Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pleasant Ridge County Park (Blog Hike #451)

Trail: Leroy Smith Nature Trail
Hike Location: Pleasant Ridge County Park
Geographic Location: north of Travelers Rest, SC (35.08686, -82.47953)
Length: 0.7 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: October 2013
Overview: A short ridgetop and creekside nature trail loop.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: Pleasant Ridge County Park is located on SR 11 2 miles west of US 25 or 2.5 miles east of US 276.  The park entrance is on the north side of the road.  Enter the park and bear right at the first road fork.  Park in the first parking area.

The hike: Originally a state park, pretty Pleasant Ridge County Park has its roots in the ugly days of segregation.  In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, all of the state parks in upstate South Carolina were open only to white people.  When the doctrine of separate-but-equal became the law of the land, the state wanted to keep its parks white-only, so it was forced to establish a separate but equal park for use by black people.  The new “separate but equal” state park is today’s Pleasant Ridge County Park.
            If you visit any of the Upstate’s current state parks (Table Rock, Caesar’s Head, Paris Mountain: just pick one) and then come here, you will immediately realize that this park is not “equal” to any of those parks.  The county park has no unique natural features, but it does have some nice picnic areas, a campground, some cabins, a retreat center, and one short nature trail, the one described here.  The trail is named for Leroy Smith, this park’s superintendent from 1951 through 1979 and the first black state park superintendent in South Carolina.  Although the park receives a decent number of visitors, the trail gets little traffic, perhaps for reasons to be described later.
Nature trail trailhead
            From the rear of the parking area where the park road curves right to enter the campground, walk straight across a mown grassy area.  Two signs mark the beginning and end of the nature trail loop, respectively.  The hiking is slightly easier if you hike the loop counterclockwise, so this description will enter on the right trail and return on the left one.
Climbing on eroded trail
            Immediately the rooty and rutted trail begins climbing through young forest on a moderate grade.  This trail is never too steep, but the high level of trail erosion makes the difficulty higher than you might expect for a short county park nature trail.  The trail curves left at 0.2 miles as it nears the highest point of the hike.  On my late fall hike, I passed a maintenance man using a leaf blower to clear leaves from the trail near this point.  Sweet gum and maple are the largest trees up here, but the forest is pretty young and brushy throughout this hike.
            The descent now begins, at first on a gradual grade and then more steeply.  After a particularly steep and eroded section, you reach an old moonshine still site at 0.4 miles.  This site would be hard to identify but for the interpretive sign marking the spot.
Waterfall in creek beside trail
            Past the old still site, ignore a side trail that exits right and leads uphill to the park’s retreat center.  The loop continues by crossing a small creek on a nice wooden bridge and curving left to follow the creek downstream.  Soon a small waterfall appears in the creek to the left, and an old stone wall appears nearby.  After crossing a wet area, the trail emerges from the woods at the mown grassy area, thus marking the end of the loop.  A short walk across the grass is all that remains to complete the hike.

Friday, November 22, 2013

DeSoto State Park: Cabin Trail to Indian and Lodge Falls (Blog Hike #450)

Trail: Cabin Trail (to Indian and Lodge Falls)
Hike Location: DeSoto State Park
Geographic Location: northeast of Fort Payne, AL (34.50004, -85.61716)
Length: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: October 2013
Overview: A short out-and-back to two wet-weather waterfalls.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: In northeast Alabama, drive I-59 to SR 35 (exit 218).  Exit and go east on SR 35.  Drive SR 35 4.6 miles to CR 89, climbing Lookout Mountain in the process.  Turn left on CR 89.  Drive CR 89 north 5.7 miles to the CCC Pavilion parking area on the right.  Park in the large blacktop parking lot in front of the CCC Pavilion.

The hike: Located about halfway between Chattanooga, TN and Gadsden, AL, DeSoto State Park consists of 3502 acres on the broad, high top of Lookout Mountain.  The park is named for the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who explored this area in the early 1540’s.  Like many Alabama state parks, this park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s.  The CCC built many of the park’s structures including the pavilion near this parking area, and a small museum in the park pays tribute to their contribution.
            DeSoto State Park has almost every amenity imaginable.  Lodging includes a resort lodge, a park motel, 12 cabins, and a 94-site campground.  The park also features a restaurant, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and numerous picnic shelters.
            In terms of natural attractions, the park’s most famous attractions are its numerous waterfalls.  The largest waterfall is 104-foot DeSoto Falls, but it is located 6 miles north of the park and is accessible only by driving, not by hiking.  5 other waterfalls lie in the park’s main area, 2 of which are visited on this hike. 
My October 2013 visit was actually my second to this park; my first came in May 1998 before I started this blog, which leads to the only downside to these waterfalls.  Because DeSoto’s waterfalls sit high in the watershed atop Lookout Mountain, they only flow well after a significant rain.  In particular, the “waterfalls” were merely a dry rock outcrop on my early October visit, but they were quite nice on my May visit many years ago.  Time your visit accordingly.
Trailhead behind picnic shelter
            Start the hike by walking to the right of the picnic shelter at the rear of the parking lot, descending the steep, grassy hill, and entering the woods.  The slightly steep and eroded dirt trail continues its descent for another 0.1 miles to reach an intersection with the DeSoto Scout Trail, which is marked with yellow paint blazes.  The Scout Trail is a 5 mile long moderate/difficult trail along the West Fork of the Little River; it merits serious exploration if you have more time than I did on my visit.  To reach the Cabin Trail and its two waterfalls, turn right here to begin a short stint on the Scout Trail.
            Very quickly another spur trail exits right to head back to the picnic area, and you reach the narrow wooden bridge that crosses a creek just above Indian Falls.  As I mentioned in the introduction, this waterfall was completely dry on my visit, but a spur trail leads to the fall’s base if water flow is higher on your visit.  Just after crossing the bridge, you reach the north end of the Cabin Trail.  Angle right to begin the Cabin Trail, which is marked with lime-green paint blazes.
Wooden bridge above Indian Falls
Cabin and Scout Trails split
            The cabins for which this trail is named come into view on the right as you climb gradually.  The West Fork of the Little River lies sharply downhill to your left, but it usually cannot be seen due to the dense green understory.  At 0.5 miles, the Cabin Trail splits.  The left fork leads down to the base of Lodge Falls, while the right fork gives a view from the top of Lodge FallsLodge Falls is only 0.1 miles away, so you can take in both views with little extra effort.
View from top of Lodge Falls
            Lodge Falls is the last point of interest on this trail, so now you need to get back to the trailhead.  You could simply retrace your steps along the Cabin/Scout Trails, but there is a way to form a loop.  Continuing along the branch of the Cabin Trail above Lodge Falls will bring you to the lodge, where a right turn will take you first to the lodge access road and then to CR 89.
            After walking a short distance on the road shoulder, look for the signed aqua-blazed pedestrian trail on the right.  Pick up this trail as it parallels the road, passes through the parking area for the Lost Falls Trail (perhaps the best trail in this park), and climbs slightly to reach the park’s Country Store.  The CCC pavilion stands uphill and across CR 89, thus signaling the end of the hike.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cloudland Canyon State Park: West Rim Trail (Blog Hike #449)

Trail: West Rim Trail
Hike Location: Cloudland Canyon State Park
Geographic Location: southeast of Trenton, GA (34.83504, -85.48011)
Length: 5 miles
Difficulty: 7/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: October 2013
Overview: A lollipop loop featuring multiple overlooks of Sitton Gulch and Daniel Creek Gorge.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: In extreme northwest Georgia, take I-59 to SR 136 (exit 11).  Exit and go east on SR 136.  Drive SR 136 for 6.6 miles, ascending Lookout Mountain in the process, to the state park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park, pay the small entrance fee, and drive 1.4 miles on the main park road, continuing straight at each intersection.  Park in any of the parking lots near the Interpretive Center.

