Pot Point Loop :: Prentice Cooper State Forest

Sometimes if a trailhead is over 2 hours away, I casually put off hiking that trail. I convince myself that I won’t be able to drive 4+ hours round trip and also hike multiple miles. But, when you have a hiking pal, you stop putting those farther away hikes off.

I’m willing to bet that if you live in Tennessee and have hiked with some regularity, you’ve seen the view from Snooper’s Rock in Prentice Cooper State Forest. But, this area is so much more than just that overlook.

Ransom Hollow Overlook on the Pot Point Loop (Can you believe?!)

The Pot Point Loop is just shy of 12 miles. It’s moderately long but the terrain isn’t too strenuous. There’s technically three overlooks on the trail – Raccoon Mountain, Snooper’s Rock, and Ransom Hollow – but the Raccoon Mountain one is surrounded by trees therefore rendering it not-so-much-of-an-overlook when leaves are on the trees. I’ve already mentioned Snooper’s Rock, which is the most popular and it’s a great view, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Ransom Hollow Overlook. Sure, it could have been the magic of golden hour, but, wow, this view of Nickajack Lake is not one to be missed.

In addition to these views, you’ll find a natural rock bridge, multiple creeks and streams, a campsite and “boulder gardens”. We didn’t see a single soul on the trail, except for a few voices we heard at Snooper’s Rock. I’m not quite sure why this trail isn’t more popular, especially being so close to Chattanooga (~ 10 miles from downtown). It’s also part of the Tennessee River Gorge Segment of the Cumberland Trail. While, the loop isn’t technically part of the CT, it’s connected to the southern terminus.

For whatever reason, I was very confused as to where the Pot Point trailhead was. (There’s literally a parking icon on the map via Cumberland Trails Conference.) It’s right near Snooper’s Rock, but I thought “Surely this trail doesn’t start right at one of the overlooks!”, so I decided that the trailhead was the Trail Kiosk at Tower Dr. However, about four tenths of a mile before reaching the kiosk, the road was closed so that ‘nesting turkeys’ weren’t disturbed. (This area is closed in parts of the spring for turkey hunting, so make sure you check the Prentice Cooper State Forest website if you are planning on hiking in the spring.) So, we just pulled over and parked on the side of the road, and hiked down the road to the kiosk. But, I am SO GLAD we did because we caught the beautiful views at Ransom Hollow at sunset.

I highly recommend this loop in Prentice Cooper. I would make sure you have a good 6-7 hours to hike because you’ll want to stop and enjoy the views.

A gentlest little rainbow over a small creek
Raccoon Mountain Overlook
Natural bridge
Creek meandering through the trees
Heart shaped boulder
Snooper’s Rock
Beginning of golden hour
One happy pup
And one more of this view because I can’t get enough

Distance from Nashville: 2hr 30min

Trailhead: Snooper’s Rock Trailhead on Tower Drive (or unofficially the park-on-the-side-of-the-road at the Trail Kiosk farther south on Tower Dr)

Trail: Pot Point Loop (see my route below)

Link to trail map/info: Pot Point Loop via Cumberland Trails Conference

Length of hike: ~12 miles

Brief overview: Stunning overlooks of the Tennessee River/Nickajack Lake, natural rock bridge, huge boulders and forest and creek walking. Must do if you want a beautiful, challenging hike.

Mullens Cove Loop :: Prentice Cooper State Forest

Well, it’s been a little while. I haven’t had time this entire fall to hike, but finally have a break from grad school to squeeze in some December and January hiking. And actually, hiking in these months are my favorite. The trails are quieter, the leaves are off the trees so you can see many of the views better, and I would much rather layer clothes than hike in 80+ degree heat.

And maybe, in that time away, I forgot how to hike, because I had a difficult time keeping on the trail with this one. I also may have had a late start and was trying to squeeze a 9.5 mile hike into 4 hours so I would beat the sun setting. (Yeah, 2 strikes against me on this one.) So, because I was rushing, I kept losing the trail. It was decently well marked, but it was confusing in places. When I got to the Hemlock Branch Campground, the blazes honestly just stopped. Maybe I just didn’t see the next one, but I went a few different ways and couldn’t find anything. So began my bushwhacking over a mile to find the road the trail was supposed to cross. Then, I just hiked the road back to my car for fear I wouldn’t find the trail again.



This was my first time to Prentice Cooper; it’s a little far of a drive for a day hike (over 2 hours) but it’s a great area to hike. As an added bonus, it’s part of the Cumberland Trail, which will eventually be a 300+ mile trail from the TN-VA border to the TN-GA border.

Despite all of this, I think this area is great to hike in. But, just make sure you have plenty of time so you don’t have to rush (basically rule 1 when hiking…) and can enjoy all of the beauty. There’s trickling streams, overlooks, and rock structures. It’s challenging, but not too strenuous. Here’s a piece of advice, start at the trailhead across the street from the parking lot. It might be a bit easier to follow the trail that way to Snooper’s Rock and back our again so you won’t have to deal with the real confusing trails.


Snooper’s Rock

Distance from Nashville: 2 hours 10 minutes

Getting to the trailhead: Mullens Cove/Cumberland Trail Trailhead in Prentice Cooper State Forest (in the Fall, check for hunting dates)

Trail: Mullens Cove Loop Trail (route in purple)

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Length of trail: 10.2 miles

Link to trail map: Prentice Cooper State Forest Trail Map

Overview: Moderately strenuous trail with streams, overlooks and boulders showcasing part of the Cumberland Plateau and one terminus of the Cumberland Trail