Camping at South Cumberland can be a wonderful experience, especially with 110 backcountry campsites spread throughout the park from which to choose.
Hiking is required to reach the sites, although a few sites are available at only 120 yards from the parking lot. Each site is limited to four tents per site and a primitive fire ring is located at each spot. Water must be filtered from natural sources or carried in, be sure to check with the ranger stations about water availability. A pit toilet is also available at each campground.
A permit is required and can be filled out for free at the kiosks located at each parking lot. Remember, safety comes first when planning a rewarding backcountry outing. Please keep in mind that beginning in 2015 a nominal fee may be charged for camping.
Located around the Visitor’s Center are numerous sports fields for planned gatherings or just a spontaneous family outing. These sites are occupied on a first come-first serve basis and limited equipment can be rented for free from the Visitor Center before 4 p.m. Available sites include: 1 basketball court, 1 beach volleyball court, 2 tennis courts, horseshoe pits, and a baseball field.
Located at the Grundy Lakes area is a workout area and a basketball court, equipment cannot be rented from the Visitor’s Center for these areas.
While there are no swimming pools at South Cumberland there still exists numerous opportunities to escape the heat of summer. One of the most popular destinations is the Grundy Lakes area, located just four miles from the visitor’s center. A man-made beach is perfect for lounging in the sun or for spreading out a water-side picnic. Also at the site is a swim-up dock for the sun bathers and jumping children. Please no glass items in the beach area.
For a little more adventure, one can venture to one of the many waterfalls that can be found along the trails. These areas are wonderful opportunities to escape beneath the forest canopy and cool off in cold creek waters.
There are no lifeguards on duty at any swim areas. Please swim with caution and check with a ranger about uncertain conditions.
Please, no jumping from falls. Many of our waterfalls may look enticing but the water beneath the falls is shallow and often there are submerged dangers such as rocks and trees.
Interpretive Programs and Events
Throughout the year interpretive or recreational programs are offered by staff or volunteers of South Cumberland State Park. The greatest number of programs are offered during the summer but participants are welcome during all seasons. These programs vary from year to year but may include: interpretive hikes/walks, canoeing, introductory rock climbing, animal shows, instructional classes, start gazing, creek critter surveys, etc.
While visiting South Cumberland be sure to take advantage of the programs being offered. Many are geared towards children while others may be geared primarily to an adult audience. Detailed descriptions of offered programs can be found at the park’s Facebook page or on our events web page.
South Cumberland also offers some annual programs and events including the Friends of South Cumberland sponsored Trails and Trilliums event, Savage Gulf Marathon and the Fishing Rodeo. For more information about these, please call the park or check the event web page.
South Cumberland is a perfect haven for those wishing to take their meals outside. Picnic tables are available at all trailheads except for Buggytop and the Sewanee Natural Bridge with some sites having access to grills. The Grundy Lakes area has picnic tables spread around the lakes and near the beach site allowing for a quick transition from swimming to freshly prepared meals!
For those needing a little larger set up for parties or gatherings there are two shelters that can be reserved online or by calling the Visitor’s Center. The Grundy Forest Pavilion is a recreation of an old CCC pavilion and is located at the Fiery Gizzard Trail Head in the Grundy Forest. Water is available in the bathrooms and a grill is located next to the pavilion.
The Visitor’s Center Pavilion has access to bathrooms, a grill, water spigot, as well as various recreational sports areas.
Open country birds such as Indigo Buntings, Field Sparrows and Eastern Bluebirds are among the many species seen here. Birding of the deciduous forest canopy during migration is facilitated from some of the Savage and other units spectacular bluff line overlooks.
Four small lakes at Grundy Lakes in Tracy City range from one to sixteen acres in size and provide bank and wade fishing for trout, bass and bream. A one-acre lake with similar species is located on the Meadow Trail near the visitor center.
Personal boats are not permitted in the lakes. Boats and fishing are not permitted on the Collins Scenic River section located within the State Natural Area boundary.
From peaceful walks through a meadow full of wildflowers to a trip back in time to a coal mining area to breath-taking overlooks of the Cumberland Plateau, South Cumberland is a wondrous hiking destination featuring waterfalls, vistas, historical areas and some with old growth trees.
There are over 90 miles of hiking trails available at South Cumberland ranging from easy to strenuous with varying environs. The park is divided into three Ranger Districts, each with its own ranger station/visitor center and each district offers numerous opportunities for enjoyable hiking options.
- Meadow Trail Hike - 1.3 mile easy, round trip hike with views of wildflowers, wildlife, a pond and berries; can you identify what the trail used to be before it was a park? Ask a Ranger for the answer!
- Lone Rock Trail - An easy 2.3 mile roundtrip hike circling the Grundy Lakes. Set time aside to explore the coke ovens and to enjoy the views of the lakes in this historical area. Ask a desk attendant for a brochure on the ovens.
Fiery Gizzard Trails:
- Grundy Day Loop - This moderate 2 mile roundtrip hike will take you past multiple waterfalls, ancient trees, and plenty of enjoyable swimming holes.
- Sycamore Falls Loop - A moderate, 3 mile hike that drops off the top of the plateau and brings you to some interesting geologic formations and waterfalls. Don’t forget your bathing suit to take a dip in the refreshing Sycamore Falls swimming hole!
- Climber’s Loop - This 2 mile roundtrip hike takes you along beautiful cliff line and along the base of towering bluff walls. Oh, and the picturesque Foster Falls is located on this hike!
- Raven’s Point Loop - A difficult 10 mile trek into some of the more remote areas of the Fiery Gizzard. Please allow adequate time to make this hike (and of course to see the many springs, sinks, caves, overlooks and waterfalls). Meet this trail by way of the Fiery Gizzard below Sycamore Falls and be sure to check out the Raven’s Point spur trail.
- Foster Falls to Small Wilds - A 5 mile out-and-back hike that will take you past waterfalls and some pretty cool overlooks.
- Buggy Top Trail - A moderately difficult 4 mile roundtrip hike to one of the largest cave openings in Tennessee. Watch your footing as you descend into Lost Cove and rest at the opening of the cave before heading back up. Bring lots of water.
Savage Gulf Trails:
- Savage Day Loop - This easy 4.2 mile roundtrip hike is a perfect afternoon outing for those looking to view the gulf and Savage Falls.
- Stone Door Hike - This easy 2 mile out-and-back hike is a must for all those first visiting the park. The Great Stone Door and the cliffs are not to be missed by anyone!
- Suter Falls Hike - A difficult 2 mile out-and-back viewing Suter Falls, rock shelters, and high bluffs.
- Horsepound Falls - A difficult 5 mile out-and-back hike perfect for those looking for a unique waterfall, overlooks, and lush wildflowers in the spring.
- Big Creek Rim - An easy 7 mile roundtrip hike overlooking some great views and of course the Stone Door!
- Big Creek Gulf and Rim - A difficult 9 mile roundtrip visiting waterfalls, sinks, overlooks and wildflowers.
- Greeter Falls - A moderate 1 mile out-and-back visiting the beautiful Greeter Falls as well as some smaller waterfalls and historic sites.