Savage Day Loop :: Savage Gulf State Natural Area

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Savage Gulf is near the top of my favorite Tennessee hiking spots. There’s so much to see in this state natural area. But, many of the hikes are a bit more challenging and require a solid 6+ hours to complete. However, the Savage Day Loop is the perfect introduction to this area of South Cumberland State Park.

Savage Gulf from Rattlesnake Point
Wide shot of Savage Falls

Clocking in right around 5 miles (if you include a little spur to Savage Falls, which is completely worth it), Savage Day Loop has wooded trails, two suspension bridges, Savage Falls (upper and lower), and a fantastic view from Rattlesnake point. It’s such a great payoff for a relatively easy hike.

The true Savage Day Loop doesn’t include Savage Falls, but it is a quick .3 miles from the trail and well worth your time. (You’ll see signs for Savage Falls. Then just go back the way you came until you meet up with the loop trail again.) There’s stairs to the bottom of the falls where you’ll get the full effect. But, as with any waterfall and river, it’s quite slippery and boulder-y when you get to the base of the falls.

There’s also a couple campsites if you are looking to camp in this area. There are a handful of sites a stone’s throw away from the Savage Gulf Ranger Station, Then, there’s some sites near the falls if you were looking to do a little backpacking.

So, if you’re looking for a perfectly easy day hike in what I believe is one of the best hiking spots in Tennessee outside of the Smokies, get on out to the Savage Day Loop. (And also maybe invite me along because I love sharing this trail with others!)

Savage Creek
Savage Falls

Distance from Nashville: 1 hour 45 min

Trailhead: Savage Gulf Ranger Station off of TN-399

Trail: Savage Day Loop plus Savage Falls add-on

Length of trail: 5 miles including Savage Falls, 4.2 miles without the falls

Link to trail map: Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Campsites: Savage Station and Savage Falls, reserve here

Overview: A great introduction to the Savage Gulf system with a waterfall, suspension bridges, and sweeping views of the gulf.

Stone Door, Big Creek Gulf, Big Creek Rim Loop :: Savage Gulf State Natural Area

The Great Stone Door gets its name because it is supposed to resemble a door. There is a large rock that has a crack in it that separates most of the rock from its surrounding, mimicking a large door. (However, I’ve never really thought it looks like a door and more of just a rock with a split in it…)

The Stone Door Trail is one of the most popular in Savage Gulf. It’s only a mile to sweeping views and interesting rock structures and staircases.

But, if you know me at all, if I am going to drive more than an hour for a hike, I want to complete more than 2 miles roundtrip. You can easily connect the Stone Door Trail to the Big Creek Gulf (BCG), Big Creek Rim (BCR), or Laurel trails. Big Creek Gulf is the most difficult of the three trails, so, of course, I chose to hike that plus the Big Creek Rim, making a lollipop trial route.

I hiked this route about 5 years ago and I forgot how challenging the BCG trail was, which was made even more difficult being connected to a dog who loves to hike faster than I do. It’s quite a steep descent into the gulf and you hit lots of boulder/rock terrain. Most people recommend doing the BCG trail first, then the BCR because the descent from that end isn’t as brutal.

Down in the gulf, you’ll follow Big Creek and see enormous rocks the size of small houses. If it’s been rainy, the creek will absolutely be gushing. There’s a few times where you can traverse slightly off trail and get right up next to the water.

The rim trail is flat and relatively easy with multiple overlooks, which are a welcome reward after hiking the gulf trail. There’s lots of quiet places along this trail to rest and take in the views.

Alternate route: If you are wanting to make a longer loop and aren’t feeling up to traversing down into the gulf, you can make an easy, long loop with Stone Door, Big Creek Rim, and Laurel trails.

This loop is a great introduction to what Savage Gulf can offer. You’ll hit some “must-sees” of this area while challenging yourself with a 10-mile hike and 1,000 feet of elevation change.

Distance from Nashville: 1 hr 45 min

Trailhead: Stone Door Ranger Station on Stone Door Road off of TN-56 near Altamont, TN.

Trail: Stone Door (SD) Trail to Big Creek Rim (BCR) to Big Creek Gulf (BCG) to Stone Door (SD). (See my route in purple)

Link to trail map: Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Length of Hike: 9-10 miles, allow 5- 6 hours

Type of hike: Lollipop loop

Camping: Walk-in sites at Stone Door Ranger Station or Alum Gap Campground about halfway through

Brief overview: Elevation changes, rocky path at times, huge boulders, overlooks of Savage Gulf and rock staircases. Great for a long day hike or to connect to other trails in the Savage Gulf system for backpacking.