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Cumberland Trail - New River Segment

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The New River Segment enables hikers to visit some of the wildest, most remote, and least-visited terrain in Tennessee. The trail is divided into three sections: Arch Mountain which begins at the northeast corner of Frozen Head State Park and proceeds northward along Smoky Mountain and crosses the shoulder of Arch Mountain, then descends the Straight Fork watershed to reach its northern terminus near the confluence of Cave Branch and Smoky Creek. The second section is Lawson Mountain which ascends the Cave Branch watershed and climbs a ridge to its headwaters, descends into the valley of Bowling Branch, ascends Lawson Mountain with its outstanding views, and finally descends the Lick Creek watershed to the New River. The final section, the Anderson and Cross Mountain, ascends from the river to two beautiful meadows atop Anderson Mountain, descends to Green's Branch and the Montgomery Fork, then climbs to the crest of Cross Mountain before descending to the Bruce Gap Trailhead at Cove Lake State Park and the end of the segment. The 40 miles of trail of the New River Segment of the Cumberland Trail  exposes hikers to some of the wildest, most remote, and least-visited terrain in Tennessee. The trail traverses from the main trailhead near Cove Lake State Park and continues southbound through the heart of the Cumberland Mountains to Frozen Head State Park. This segment of the Cumberland Trail connects two State Parks and the Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area and climbs to the highest elevation on the entire Cumberland Trail as it enters Frozen Head SP. Note that this segment passes through the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area requiring hikers to wear blaze orange during big game hunting seasons. For season dates, check with the TWRA at 800- 332-0900 or www.tnwildlife.org.


ARCH MOUNTAIN SECTION: Section 1 is 13 miles in length. From its southern terminus at its junction with the Coffin Springs Trail near the northeast corner of Frozen Head State Park, the Cumberland Trail trail ascends to the Garden Spot and into the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The trail turns north and, at Indian Fork Gap, begins a traverse of the crest of Smoky Mountain utilizing a seldom-travelled, improved gravel road that provides views of the surrounding mountains and the wind turbines on Buffalo Mountain in Anderson County. Just north Grassy Gap the trail turns off the ridge towards Arch Mountain and descends northward nearly 1,500 feet into the narrow valley of Straight Fork. Before the confluence of Straight Fork and Smoky Creek, the trail turns west and reaches Smoky Creek near its confluence with Cave Branch. The Cave Branch Trailhead--the northern terminus of the Arch Mountain Section and the southern terminus of the Lawson Mountain Section--is on the west side of the creek and Smoky Creek Road. Highlights of this section include a vast hardwood forest, a fine display of spring wildflowers, far-reaching views from Smoky and Arch Mountains, and opportunity to enjoy what is perhaps the most isolated place in Tennessee.

LAWSON MOUNTAIN SECTION: Section 2 is 9.8 miles in length. From its southern terminus at the Cave Branch Trailhead just off Smoky Creek Road, the trail heads up remote Cave Branch and climbs1,300 feet to a rocky ridge that divides two watersheds. After a fairly level traverse of the ridge, the trail descends 800 feet to Bowling Branch. A pleasant stroll precedes the second major climb of the Section--an ascent of 800 feet to the summit ridge of Lawson Mountain. A second ridge walk is followed by a descent of 1,300 feet in the Lick Creek watershed to the New River and the Norma Road Trailhead. Highlights of this section include a vast hardwood forest affording great fall colors; stands of large, healthy hemlocks; countless tumbling creeks (in season); far-reaching views from Lawson Mountain; walking in the presence of wild elk; and a real sense of isolation.

ANDERSON AND CROSS MOUNTAIN Section 3 is 17.2 miles in length. From the section's southern terminus on Norma Road, the trail climbs 1,250 feet out of the valley of the New River to two beautiful meadows on Anderson Mountain. It descends through hardwood forest on McCoy Ridge to Green's Branch, then passes through an area of outstanding spring wildflowers to Montgomery Fork and a backcountry campsite. From here hikers face a 3-mile 1,360-foot ascent to the top of Cross Mountain; rewards include views in all directions and a fine display of wildflowers and flowering trees between April and June. The trail then descends 1,900 feet in 4 miles to the northern terminus of the section at Cove Lake State Park. Gravel and dirt roads provide access to two points along the trail, making shorter hikes possible. Additional highlights of this section include the possibility of observing wild elk and camping under increasingly rare dark night sky.

Visit the Cumberland Trail website for maps, parking and mile-to-mile details of this segment

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