After discovering Fiery Gizzard and realizing that one of the best and most diverse trails in the country was only about an house away from Nashville, it was only a matter of time before this hike was under my belt.
Fiery Gizzard gets it’s name from legends about a turkey gizzard, Davy Crockett, and an Indian Chief but it probably really had to do with an experimental blast furnace in the area. So either way, it sounds pretty awesome.
This scenic trail clocks in at just under 13 miles. It’s a point to point trail that can be hiked from either way, the Tracy City side, or the Foster Falls side. Traditionally it’s done from the Tracy City side, but who’s to tell you what to do? I’ve hiked it from both ways, though not all the way from both sides, and I do prefer starting on the Tracy City side, but I digress. A downside to a point to point hike is the need for 2 cars. One to park at the trailhead and one driven to the end. Also, a tip, don’t leave the keys to the car at the end of the trailhead in the car at the beginning of the trailhead like my friends and I did one time… Thanks to the park rangers for giving us a ride back)
Fiery Gizzard is part of the South Cumberland State Park, which is really just a scattered collection of trails and recreational areas. But, some of my favorite hikes in Tennessee are encompassed in this state park network.
The trail starting from Tracy City is accessed by the Grundy Forest Day loop, which, in itself is a great day hike if you are looking for something shorter. It starts from the Grundy Forest State Natural Area picnic shelter. You’ll see signs driving in and it will seem like you are winding around to someone’s driveway. But, you aren’t. It’s back there.
When you get to the trailhead, make sure to fill out the camping permit. Hopefully, the rangers actually check the cars that are there to make sure you haven’t been gone for 5 days. There are 4 campsites along the way, each with 5-6 separate areas. So, there should be plenty of room at each site even if there’s many people using the trail. There is one near each trailhead, the CCC on the Tracy City side and Father Adamz at the Foster Falls side. Raven Point campsite is 4.5 miles in from Tracy City and Small Wild campsite is 10.5 miles in.
If you are doing the trail in 2 days, which is totally doable and recommended, you’ll probably want to stay at the Raven’s Point campsite, about 4.5 miles in from the trailhead, which leaves about 7 miles for the next day.
The first 4.5 miles to Raven Point are definitely more challenging the the back 7. Almost all of the trail is just rocks and by rocks in mean boulders, not gravel. You are precariously stepping from boulder to boulder hoping that it won’t move under you. It’s quite exhilarating, actually! You’ll obviously need good sturdy hiking boots. No Chacos on this guy. Which, by the way, if you a re backpacking with Chaco’s on, kudos to you. This part of the trial is challenging enough to please hikers of any level, yet somehow doable if you are still new to hiking.
There are a couple of waterfalls and swimming holes near this end of the trail if you’re feeling like a swim. Sycamore Falls, just over a mile in, has a great little swimming hole if you are so inclined.
About a mile before you reach Raven Point, the trail begins one of its arduous climbs. But, the view from Raven Point is well worth it. I will venture to say that it will be hard to find a better view in Tennessee outside of the Smoky Mountains. At Raven Point, you are allowed to view sweeping Fiery Gizzard Creek Gorge. I also recommend taking breakfast and/or coffee out there the next morning. The Raven Point campsite is about .5 mile from the overlook.
There’s no water source at the Raven Point campsite. You’ll have to walk a bit farther along the trail to find a small creek to filter water. But, it’s an easy walk to the water. Also, right past the creek, Anderson Falls. You can climb a staircase down to the base of the falls. It’s a nice little detour and worth seeing.
After staying the night at Raven Point campsite, you will make your way across the top of the Cumberland Plateau for most of your 7 mile hike that day. It’s an easy and fast hike, except for .3 miles where you sharply drop into the Laurel Branch Gorge then immediately climb back out. I suggest having lunch at the bottom of the gorge. It’s a bit cooler down there and shaded. There’s plenty of huge rocks by and in the stream to relax.
As you round out your last miles, be sure to stop at the overlook near the Small Wild campsite. The view rivals that of the Raven Point. The Small Wild campsite has a water source just north along the trail, if you need more water, or have chosen to stay the night there.
Before you get to the Foster Falls trailhead, there’s a climbers loop that offshoots from the main path. There’s 2 access points for rock climbers, which is really neat. I don’t personally own climbing gear, but I’ve heard that it’s some decent climbing.
Foster Falls comes into sight and marks the end of your hike. It’s a nice view to end with and you can also hike down to the base of the falls, which includes a decent swimming hole, if you are so inclined.
Fiery Gizzard is one of my favorite hikes because it’s so diverse in terrain, close to Nashville, challenging, and has gorgeous views. I’m a fan.