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Frozen Head State Park Campground Professional Review and Guide
"Frozen Head is a little-known jewel of a state park tucked away in the Cumberland Mountains, a mountain range west of the Smokies. Steep, forested peaks and deep valleys diffused with rock formations characterize this state park that was settled in the early 1800s by simple farmers. But the land, so rich in coal and timber resources, was sold to the state for the establishment of the now infamous Brushy Mountain State Prison, and the resources were extracted using prison labor. The logging era ended in the 1920s and Frozen Head was declared a forest reserve. The Civilian Conservation Corps came in and established many of the trails that are in use today. A plaque at the main trailhead memorializes those who lost their lives developing the area. This is an ideal park for active people who like a small campground but want plenty of activities all within walking distance of the campground."
--Johnny Molloy, The Best In Tent Camping: The Southern Appalachian & Smoky Mountains (Menasha Ridge Press).
A friend and I took the Chimney Top Trail in to Mart Fields Campsite the first night. This trail is not for beginners! It is very steep! The difficulty is well worth it when you consider the wide variety of scenery. Our original plan was to camp at Tub Springs, but settled for Mart Fields after the climb. We managed 4.96 miles in just under 4 hours. It is possible to make better time, but it is definitely a steep and strenuous trail! There is a Chimney/fireplace just before the spring and Mart Fields is just past the spring. We awoke to a torrential downpour, and began day two. Once we reached Tub Springs, we were soaked so we decided to follow the Lookout Tower to the trailhead and forgo a soggy night. We hiked approximately nine miles along an old jeep road and although the rain continued all day, the sights were awesome! We missed out on a lot of views due to the weather. There are at least five more trails that I want to try at Frozen Head. This place is awesome! There isn't a lot of information about the trails on the internet, but the maps available at the park as well as the staff are helpful!
This campground is really the hidden jewell. Even though the main campground was closed for winter, there were still plenty of spaces along the main road. We actually saw a deer one morning roaming next to the camp. Hiking was our main activity and we had plenty of opportunities. The rangers provided us with topo map of the surrounding mountain trails (for free bc the visitor center was closed for holidays). We went up to the Frozen Head Fire Tower (easy to moderate - 6 mile hike taking the North and South Old Mack Trail), and the Chimney Top Trail (moderate to difficult - 12 miles, my personal favorite - nice variety of scenery). Even though the trails were burried under several inches of leaves the marking were easy to follow. It was actually fun to look where the trail will take you next since it was very narrow and not visible from a distance. I would definetly go back if it wasn't 14 drive hours away.
I liked the trails. I hiked atrail that went up the side of the mountain, steep, but not so much that it knocked the wind out of you. Parts of the trail are very narrow, about a foot wide, with rock wall on one side and a steep drop off on the other. You have to be careful. I would class it as moderate/difficult.
The campground was nice and the bathrooms where kept very clean the entire weekend. also, I guess because of how close the prison is, CELL PHONES ACTUALLY WORK!!!!! You have no trouble calling, sending and recieving text and pics -- not what I'm used to when I go out hiking. I was able to send text and pics to my couch potato friends and family the whole way along the trail ;o).
I hope to get a change to go back sometime, maybe at a non holiday time when the campground is less crowded. I did not even got to do half of the trails that where out there, but I really enjoyed it.
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