Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail
Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park
The Cumberland Trail as it presently exists, is the result of an ambitious hiking trail project under development in East Tennessee. When completed, the Cumberland Trail (CT) will extend more than 300 miles from its northern terminus in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (TN/KY) to its southern terminus at the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park located on Signal Mountain just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The scenic footpath follows a line of high ridges and deep gorges lying along or near the rugged, eastern edge of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, offering a unique wilderness experience and many scenic views, waterfalls, landscapes, gorges, wildlife, and widely varying flora. As a remote, back-country trail, it will meander through eleven Tennessee counties, on lands managed by Tennessee’s Departments of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), and Tennessee Forestry. The trail also connects two national parks and passes through a National Wild & Scenic River area. In 1998 the trail project was redefined as an ambitious State Park project, designated as the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, Tennessee’s first linear state park. As it has evolved, the park is much more than a hiking trail. Indeed it is now the second largest of the Tennessee state parks, encompassing most of the hiking trail. But the trail is likewise more than the state park, extending beyond the park boundaries through segments that traverse other state and some federal properties through agreements with TDEC. The CT is an official component of the Tennessee Recreational Trails System and a legislatively designated State Scenic Trail. Additionally the Cumberland Trail is a part of the Great Eastern Trail, which is under development and will extend from Alabama to New York when completed.
“The Jewel of the Cumberland Trail”
July 2015. Big Soddy Creek Bridge. Photo by Ranger Daniel Basham
The continued development and maintenance of the Cumberland Trail is being accomplished through a working relationship between the Cumberland Trail Conference (CTC), Friends of the CT and TDEC. The CTC, other nonprofits, private corporations, foundations, individuals, and others assist TDEC in raising funds for land acquisition, providing maintenance, and further developing the Cumberland Trail.
This extensive trail is being constructed and maintained largely by volunteers from Tennessee and across the nation. These efforts are organized and managed by the TDEC with volunteer labor provided largely through CTC and the Friends of the CT. The Cumberland Trail Conference (CTC) is an affiliate of the Tennessee Trails Association (TTA), a non-profit 501-(c)(3) membership organization. The mission of the CTC is to provide paid and volunteer labor, equipment, supplies and vehicles to construct and maintain the trail under the auspices of TDEC, and to raise funds in support of the Cumberland Trail. Building the CT is a grassroots effort, driven by the communities along the trail and a broad network of individuals from across the U.S. This very successful private/public partnership is a model often cited to demonstrate the power of volunteerism and public/private partnerships.
Through efforts overwhelmingly driven by volunteers over more than 15 years, 190 miles of the trail have been constructed. The trail miles is divided into 15 segments, addressable through this site. Please explore this website.
Your support is greatly needed and there are many ways to help with this project. You can take a hike on the Cumberland Trail, volunteer time for trail construction and maintenance, become a member of the CTC, or make a monetary contribution to the project toward construction of new trail and bridges.
The map below shows open trail, trail under construction, and proposed trail. For detailed descriptions of each segment, click the links to the right (listed north to south) or click the map for a larger version.
The Cumberland Trail is part of the Great Eastern Trail: