Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park
Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park is 2,076 acres of scenic wilderness in Unicoi County, in the southern Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee. The park is approximately 30 minutes from both Johnson City and Asheville, N.C., and 10 miles from Erwin, the county seat. Part of the Rocky Fork watershed, the land was designated a Tennessee State Park in October 2012, but wasn't officially opened and staffed until May 2015. As of January 2019, Rocky Fork State Park has been named after Senator Lamar Alexander.
Please note: Rocky Fork Road is a narrow, one-lane, paved road with pull-offs along the side. The parking area is small with limited spaces, a portable toilet, and bear-resistant trash and recycling (plastic and aluminum) bins. Please do not block the gate. Carpooling to Rocky Fork is recommended.
Sustainable, long-term recreation plans and infrastructure for the new park are in the planning and conceptual design stages. Initial projects include a visitor center and gift shop, improved parking and accessibility, a ranger station, a campground, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails and a hiking trail system with access to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
The park is surrounded on three sides by the Cherokee National Forest. The steep, rugged terrain is drained by numerous cool mountain streams including its namesake, Rocky Fork Creek, which flows through the park. The stream is located in the pristine Rocky Fork watershed. With large moss-covered boulders, deep pools and eddies the cold, quickly flowing stream is noted for miles of excellent native trout fishing. There are many miles of old, unmarked logging and wildlife management roads in the area. A corridor of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area are nearby.
The park is a predominately Appalachian cove forest, one of the most biologically diverse habitats in North America. The well-drained, loamy soil supports the growth of a variety of hardwoods and evergreens. Oak, hickory, beech, pine, hemlock, and rhododendron are just a few of the species found here. The diversity of tree species has historically made the area a desirable timber ground. The park and the surrounding Cherokee National Forest offers miles of old, unmarked logging roads.
Native wildflowers find ideal growing conditions and include Pink Lady’s Slipper and Yellow Fringed Orchid and Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid, and several native lilies, including Turk’s Cap and Michaux’s Lily. Diverse and varied fungi thrive in Rocky Fork’s cool, damp climate.
All streams in the park drain into South Indian Creek, which drains into the Nolichucky River. These include Flint Creek, Blockstand Creek, and Long Branch. There are also numerous unnamed branches, waterfalls, and cascades waiting to be explored.
The park contains a noted cultural site at the junction of Flint Creek and Rocky Fork. This location was the winter encampment of Creek and Cherokee Indians in the late 1700s when Colonel (later Governor) John Sevier and his troops surrounded the encampment and mounted a surprise attack in response to long-standing tension between the two groups. The Creek and Cherokee sustained heavy fatalities and casualties during the conflict.
Many animals call the park home. The lush forest supports numerous Federally Listed Species including the world’s fastest flyer, the Peregrine Falcon, the Yonahlossee Salamander, Woodland Jumping Mouse and at least one rare species of damselfly. Black Bear also make their home here. The park is part of the Unicoi Bear Reserve.
As with any primitive recreation area, caution should be exercised when visiting the park. In the event that you see a bear in the backcountry, do not approach the bear or throw food to the bear. Keep your pets leashed, for the safety of your pet and for the safety of park wildlife. If hiking in the forest, it is recommended that hikers have familiarity with the area and experience with backcountry navigating with GPS, compass, and maps.
Acquisition of the park was made possible with the cooperation and dedication of several government and non-profit groups, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; the Heritage Conservation Fund; The Conservation Fund and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Park Trail Maps
Looking for a trail map? Click the link below to see a list of the maps available at this park. The page includes all the trail maps we have available, organized by park. We have free and paid options that provide you the details you need to have your next great adventure in Tennessee.
Geo-referenced Trail Maps
Did you know that certain types of PDF maps can show your exact position on a trail? We are creating geo-referenced maps for our parks. When the map is opened with an app on your smartphone, a dot/reference point displays on the device screen at your exact location. These maps use your GPS, not your cell signal, so they work even when you do not have service. Here is what you need to access our maps: