Right before you hit Pickett State Park on TN-154, there’s a small pull-off trailhead nestled between fields of fall goldenrod and asters is one of the access points to Pogue Creek Canyon SNA. You’ll also find an astronomy field where you can view to night skies of this International Dark Sky Association certified area.
You’ll start this hike descending into the canyon, briefly ascending, then making the final plunge into the canyon before climbing out again as you near the final overlook. You can also access the Mesa Top Overlook from a shorter, flatter hike from the Moccasin Trailhead (which also marks Moccasin Rock trail that connects to Pickett), although, you will miss out on some pretty stellar things about this state natural area.
This hike will give you rock formations characteristic of the TN North Cumberland Plateau. You’ll pass by several rock houses and a few arches on your way to the Mesa Top Overlook, which is a great place to enjoy lunch and a view of the ‘canyon’. Make sure to take the short side trail to Circle Bar Arch and don’t miss the ‘biggest tiny arch’, Killdeer Arch. There’s also an unmarked side trail to a dripping waterfall (heavier flow when there’s rain), but be prepared to take off your backpack and squeeze through some rocks (not claustrophobic rocks, just rocks jutting out that you kinda off have to snake around). Even though the water was barely flowing, it was a cool area to explore. My favorite part about the hike was how evenly spaced all of the interest points were. There was enough to see to keep the hike engaging the whole time.
One more note: There is an actual ladder about a mile in. I had to carry Luna down and up the ladder (over one shoulder holding with one arm, so I could still grip the rungs; it was quite the sight I’m sure! 🙃) She is very great with steps, even really steep ones, but she could not do this ladder. So, if you can’t safely carry your dog down and up an 8 rung ladder, you may want to leave the pup at home for this one.
If you find yourself in the North Cumberland Plateau area or want to do multiple hikes in this area, I’d suggest doing Pogue Creek Canyon first. It truly is a cool hike with unique features, but I don’t think that it quite impresses as much as Pickett or Big South Fork. So, build up to the rock beauties and do Pogue Creek first, so you are extra impressed by the other hikes in the area.
Distance from Nashville: 2 hr 25 min
Trailhead: Near the Astronomy Field on Pickett Park Hwy (TN-154)
Trail: All of ‘em (Overlook, Upper Canyon Mesa Top)
Length of trail: I did approx. 9 miles total
Link to trail map: Pogue Creek Canyon
Camping: None (However, you can camp at Pickett State Park right down the road.)
Overview: Moderate hike with classic northern Cumberland Plateau rock formations like arches and crazy rock patterns along with an overlook with a view