicle, including the driver. This is a guideline, not a rule, for drivers but the cost should not be higher unless there are extenuating circumstances.


If, and only if, the event develops a waiting list, you must provide confirmation 1 week prior to the event (7/13/13) that you have made camping/lodging arrangements.  Otherwise you will be moved to the waiting list and the next person(s) on the waiting list given opportunity to make reservations.  People from the waiting list will only be moved to the event once they provide confirmation of camping/lodging.  This is to ensure that people who are willing to commit to the event are given the opportunity to do so.

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.

Please be aware of any cancellation policy for the camping/lodging which you choose.