The hike: Established in 1938, 3488-acre Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of the crown jewels in Georgia’s state park system.  The park straddles 1100-foot deep Sitton Gulch, which forms in the center of the park at the confluence of Daniel Creek Gorge and Bear Creek Gorge.  Cloudland Canyon State Park has nice facilities, including 102 campsites, 16 cottages, and 5 picnic shelters, but the natural attractions take center stage.
Most of the land on the gulch’s rim belongs to the park, so the views into the gulch are fabulous.  Also, the park’s location on the western edge of Lookout Mountain ensures excellent views to the west as well.  In addition to the views from the rim, the gulch itself contains some goodies, namely two large waterfalls: Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls.
           All of the pleasantries Cloudland Canyon has to offer can be accessed by a fine network of hiking trails.  While points along the rim are rather easily accessed, the waterfalls can only be reached by descending several hundred feet via over 1000 wood/metal steps.  I hiked to the waterfalls back in 1998 (before I started writing this blog), so I decided to tour the rim on this visit.  In particular, I chose to hike the West Rim Trail, which is probably the park’s most famous trail.  The West Rim Trail is mostly moderate in difficulty with only a couple of rocky spots, and it tours all of the park’s major rim overlooks.
Carsonite post at trailhead
            From the Interpretive Center, take the paved trail that heads south along the rim with the canyon to your right and the park road to your left.  Immediately views open up over the metal railing on the right.  Daniel Creek Gorge falls immediately before you, and Sitton Gulch extends out behind you to the north.  Hemlock Falls lies deep in the gorge directly in front of you, but it can be neither seen nor heard from the rim.
View into Daniel Creek Gorge
            At 0.2 miles, the trail turns to gravel and heads behind some of the park’s cabins.  Soon the Waterfalls Trail exits right to begin its long descent into the gorge.  The yellow-blazed West Rim Trail descends slightly with Daniel Creek coming into view through dense shrubbery on the right.  At 0.4 miles, you cross Daniel Creek on a wooden footbridge.
            Now on the west side of Daniel Creek, you begin the steepest part of the hike as the trail climbs out of the upper reaches of Daniel Creek Gorge via switchbacks.  Some wild trails head straight up the hillside, but cutting the switchbacks makes the grade steeper and enhances trail erosion.  Thus, intelligent hikers will follow the yellow blazes and stay on the official trail.
Small cave near trail
            Near 0.6 miles, you pass a small cave on the left.  Just past the cave, you reach the west rim proper and the rear of the Yurt Village.  A yurt is a fabric-covered wood camping structure originally used by nomads in central Asia.  Yurts have gained popularity in this country over the past 20 years, and several yurt-making companies exist in America today.
            1 mile into the hike, the trail descends on a moderate but rather rocky grade to reach the first of many Daniel Creek Gorge overlooks.  Some large crevices exist between the rocks here, so take care where you step.  The gorge remains in view to the right as the trail curves left, following the rim.  Stunted pines grow along the rocky rim.  Railings appear when the trail gets extremely close to the gorge edge, so the exposure and the risk of falling are minimal.
Hiking along the west rim
            After some nice rim views, the trail descends somewhat steeply into a side draw as it heads away from the main canyon.  At 1.4 miles, the trail splits to form its loop.  To save the best scenery for the end, this description will continue straight here and use the trail going right across the wooden bridge as the return route, thus hiking the loop clockwise.
Hiking through the park's interior
            The next 0.9 miles form the most unremarkable segment of the hike as the trail climbs on a gradual grade through the sunny forest that covers the park’s interior.  Just past the 2-mile marker, you cross the paved cabin road.  A little more climbing brings you to a trail intersection where the West Rim Trail’s yellow blazes turn right.  Note that turning left here would quickly take you to a secondary parking area.  Vehicles access that parking area via the cabin road, and it makes an alternate starting point for this hike.
            At 2.4 miles, you reach the finest west-facing overlook in the park.  This rocky bluff peers off the west side of Lookout Mountain.  You can see 3 states on a clear day: Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.  Lookout Creek, the town of Trenton, and I-59 appear in the foreground, while Sand Mountain can be seen in the distance.  To your right lies the mouth of Sitton Gulch and the majority of Cloudland Canyon State Park.  This overlook is my favorite overlook on this hike, so spend some time here near the midpoint of the hike.
View to the west

View of mouth of Sitton Gulch
            For the remainder of its loop the trail stays within 30 feet of the rim, so nice views appear through gaps in the trees to the left.  Several spur trails exit right and lead to the cabin area.  At 3.2 miles, you reach the most dramatic overlook on this hike.  A rock outcrop protruding over Sitton Gulch allows views up, down, and across the impressive canyon.  A black iron fence ensures you do not fall over the edge of the outcrop.
Iron fence at rocky overlook
            In another 0.2 miles, you reach the last loop overlook.  This point overlooks the confluence of Bear and Daniel Creeks deep in the canyon.  Some rock ledges cross the trail here and may require you to use your hands to navigate them.  A final slightly steep descent leads to the wooden bridge you passed earlier, thus closing the loop.  A left turn and 1.2 miles of retracing your steps will return you to the trailhead and complete the hike.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Harrison Bay State Park: Nature Trails (Blog Hike #448)

