Fiery Gizzard Trail Professional Review and Guide
"The Fiery Gizzard Trail is one of the more interesting and challenging trails in the Southeast. Along the way, Big Fiery Gizzard Creek pours through the slot of Black Canyon, the pillars of Chimney Rocks loom in the forest, the creek spills over Sycamore Falls, and numerous overlooks offer views of Gizzard Cove. But while enjoying these sites, you must descend into Gizzard Cove and for much of the first half of the trip step from rock to rock in the boulder-strewn gorge. Then a steep climb takes you out of Gizzard Cove; the trail then follows the rim of the gorge, only to make a precipitous descent into Laurel Gorge and a steep ascent back to the plateau-top before continuing to the trail’s end at Foster Falls. The difficulty of the trail and its many attractions make this one of the best trails in the region for experienced hikers. Camping is available at the Raven Point Campsite, Small Wild Camping Area, and Father Adamz Campsite and at the end of the trail at Foster Falls TVA Small Wild Area."
--Russ Manning, 40 Hikes In Tennessee's South Cumberland (The Mountaineers Books).
Great trail. It's challenging but do able as a day hike. The first five miles coming from Grundy are very rocky but beautiful. Be careful if you hike in wet conditions!
The trail guide describes the ascent out of the gorge as an "arduous" ascent. Well, "arduous" became our buzzword for the weekend... We started out at the Fiery Gizzard parking lot at around 5PM (CST) Friday afternoon hoping to make it to the Raven Point campsite before dark. The trail starts out with a beautiful 600' descent to the bottom of the gorge. There was a nice swimming hole there (that I spend most of the rest of the weekend thinking about). This beauty is quickly forgotten as you start rock hopping and making your way up and down the side of the gorge. This was as much a mental workout as it was a physical one since everytime you start up the hill you start thinking that this must be the final ascent then only to reach the top and have to head back down to the creek level. Well, when you finally do reach the final "arduous" ascent you will know it...very tough. It seems that it'll never end. This was probably compounded by the fact that we climbed it in the dark. We finally made it to the campsite at about 9:30PM.
The rest of the trip isn't too bad. The trail between Raven Point and Small Wilds is mostly flat, however there is another smaller "arduous" climb at the end up to the campsite. We stayed there Sat night and then hiked to the Foster Falls parking lot at the break of dawn Sunday morning.
We took this trip during the worst drought in TN in 70 years and H2O became an issue. Once we left the Fiery Gizzard river, we had to resort to filtering puddle water. Do not attempt this hike during a drought unless you have a good pump filter. I wouldn't have wanted to drink that water with tablets alone...
Definitely, the hardest trail I've hiked in the Cumberland. I would highly recommend it to an experienced hiker who wants a good challenge. This is not a good one to use for an introduction to backpacking...
We only hiked from the Grundy Day Loop to Sycamore Falls. The hike was beautiful and the trail was well-marked.
Nice stuff. You need to have stong ankles for most of this trail, but you can't beat the scenery. I've been looking for some good terrain, and this trail has what it takes. Overall, this trail is just about my favorite. I've been all over the Cumberland and Smokeys and haven't found any one trail that can offer as much as this one.
This trail is challenging, and offers lots of diversity and beautiful scenery. The first 4 1/2 miles takes you along Fiery Gizzard Creek that flows through a narrow gorge. The gorge stays cool even during the hottest part of the day and maintains an almost rain forest feel(and humidity). However, about half of it was tough going over boulder fields that required attention to every step.
If you go any time soon, make sure you tank up before the climb out because rain has been scarce and creeks on top of the plateu are mostly dry.
The 500' climb out to the top of plateau reward you with several of the most spectacular overlooks in Tennessee scattered along the next 5 miles which is also easy walking. You then take what the brochure calls a "steep decent" into Laurel Creek Gorge, and it is. A very narrow trail takes you 150' down a bluff. Including about 15' where you have to hang onto a cable to make sure your decent doesn't get too steep (i.e., vertical and quick). There is a huge blowdown blocking the trail at the bottom between two house size boulders. Make sure you pay attention as you scramble around it so you don't miss the trail back up. After getting back on top, you go from one great overlook to another until you reach a 150' water fall which marks the 12 1/2 mile mark.
An alternative route is the Dog Hole Trail which takes you out of the gorge sooner so you can miss most of the boulder fields (and some great scenery).
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