Lying atop the Cumberland Plateau, the largest remaining forested plateau in the continental United States, South Cumberland State Park includes some of Tennessee’s most diverse and breathtaking scenery. The park contains a small RV campground and several primitive campgrounds for backcountry camping.
South Cumberland State Park is located within four different counties in Tennessee. The park’s 30,845 acres of land features both natural and historic treasures along with 90 miles of hiking trails. Although the park consists of nine separate tracts scattered across several counties, it’s managed as a single park. Clustered in three units, the tracts include Savage Gulf in Grundy and Sequatchie Counties, Fiery Gizzard in Grundy and Marion counties, and Sherwood Forest in Franklin County.
A hiker’s dream, multiple trailheads can be accessed from different areas within the park, and detailed maps can be found at the South Cumberland Visitor Center, the Stone Door Ranger Station, and the Savage Gulf Ranger Station.
There is plenty to do at South Cumberland State Park in addition to hiking. The rock formations make this park ideal for rock climbing and rappelling. Caves and historic ruins can be found throughout the park along with waterfalls and wildlife. Simply park your RV and enjoy your stay!
South Cumberland State Park is just under an hour northwest of Chattanooga and under two hours southeast from Nashville, Tennessee. The park is close to several major routes so you shouldn't have any trouble navigating to the park.
It may be a bit trickier to find the various areas once inside since the park is actually divided into three units: Savage Gulf in Grundy and Sequatchie Counties, Fiery Gizzard in Grundy and Marion counties, and Sherwood Forest in Franklin County. None of these regions are connected so you will need to drive far distances in your RV, campervan, or towed vehicle to access every corner of the park.
The Foster Falls Campground is the only camping area within South Cumberland State Park, and it can only fit smaller RVs. Unfortunately, there are no spaces for large RVs to park.
Horses, bicycles, and other vehicles are only allowed in designated areas. Backcountry camping is very popular at South Cumberland State Park, and all rustic campgrounds are only accessible on foot.
Safety first. Be sure to follow the park rules that include hiking only on designated trails, absolutely no hiking after dark, and always use caution when approaching high bluffs. Also, keep your pet on a leash and under control.
Foster Falls Campground is open year-round and is the only campground in South Cumberland State Park that allows vehicles including small RVs. The campground is found in the Fiery Gizzard Trail System area. Hiking is required to reach the rustic campsites, but a few sites are only about 120 yards away from the parking lot. The campsites are set among tall trees and are only large enough for small RVs, trailers, or tents. All campsites are limited to four adults and two children.
Every site has a fire ring and a picnic table. Most of the sites offer shade and have a level, gravel surface, but a few are on a slight incline. While there are restrooms and heated showers, there are no water or electrical hookups available. No generators are allowed at the campsite. Forest Falls Campground has picnic facilities including a wooded picnic area and a pavilion that can be reserved ahead of time. It’s just a short hike from your RV to Foster Falls, a beautiful waterfall and a world-class destination for sport rock climbing.
Located throughout South Cumberland State Park are numerous primitive campsites. Put on your hiking boots, load up your backpack, and head to your campsite.
The Savage Gulf (West) Trail System area includes three primitive campsites, Sawmill Campground, Alum Gap Campground, and Stone Door Campground.
Head over to the Savage Gulf (East) Trail System area and you’ll find six more primitive campsites. Hobbs Cabin Campsite has rustic campsites and a beautiful rustic lodge with a fireplace that can house up to six people. This campsite also has a group camp area that can accommodate from 30 to 60 campers. Primitive camping and group camps can also be found at Stagecoach Road Campground, Savage Station Campground, and Savage Falls Campsite. Two more primitive campgrounds, Dinky Line Campground and Collins West Campground, are also located in the Savage Gulf (East) Trail System Area.
The Fiery Gizzard Trail System area is home to three more campgrounds: Small Wild Campground, Father Adamz Campground, and Foster Falls Campground.
Escape the summer heat at one of the many unsupervised swimming spots located throughout the park including creeks and lakes. The Grundy Lakes area is the most popular. There is a man-made beach with a swim-up dock perfect for sunbathers and jumping kids.
Several first-come, first-served sports fields are located around the Visitor’s Center. Some equipment may be rented for free. The sites include one basketball court, one beach volleyball court, two tennis courts, horseshoe pits, and a baseball field. A workout area and another basketball court are located in the Grundy Lakes area.
An abundant supply of bass, trout, and bream await you on the four small lakes at Grundy Lakes. The lakes range in size from one to sixteen acres and there is a one-acre lake with similar species located on the Meadow Trail near the Visitor Center.
A fishing license is required for all people ages 13 and older. There are different licenses available for residents and non-residents, including a junior license for residents ages 13-15. “Free Fishing Day” is always on the Saturday of the first full week in June.
Personal boats are not permitted in the lakes.
Rock climbing and rappelling are very popular activities at South Cumberland State Park. Climbing areas include Foster Falls, Denny Cove, and Stone Door. Permits are required for climbing and rappelling in any area of the park.
Foster Falls is one of the most popular sport climbing areas in the southern United States. There are more than 150 climbing routes ranging from beginner-friendly to expert. Rappelling at Foster Falls is prohibited.
Denny Cove is located less than two miles south of Foster Falls. It features over 100 established sport climbing routes, as well as several challenging traditional climbs. Rappelling is also prohibited at Denny Cove.
Rappelling and top rope climbing are both allowed at Stone Door designated areas, however, climbing and rappelling on the Stone Door overlook and in the Stone Door itself are prohibited. Because natural anchors are necessary, the practice of “Leave No Trace” techniques are important to minimize impact.
If you are a history buff you'll be glad you brought your rig to this state park. Many historical sites are located throughout the park. There is an iron oxide spring in the area that was a popular health resort in the 1800s. A stagecoach road built by slaves is also located in the park. This road was important because it connected the area to Chattanooga. Grundy Lakes, located within the park, has a historically significant coal mining past. The abandoned coke ovens are all that is left of the area’s past prosperity and violence.
With over 90 miles of hiking trails and backwoods camping, hikers come from all around to visit South Cumberland State Park. RV campers at Forest Falls may hike the Fiery Gizzard Trail 12.5 miles to the Grundy Forest where they can observe nature at its finest. Swim in Fiery Gizzard Creek, view cascading streams and waterfalls, and enjoy the panoramic views, rock gorges, and abundant forests. Other hiking areas include the Savage Gulf and Stone Door with approximately 55 miles of hiking that includes incredible vistas, waterfalls, and historical locations.
Head over to the visitor center and pick up your hiking trail maps and a checklist to the Birds of South Cumberland State Park. With over 42 species of birds observed here, South Cumberland State Park is an excellent stop for birdwatchers. Some open country birds include indigo buntings, field sparrows, and eastern bluebirds. The spectacular bluff line overlooking Savage Gulf offers a prime location to view migrating birds of all kinds. Always tread lightly and respect the bird habitat. During May to July, take extra care in nesting areas.