Wilderness Trail

Nashville, Tennessee

Wilderness Trail Professional Review and Guide

"This trail, which is the most difficult trail in this entire guidebook, extends along rugged bluffs of the Cumberland River at Cordell Hull Lake. The trail, also known as Cordell Hull Lake Horse Trail, begins along the shoreline and climbs to the first bluff, only to descend to a steep, narrow hollow, then climb back out. This process repeats itself many times. However, your efforts are rewarded with vistas, solitude, and a waterfall along the way.

Technically a horse trail, the path is also traveled by hikers and only lightly traveled by both groups. The trail is best enjoyed as an out-and-back hike. Begin Wilderness Trail by leaving primitive Holleman Bend camping area on the path to the right as you face the lake."

Wilderness Trail Reviews

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icon17 Total
My wife and I found this trail to be difficult as advertised. We only encountered a few other hikers. About 2 miles into the hike there is a knob with a wonderful, open view of the lake. The campsite was nice and the spring was interesting to see. Turkey knob had wonderful views and we enjoyed a nice lunch there. It was a beautiful fall day. The way back was harder on me because my feet ached and the going was uncomfortable. It took us 7 hours to hike including lunch and time for photographs.
This trail was very nice for the changing landscape and terrain. At several points there are very nice views, even in the full leaf of summer. A point to note is that the trail is no longer blazed white or yellow. It is now blazed blue. There is a biking trail (Bear Wheel) that begins alongside the hiking trailhead, and it is blazed white. Confusion is possible. It is well worth a drive for a daytrip.
Beautiful hike! Whether you start at the "top" (the Cordell Hull Damn overlook) or the "bottom" (at Defeated Lake campground), you're in for over 6 miles of ups and downs. You never gain more than 400 feet per climb, but you do this several times over—no matter where you start. About halfway through the trail, there is a picnic table/shelter/firepit/outhouse. It's very, very informal (read: no TP!), but it's there if you need it. You'll hike right by the lake and over several large rock paths that are basically waterfalls waiting for rain. My only complaint is that, at least when we went, the trail starting at Defeated isn't very well marked. Blue dots have been spray painted on cedar and other loose bark trees. We ended up wandering for a good half hour before we found our way back at one point. Still, the trail is very beautiful. Aside from the length, I'd say it's moderate in difficulty.
Great trail. Lots of wildlife...we even saw a wild boar.
Great trail enjoyed every bit of it. Hiked entire 12 miles in about 6 hrs with a few stops.Physically challenging probably a little more than I expected.I did not see another person the entire hike. Will do it again in the fall/winter
This can be a challenging hike. My wife and backpacked it in the snow, which made it a little more difficult, but it was well worth the trip from Nashville.
Leaves were down so we had great views of the lake. Allow yourself at least 5-6 hours to complete if you're going out and back for the total of 12 miles. One hill in particular is .30 miles long and it is STEEP. Lots of turns and ups and downs and overall good variety.
This is a great day hike that is fairly close to Nashville. The backcountry campground looked nice as well. I would say that the difficult rating is appropriate.
I've done this hike several times now and it's one of my favorites. It's very challenging and offers amazing views especially at the end of the first 10K. Make sure to walk to the top of the observation area for a spectacular view of Cordell Hull lake. It's pretty sweet. One note of caution. When you're driving through Carthage on your way to the park, watch your speed. Cops park it down at the bottom of the hill and the entry into that area is blind and the speed limit is 40 not 55 then drops promptly to 30. They love handing out tickets there.
My hiking buddies and I have trekked several trails in the middle Tennessee area and this is the most challenging by far. If you want a test then this trail is for you. It begins with an ascent sure to get the heart pumping. The trail levels out and follows an extremely steep ridge before beginning the first and most dangerous of many descents. The surface in this portion is full of loose rocks and loose dirt. I invite you to kick a rock off the edge and listen to it fall for 10-15 seconds. If you do the entire trail, on the return, this hill make you question why you started hiking in the first place. Once you've reached the first creek crossing you can maintain a pretty good pace until you reach the last hill before the knob. You will know you're there when you see the dam. The last hill is full of more loose rocks and switchbacks. Carrying a 40 lb pack, for training purposes, we went from the trail head to the knob in 4 hours. We took two cars and parked one at the knob overlook off of HWY 263. I have never been so happy to see asphalt in my life. The trail has a few felled trees in the way and you lose sight of markings from time to time but it is still a fairly high quality trail. There are several different color markers along the way. The hiking trail is blue. The terrain is mostly loose dirt/mud with sharp rocks and tree roots jutting out. You will continuously fight to keep your balance and your heels and ankles will be mercilessly beaten. The guy who claims to have completed the entire 10k in 5 hours must have wings or rocket shoes. I am eager to observe such a miraculous feat. Be prepared. Bring plenty of water. Don't under estimate this trail and don't over estimate your abilities. Johnny Molloy's guide is fairly inaccurate. Trying to match it with the actual trail will only lead to lost time and confusion. Good luck and enjoy.

Trail Information

Nearby City
12 miles
Trail Type
Skill Level
6 hours
Additional Use
Views, Waterfalls
USGS Granville and USGS Gainesboro; at tinyurl.com/cordellhullmap
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jun 2018