This trail is found within the confines of Cherokee National Forest, which spans over 650,000 acres and is home to all kinds of wildlife from bears to bobcats to turkey vultures (and much in between). The Rock Creek Gorge Waterfalls Trail, also known as the Scenic Spur Trail, is part of the longer Clemmer Trail, which means you can always extend your hike if you want. The area is absolutely brimming with mountain laurel and wildflowers like morning glory, iris, and lady slipper in the spring. These pretty falls plummet 50 feet across two tiers of rocks, making for a spectacular show that’s hard to peel yourself away from. With the Ocoee River and the Parksville Lake Recreation Area nearby, you can easily spend a weekend here and explore all the area has to offer.
What Makes It Great
Between the several creek crossings and the waterfalls, the Rock Creek Gorge Waterfalls Trail is an ideal adventure for a hot, Tennessee summer day because of all of the chances you’ll have to cool off and splash around. That also means that pups who have thicker fur will be better able to manage this trail, too, thanks to the opportunities to cool off. The water flow can change significantly throughout the year, so head this way in the spring if you’re looking for a torrent, while opting for late summer if you’re looking for less intensity (but just as much beauty!).
The trail starts in a well-known, well-traveled area at the Clemmer South trailhead. Also called the Scenic Spur Trail, the Rock Creek Gorge Waterfalls Trail is part of the longer Clemmer Trail, so you can extend your hike if you want to add more miles. The Scenic Spur splits off of the Clemmer Trail shortly after the start, so you’ll have to double back and hop on the Clemmer Trail for that longer jaunt. (Go all the way out to Benton Falls for about a 9-mile round trip.)
Between the hiking and the nearby recreation areas, there is plenty to do here for a whole weekend or longer. The trailhead is also about 10 miles from the town of Ocoee, where you’ll find hotels and restaurants, so you don’t even have to rough it to explore the wilderness in this area.
Who is Going to Love It
The trail is popular with both day hikers as well as trail runners. Those who seek swimming holes in the summer will be pleased with the options for cooling off on a hot day. The water also makes this a fun one for dogs or kids, but if the water levels get too high, be prepared to help your two-legged or four-legged companions through the creek crossings.
If you like to fill a whole weekend with activities like hiking, paddling, and camping, you’ll appreciate what the recreation areas and the nearby Ocoee River have to offer.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the town of Ocoee, follow Highway 64 along Parksville Lake and Lake Ocoee. Turn left onto Highway 30 N. After just a quarter of a mile you’ll find a dirt parking lot and the trailhead on your left. You’ll also see signs for the “Clemmer Trailhead” to help you find the right spot. Parking is limited and can get full on busy weekend days.
Featured image provided by Kathryn Crouch