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Fall Family Hiking Destination

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Experienced hikers can discover more than 50 miles of trails and backcountry camping opportunities at East Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park & Natural Area. Families with young children can find playgrounds and short one or two mile hiking paths, as well.  The park is in Wartburg, accessible by weekend drive from Nashville, Knoxville or Lexington.
Emory Gap Falls

If you listen and know what to look for, you might find the rare cerulean warbler (no, I was not fortunate enough to capture one on camera). Interpretive Specialist Michael Hodge says, “Its population has really declined over the last decade, it’s almost an endangered species.” Hodge says Frozen Head hosts the most concentrated flocks of cerulean warblers in the state.  It’s considered a globally important bird area by the Audubon Society, with 119 species of birds cataloged, although some can no longer be found in the park.

The abundant acreage of mature forest seems to provide ample avian habitat, while also hosting black bear, bobcat and elk.  The largest mammals have been reintroduced to nearby public areas like Big South Fork.  Forests here are not considered old growth, because they were heavily logged and burned in the early 20th century.  The diversity of arboraceous life includes hemlock, oak, pine, maple and much more.

Pool below Debord Falls
Here’s a look at Frozen Head State Park & Natural Area by the numbers:
Acres:  24,000
Peaks over 3,000 feet:  16
Species of vascular plants cataloged:  400
Species of birds cataloged: 105
Age of oldest trees:  approx. 70 years
Miles of trails:  50+

Our family took a leisurely hike to tranquil Debord Falls and then Emory Gap Falls.

Weird facts:  this park is close to state land containing a prison, and on an unrelated note, a few rude visitors have left graffiti. These details don’t seem to deter visitors, most of whom are very well-mannered, including carloads of families.

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