Saturday, October 28, 2023 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM EDT
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North Chick Trailhead 

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Hike Manager 
Wild Ones - Tennessee Valley Chapter 

Wild Ones Members Only Hike
North Chickamauga Creek Gorge (Pocket Wilderness) with Zach Irick

Hike Details: Southeastern Grasslands Institute botanist and southern grassland ecologist Zach Irick will lead this day hike along the Cumberland Trail through North Chickamauga Creek Gorge (Pocket Wilderness), Barker Camp Rd. to Montlake Rd. segment, Soddy Daisy, TN.

Join Zach Irick and fellow Wild Ones members for a day of fall colors and wildflower viewing along the Cumberland Trail at North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area. This incredible segment of trail is an amazing local feature. The waterway is currently being advanced to state scenic river designation and the entire SNA as potential state park status within the next year. The hikers will pass through several ecosystems, including upland woods, scrubland, seeps, creeks, waterfall pools, open slopes, outcrops and cliffsides. 

At least 11 state or federal listed plants and several other threatened and beautiful plants thrive within this prior Bowater pocket wilderness. Though these rare plants have finished their blooming period, we still may encounter the foliage of: Diervilla lonicera, Diervilla rivularis, Gaultheria procumbens, Glyceria acutiflora, Lonicera dioica, Nestronia umbellula, Panax quinquefolius, Phemeranthus mengesii, Sabatia capitata, Scutellaria montana, Spiraea virginiana, Thermopsis mollis, Viola tripartita, and Woodwardia virginica.

We will meet up at the main parking at 354 Montlake Rd., Soddy-Daisy, TN near the mouth of the gorge and carpool from there to the Barker Camp Rd. trailhead parking and be hiking one way back to the cars, so when we are finished, those who did not drive to the Barker Camp trailhead can drive home from the meeting spot. A lightly forested descending to level trail with overlooks leads to a steep descent into a rich cove until we cross Cooper’s creek to reach the Stevensons Branch campsite. We’ll be ready to lunch, rehydrate, and take in close up views of the creek or waterfall. After the next creek crossing, giant rock houses, hemlock and rhododendron coves, and 2 climbs with a descent between, we arrive at stunning views overlooking the confluence of North Chickamauga Creek with Rogers Creek and Boston Branch. This area is a site of recent wildfire recovery with remaining stunted pines, late blooming goldenrod and aster, plus the fall colors of sugar maple (Acer saccharum), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), shining sumac (Rhus copallinum), farkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), hillside blueberries (Vaccinium pallidum) and bush honeysuckle (Diervilla rivularis). After a staircase down, we generally descend the remaining 2.5 miles along escarpment rock formations before finishing the adventure.

Rating A mix of easy to moderate to difficult, on various smooth, rocky or gravel trails, ladders, staircases, and several shallow creek crossings. Overall this hike is considered to be ruggedly moderate to difficult.

Start Time and Place:  9:00 am Eastern, at 354 Montlake Rd., Soddy-Daisy, TN with coordinates: (35.23576279895494, -85.22569834499035) A large gravel parking for NCCG SNA. Carpool/caravan from there about 15 minutes to Barker Camp Rd. trailhead.

Distance: 8.3 miles. Trail is one way. Plan on utilizing the whole day before getting home, considering the terrain.

Additional Information:  

Distancing precautions recommended. Bring snacks and lunch, enough water and/or water filter, insect repellent, sunscreen, wear layers, appropriate shoes for hiking and/or Teva or similar footwear that can dry quickly and hiking poles/stick. Dinner will be on your own. No pets at any of our Wild Ones hikes please.

Limit:  15 participants

This program is free and open to Tennessee Valley Chapter Wild Ones members, including family.  Please make sure your membership is up to date.

Related helpful links:

Vascular Flora of NCCG SNA

North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy

Cumberland Trails Conference route description (we are doing exact opposite direction)