This is a very short hike–only 1.8 miles roundtrip–but the views are worth it. It’s the perfect length to pack in a better-than-ordinary picnic lunch. The Stone Door Trail is located in South Cumberland State Park in Middle Tennessee.
This large park is comprised of nine different areas located within four counties—Grundy, Franklin, Marion and Sequatchie—and 100 square miles of south central Tennessee. The Stone Door and Savage Gulf areas contain beautiful panoramas, numerous waterfalls and rock formations. Other areas include Grundy Forest and Grundy Lakes, Foster Falls and Greeter Falls, Sewanee Natural Bridge, Buggy Top and Collin’s Gulf. Hiking, rock climbing, rappelling and caving (once they are re-opened) are among the activities available within the park. Also included within the park’s domain is Carter Cave State Natural Area, an enclosed-valley sinkhole called Lost Cove; Sewanee Natural Bridge State Natural Area, a sandstone arch overlooking Lost Cove; and Hawkins Cove State Natural Area, which was created to protect Cumberland Rosinweed, a type of sunflower that grows only the Cumberland Plateau.
Directions: From Interstate 24, take Exit 134 or 135, and turn right on U.S. 41 South. Drive 4.5 miles to the Visitor Center on the left, where you can get more information. Or continue on to TN 50, turn right and follow the highway until it ends at TN 56. Turn left and follow the road to the Ranger Station on the right.
Hours Open: The park is open for day use from 7 a.m. until sunset, unless you intend to camp in the backcountry (a permit is required). The Visitors Center is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The park is located in the Central Time Zone.
The Stone Door Trail
The spectacular views from the cliffs adjacent to the Stone Door are alone worth this short-ish hike, but the Stone Door, itself, is an amazing 100-feet deep and 10-feet wide crack in the rocks atop the plateau that is one of those “can’t be missed” sights.
Caution: The trail, itself, is only moderately strenuous and the usual caution about watching your step on the rocks and roots is called for. Once you reach the Stone Door, though, be particularly careful as the cliffs fall more than 700 feet to the gorges below.
Trail Directions: From the parking area at the Stone Door Ranger Station in the Savage Gulf Trails area, follow the pathway to the trailhead to the right of the information sign and sign-in area at N 35º 15’ 8”, W 85º 44’ 51” (1).
Begin hiking along the paved trail and cross a wooden bridge at .05 mile. This area is in a sensitive plant habitat, so it is important to keep the paved trail.
At .21 mile, you will reach the overlook of Laurel Gulf at N 35º 26’ 42”, W 85º 39’ 10” (2). Laurel Creek gorge is below and the Stone Door cliffs are to your far right. Shortly after the overlook, the pavement ends and you will begin hiking on a natural path.
At .43, .61, and .69 miles, you will cross wooden bridges over intermittent creeks.
Continue hiking and at .86 mile, you will reach the junction with the Big Creek Rim Trail to your right, overlooks to your left and right, and the Stone Door to your right.
Turn right and at .88 mile cross a wooden bridge to the overlook to your left. At .92 mile, you will reach The Stone Door, which is straight ahead and down the steps at N 35º 26’ 25”, W 85º 38’ 59” (3).
2. Laurel Gulf Overlook
3. The Stone Door