Trails: Lakeshore Nature and Harrison Bay Walking Trails
Hike Location: Harrison Bay State Park
Geographic Location: northeast of Chattanooga, TN (35.17477, -85.12222)
Length: 1 mile
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: October 2013
Overview: Two short but very different nature trails.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: Just outside Chattanooga, take I-75 to SR 153 (exit 4).  Exit and enter north on SR 153, which is a limited-access divided highway.  Drive SR 153 4.6 miles to SR 58 (exit 5A).  Exit and turn right (north) on SR 58.  Drive SR 58 for 8.3 miles to Harrison Bay Road and turn left on Harrison Bay Rd.  Drive Harrison Bay Rd. 1.4 miles to the state park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park.  The gravel parking area for the Harrison Bay Walking Trail lies on the left 400 feet after entering the park, and the parking area for the Lakeshore Nature Trail is 0.4 miles from the park entrance on the right.

The hike: Like many state parks along the Tennessee River, Harrison Bay State Park has its roots with the depression-era Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  The TVA built many dams and lakes along the Tennessee River through Knoxville, Chattanooga, and points downstream.  This section of the Tennessee River is known as Chickamauga Lake, a 60-mile long lake created in 1940 by the construction of Chickamauga Dam only a few miles south of here.  Harrison Bay is a large inlet of Chickamauga Lake named for the town of Harrison, which you drove through on SR 58 on your way to the park.
            The Civilian Conservation Corps also left its mark here: between 1938 and 1942 they built many of the structures you see in the park today.  The state leased the park from the TVA until 1950 when it purchased the land for one dollar.  The park features a fine Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, a large marina, and a 128-site campground.
            The park also boasts 3 trails: the 4.5 mile Bay Point Loop Trail, the 0.5 mile gravel Harrison Bay Walking Trail, and the 0.5 mile Lakeshore Nature Trail.  The Bay Point Loop Trail was built by mountain bikers primarily for mountain bikers, and I didn’t feel like dodging mountain bikes on the cool fall Saturday morning I came here.  Thus, I stuck with the two short nature trails.  The two trailheads are separated by 0.3 miles along the main park road, so either a short drive or road walk will be required between hiking these two trails.
Trailhead: Harrison Bay Walking Trail
            Start with the Harrison Bay Walking Trail, the trailhead of which is marked by a brown metal sign.  This trail features a restored tallgrass prairie, a now rare but once common habitat in the southeast. The gravel path goes right and left, but for the best prairie study, you should take the grassy trail that goes straight through the center of the prairie.  My shoes kicked the dew off the grass as I walked through the prairie.
Hiking through the tallgrass prairie
            On my visit the tallgrass prairie was a dull dead-looking yellow except for white some fleabane wildflowers, but in late summer the prairie comes alive with prairie wildflowers of various colors, dragonflies, and butterflies.  Only a few young trees dot the grassy expanse.  At the south side of the prairie, the grassy trail intersects the gravel loop trail.  You could go either way to walk around the perimeter of the prairie and close the loop.
Descending toward the lake shore
            Next, drive the short distance to the parking area for the Lakeshore Nature Trail, and pick up the trail as it exits the back of the gravel parking area at an information kiosk.  This trail appears to be the only one of the park’s three trails that dates to the opening of the park, but I could not confirm my hunch.  The trail descends on a gradual but slightly rocky grade to reach the lake shore at 0.2 miles.  The lake shore here is a pair of broad, quiet inlets.  You may see anglers in boats trying to get a bite in the shallow waters.
Shore of Harrison Bay
            The trail follows the lakeshore as it curves right and offers more nice lake views to the left.  At 0.3 miles, you reach a trail intersection.  The spur trail to the group camp goes left, but the main loop trail turns right to head back for the trailhead.  The trail climbs somewhat steeply but only for a short distance through a forest dominated by maple and sweetgum.  After topping the hill, a short level walk will bring you to a picnic table at the parking area, thus completing the hike.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The University of the South: Beckwith's Point Trail (Blog Hike #447)

Trail: Beckwith’s Point Trail
Hike Location: The University of the South
Geographic Location: north side of Sewanee, TN (35.21005, -85.89826)
Length: 4.2 miles
Difficulty: 5/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: October 2013
Overview: An out-and-back along the rim of Shakerag Hollow to a grand overlook.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: Take I-24 to US 41A (exit 134).  Exit and go west/southwest on US 41A.  Drive US 41A 3.5 miles to the entrance gates for Sewanee University.  Just after passing the entrance gate, look for a small gravel parking area on the right.  Park here; this is the Shakerag Hollow parking area.

