The Right Stuff at Bald River Gorge, TN

1:32 p.m. on August 7, 2014 (EDT)
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About 50 miles northeast of Chattanooga, TN, on Interstate 75, you can exit right (southeast) on TN state highway 68 to the popular village (esp for motorcyclists) of Tellico Plains.  There, get onto state highway 165 toward the east (called Cherohala Skyway or the Dragon's Tail by cyclists).  About 5 miles out of town you come to Forest Service road 210 at this sign...


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Shortly, it is well worth the visit to stop at the Ranger Station, housed in old Civilian Conservation Corps buildings from the 1930s where there is a garden of "native species of flowering plants and a lady whose family goes back to those years who has great tales to tell of life in the area:


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A few miles on, you come to the Bald River Fall, about 90 feet in height...


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Try to avoid weekends because there is sometimes a traffic jam of tourists and fly-fisherpeople enjoying the Bald River and its tributaries that are so beautiful and fishable.

To the left, as you face the fall, is a parking area and the entry point for Trail #88 is just the other side of the cars.


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The trail is moderate at worst--the entry ramp is the hardest climbing part of the whole experience, and there is a bench to rest on halfway up to the top of the fall (the first section of the trail).  The trail itself is around 4 and a half miles, with this north end being the most scenic and the last half being the most "campable" with its flats and easy/safe access to the river.  You may want to enter the trail at the southernmost end if you want to camp--you can set up in the right-at-hand flats next to the river and then hike lightly toward the north to see all the many, beautiful falls that line the river.  This is southern terminus of trail 88 (located on Bald River Road [aka Forest Service road 126] near the Holly Flats campground (a quiet, clean campground, hardly ever full, but has no potable water or electricity).


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Trail 88 goes through the middle of what is known as the Bald River Gorge Wilderness area.  You'll have total change of elevation of 480 feet.  There are some nice sized poplars and maples, but the area was "severely" logged over in the 1930s, so the trees--though having an admirably high canopy--are not "old growth."  

If you plan to take pictures, it may be best to enter the northern end of the trail (by the signature fall) and come in mid-day.  The gorge runs from north to south and the sun shines on the bottom best at mid-day.  Here's a pic of the sun FINALLY coming up about 10 a.m., rising over the top of the east side of the gorge.  The trail is about a hundred feet below the gorge top and 40 feet above the river (guesstimate) until you get to the south end where the trail is right next to the river.


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Following are some shots I took while walking Trail #88.  Again, plenty of good and reachable water sources (water-purification is still recommended by the local literature)


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and reasonably easy walking for us older people who might not otherwise get past the parking lot.

Thanks for taking time to read this post.  Happy hiking!


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I caught a picture of an owl at about noon (left of center, in the middle), must've wakened him and he's looking at me a second before he flew off...
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busy little beavers, huh
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here's a hornets' (or yellow-jacket or ?) nest about 20 feet off the ground; saw several of these.  
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P.S.:  sorry for repeating some of the pictures but the fog on my glasses doesn't seem to rub off like it used to.  Ha, thanks again for watching.

4:01 p.m. on August 7, 2014 (EDT)
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nice....

ive hiked that trail from the falls going up to a nice campsite along the creek and from the road near holly flats to another nice campsite along the creek.....

needless to say---there are some nice campsite along this trail......

 

and from the road near holly flats----there's trailheads for some other nice trails----brookshire creek and kirkland creek trails....

 

 

12:10 a.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Nice, I have a weak spot for water flowing over rocks.

12:35 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Beautiful falls! Thanks for all the detail; it's definitely on my to do list now.

2:44 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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We had a discussion of Bald River on Whiteblaze recently---

http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?105559-Bald-River-Gorge-Wilderness-Video


My next trip will begin at the Bald River trailhead by the Falls and do some side loops away from the river and up the Cow Camp and Henderson Top trails to Skull Gap and Panther Branch trail, etc.

I consider Bald River to be an excellent backpack for those who want an easy hike as it's mostly level and there are no river crossings.

5:01 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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I consider Bald River to be an excellent backpack for those who want an easy hike as it's mostly level and there are no river crossings.

i'll agree with this as well....

one of the easiest trails that i have been on in this general area.....

and tipi, potentially you may see me out in that area....

i still need to do henderson mountain trail and panther branch trail.......

5:09 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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The top part of Panther Branch is possibly the steepest trail in the entire area, except for some very short sections on the Upper Slickrock nutbuster trail.  What's nice about it is that it has a Tellico River footbridge at the bottom trailhead and a good swimhole under the bridge.  Here's the Panther footbridge over Tellico---


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5:13 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Keep the waterfall pics coming!

5:22 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Thanks for your replies, folks!  It makes a trip more interesting to have that camera in hand and think that "I'm taking these shots for all those people on trailspace" instead of just myself.  Nice to have feedback.

BTW: if you drive past the big fall (Bald River Falls), with the fall on your right, still on the paved Forest Service road 210, you eventually wind down along the Tellico River to a sign and right turn onto Forest Service rock road #126.  This road goes through total wilderness area, past the Holly Flats Campground, and makes an eventual circle back to the ranger station area.  If you have people with you who are crippled or too infirm to walk an actual wilderness trail, this road (126) is the nearest thing to it--wilderness area on both sides of the road very much like the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Smokies and you can see trout fisherpersons at work along the way.  Not too abrasive a road surface, but need good tires.

I think this post (below) is a connection to some side loops away from the river toward the east--it was about half-way down trail 88 from the falls and its information was engraved into the post instead of on cross-pieces:


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Thanks, again, for your comments.

5:58 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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I love the waterfalls!  I want to go... one day.  Until that day comes, thanks for sharing your pictures and report.

8:42 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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I think this post (below) is a connection to some side loops away from the river toward the east--it was about half-way down trail 88 from the falls and its information was engraved into the post instead of on cross-pieces:

that should be cow pen trail.........

9:46 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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Actually, the Cow Camp trail . . . .

It jcts with the Henderson Top trail or continues downhill to Tellico River by the bridge above Baby Falls.

10:35 p.m. on August 8, 2014 (EDT)
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ahhhh.....

i was close....

and yeah---ive taken it down to the bridge by the river...

the junction with henderson mountain trail is not marked and can be kinda confusing as the tree sorta blocks the trail......

9:13 a.m. on August 9, 2014 (EDT)
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kevinumberger said:

ahhhh.....

i was close....

and yeah---ive taken it down to the bridge by the river...

the junction with henderson mountain trail is not marked and can be kinda confusing as the tree sorta blocks the trail......

 I remember when that old tree used to be standing but leaning . . . and now it's down.


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Here's the broken oak tree as seen from the Cow Camp trail and walking towards the jct with Henderson Top on the left.  To continue straight ahead on Cow Camp would take you down to Bald River.


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Here's the fallen oak on Cow Camp.  Behind the tree the Cow Camp trail descends to Tellico River.


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This pic shows the oak tree as I'm standing at the beginning of the Henderson Top trail looking at the Tee with the Cow Camp trail by my pack.


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Finally, this pic shows me standing at the start of the Henderson Top trail as it meanders behind me.  My camera is perched on the fallen oak tree.

November 21, 2014
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