The hike: Opened in 1868, the University of the South, also known as Sewanee University, was established on 10,000 mostly wooded acres donated by the Sewanee Mining Company.  Perhaps the university’s most famous achievement came via its athletic department in 1932 when it became a founding member of the Southeastern Conference (yes, the one with Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and the like).  The university left the conference in 1940, and these days its teams compete at the NCAA Division III level.
            Today the university has still developed only a fraction of its donated land, and the campus is surrounded by a ring of old growth forest.  Included in the forested land is the university’s 21-mile Perimeter Trail, which circumnavigates the campus.  Though the entire Perimeter Trail is too long for a dayhike, several segments make shorter but equally worthwhile journeys.  The Beckwith’s Point Trail described here is a one of the Perimeter Trail’s many side trails.  I did this hike as an out-and-back, but I suggest a couple of options at the end of this trail description to minimize the retracing of steps.
Shakerag Hollow Trailhead
            The Perimeter Trail crosses US 41A at this parking area.  To get to the Beckwith’s Point Trail, stay on the north side of the road and enter the woods at the back of the parking area.  A wooden signboard just into the woods announces your approach to Shakerag Hollow.
            Only a couple hundred feet into the woods, the Beckwith’s Point Trail exits left where the Perimeter Trail continues straight.  Wooden directional signs mark this intersection.  Turn left to begin the Beckwith’s Point Trail.  The wide dirt trail heads gradually downhill before curving sharply left at the edge of Shakerag Hollow’s sheer but low rock walls.  This point represents this trail’s best view into Shakerag Hollow, so take a minute to observe the rugged setting.
Trail near Shakerag Hollow
            After climbing gradually along the hollow’s rim, the trail crosses a gravel maintenance road at 0.4 miles.  For the next 0.5 miles the trail stays just downhill from busy University Avenue as it dips in and out of several shallow ravines, crossing the creeks on narrow wooden bridges.  Sounds of cars zooming along the road will be a constant nuisance.  1 mile into the hike you reach a high point where a partially obstructed view off the Cumberland escarpment opens up to the right.
            After passing through a couple more shallow ravines, the university’s golf course comes very close to the trail on the left.  Take care not to distract golfers, as one tee area is less than 10 feet from the trail.  At 1.6 miles, the signed spur to Beckwith’s Point exits to the right.  Feel free to hike the short distance out to the rocky ledge called Beckwith’s Point, but no views can be had in the warm months due to the dense broadleaf forest.
Hiking near the golf course
            After two more close calls with the golf course (I felt like the gopher on Caddyshack because I popped out on the golf course so often), the trail ducks into the woods for good.  Near 2 miles into the hike, a signed connector to the Perimeter Trail exits at a sharp angle to the right.  This 0.1 mile connector trail is steep and rocky, but it may be useful to form a loop, as described later.
            The final segment of the Beckwith’s Point Trail climbs on a moderate, slightly rocky grade to reach Green’s View, where the Beckwith’s Point Trail ends.  Green’s View sits right on the edge of the Cumberland escarpment, and a wide clearing offers a world-class view of the forest and fields to the northwest.  A bench here makes a fine place to rest at this trail’s end, but do not expect to be alone: a gravel parking area nearby makes Green’s View one of the most popular places on Sewanee’s campus during the warmer months.
View northwest from Green's View
            No other trails go to Green’s View, but a couple of options present themselves to avoid retracing your steps for 2.1 miles to complete the hike.  Obviously you could park a car shuttle at the Green’s View parking area, which is reached by driving University Ave. to the signed Green’s View Road.  Alternatively, you could descend the connector trail described above and hike back up on the Perimeter Trail, thus making a semi-loop.  Note that such a route is quite steep and rocky, so make sure you are prepared for this difficulty before you choose this option to return to the Shakerag Hollow trailhead.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Savage Gulf State Natural Area: Savage Day Loop (Blog Hike #446)

Trail: Savage Day Loop Trail
Hike Location: Savage Gulf State Natural Area
Geographic Location: northeast of Monteagle, TN (35.43422, -85.53959)
Length: 4.2 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: October 2013
Overview: A fairly flat hike to a fantastic overlook of Savage Gulf.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: Take I-24 to US 41A (exit 134).  Exit and go east on US 41A.  Drive US 41A 1.1 miles to SR 56 and turn left on SR 56.  Stay on SR 56 as it turns left in Tracy City.  Drive SR 56 an additional 10 miles past Tracy City to SR 108 and turn right on SR 108.  Drive SR 108 7.2 miles to SR 399 and turn left on SR 399.  Drive SR 399 5.1 miles to the ranger station for Savage Gulf State Natural Area on the left.  Turn left and park in the medium-sized parking lot.  The hike begins at the ranger station.

The hike: When most people in the southern United States think of a gulf, the Gulf of Mexico is the first item to come to mind.  Yet a gulf is simply a wide separation into which many streams flow, and the western edge of the Appalachians contain many gulfs.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico, these gulfs are above sea level.
            One of the Appalachians’ larger gulfs is Savage Gulf, located at the edge of the Cumberland escarpment in southeastern Tennessee.  Before the land became state property, it was purchased by Samuel H. Werner of Tracy City, TN in 1924.  Fortunately for those of us in later generations, Mr. Werner saw the area’s natural value and protected the land in its natural state.  Today the land is officially part of massive South Cumberland State Park.  More specifically, Savage Gulf was declared a Class II Natural Scientific Area in 1973, meaning that development in and near the gulf is very restricted. 
Because of these restrictions, access to the gulf is only possible via rocky and difficult trails, and the area’s remote location ensures that such a trip requires a multi-day backpacking excursion.  For dayhikers, several trails traverse the rim of the gulf, allowing for fantastic views into the chasm.  Perhaps the most popular of these trails is the 4.2 mile Savage Day Loop described here.  This trail gives nice views into the gulf, but it also connects to one of the gulf access trails.  Thus, if you hike this trail in the morning like I did, you will likely share the trail with several backpackers headed for the gulf.
Trailhead: Savage Day Loop
            Only one trail leaves the ranger station, and it is the common entrance trail that feeds all of Savage Gulf’s trails.  Before you head down the trail, be sure to register at the dayhiker kiosk at the trailhead, as required by park rules.  With legalities out of the way, head down the common entrance trail as it heads over some wooden waterbars and short boardwalks, descending slightly.  The first 2 miles of this hike pass through open upland forest that gives no clue that a great gulf is nearby.
            At 0.3 miles, you come to a wooden suspension bridge held up by steel cables.  The bridge shakes rather severely, but persistent forward stepping will get you across.  Some mountain laurel grows along the creek near the bridge.  At 0.8 miles, you pass through an area that has recently felt the chainsaw.  Cut trees lined either side of the trail on my visit.
Wooden suspension bridge
            1 mile into the hike, the trail splits to form its loop.  A large wooden directional sign stands at this intersection.  I chose to hike the loop counterclockwise by turning right here and using the left trail as my return route.
Savage Day Loop splits to form its loop
             The next mile takes you through more of the same nice but unremarkable upland forest as the trail ascends and descends gradually to top a small high area.  At 2 miles, the North Rim Trail exits to the right at another signed trail junction.  The North Rim Trail leads to the trails that enter the gulf, so any backpackers that have accompanied you thus far will turn right here.  To stay on the Savage Day Loop, continue straight.
Another 0.2 mile of downhill hiking brings you to Rattlesnake Point overlook, the highlight of this hike.  From this rocky point, you look down the length of Savage Gulf, the bottom of which lies almost 1000 vertical feet below you.  Some vertical rock cliffs can be seen on either side of the gorge, giving you an appreciation of the gulf’s rugged nature.  This overlook sits near the midpoint of this hike, so take some time to rest here and take in the view.
View into Savage Gulf from Rattlesnake Point
Past the overlook, the trail undulates somewhat with the gulf out of sight to the right.  At 2.7 miles, the blue-blazed spur trail to Savage Falls exits to the right.  The spur trail descends a somewhat steep 0.1 miles to an unprotected overlook of Savage Falls, which is Savage Creek’s entrance into the gulf.  On my visit during the dry season, Savage Falls had the water volume of a garden hose, so plan a visit after a good rain if you want to see the waterfall in full form.
Savage Falls
Back on the main trail, continue your gently undulating course through upland forest.  3 miles into the hike, the South Rim Trail exits to the right.  The South Rim Trail provides another long, difficult route into the gulf, so you need to turn left to stay on the Savage Day Loop.  The trail now joins an old narrow-gage railroad bed, a remnant of the local logging industry, as it climbs gently to close the loop at 3.2 miles.  Continue straight to retrace your steps down the 1 mile entrance trail and complete the hike.