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Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States

Mullins Cove Loop

A great training run or day hike in Prentice Cooper WMA.

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Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 9.8 miles / 15.8 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: Coming in at just under 10 miles Mullen's Cove Loop is the bulk of the Rock/Creek River Gorge 10.2 mile trail race which occurs on the last Saturday in March. This incredibly diverse trail lies within the 24,686 acre Prentice Cooper Wilderness Management Area. This entire loop is part of the Cumberland Trail. A significant length of this trail hangs airily along the edge of a 1000 feet of vertical drop down to the Tennessee River. Many spots along the trail offer peaks into the depth of the river gorge which has carved it’s way through 26 miles of the Cumberland Plateau. The most spectacular view into the gorge comes just before the trail turns westward into the Mullen’s Creek drainage at Snooper’s Rock.

The trail is generally gradual in it’s relief but not without a few steep switchbacks to sizzle your calves and quads. Creeks gurgle and bubble along before plunging steeply over the breach into the rocks below on their way to the Tennessee River. Lichen and moss encrusted outcrops of rock emerge from the soil creating a stunning collage of texture and color that changes as the canopy morphs with the seasonal shifts.

The mesophytic forest of the Cumberland Plateau is home to a great diversity of trees. Some of the more dominant tree species include: American Beech, Yellow poplar, Hickory, Eastern Hemlock, Loblolly Pine, and many varieties of Oak.

Enjoy the views as you buzz down the trail!


Tips: Check the Prentice Cooper website for hunting dates, the area is closed seasonally especially on weekends. Be sure to bring adequate water supply, especially on hot summer days. The weather is as diverse as the forest so dress appropriately with wicking layers. There are several creek crossings and the final mile is along a creek. So there can be water available.

Points of Interest

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Getting to Prentice Cooper

The vast majority of people will be coming from Chattanooga. On Signal Mountain Blvd take a left on Suck Creek Road across R/R tracks. Drive 8 miles along river and up mountain. Near the top of climb take a left on Choctaw, bear left at Y around S curve and take next left.
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Entering the WMA

The road turns to gravel. Once inside WMA it's less than 3 miles to the parking area.
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Parking

Mullen's Cove Loop Trailhead is on the right.
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Trailhead

Across from the parking lot is the trail to Rockhouse. The trail inside the lot leads you to the creek and Rock Garden.
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Indian Rock House .56 m

One of the most unique geologic features in the area is this stone door leading to the Indian Rock House. This cliff overhang serves as one of three aid stations during the River Gorge trail race.
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Turn right towards Snooper's

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Old road ends.

Pick up single track on the right.
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Creek Crossing 2: 1.43 m

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View of TN River gorge

Views similar to this are enjoyed all along the trail from Indian Rock House to Snoopers Rock.
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Snooper's Rock 3.19 m

This point of rock offers amazing views of the Tennessee River Gorge. The trail continues to the left of the parking area at Snooper's. You will soon cross Tower Road near the grassy area and signboard at Snooper's and Tower Roads.
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Pot Point Loop Intersection 3.25m

Head west here toward Hemlock Branch Campsite. The parking area near this intersection serves as the location for the second of three aid stations during the Rock/Creek River Gorge trail races. This is also the spot where the two races split. The 10.2 mile race continues on the Mullins Cove loop, while the 6.5 mile race turns to the right onto the ATV trail.
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Tower Road Crossing 3.53m

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Pot Point Intersection 4.10m

Continue straight on Mullens Cove Loop.
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Hemlock Branch Campsite and Rough Stream Crossing 4.38 m

This is a fantastic, very secluded camp site. Just next to this site, the trail follows an old road bed for less than 100 feet. Pay attention to the double white blazes that signal the turn off the old road and back onto single track trail.
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Mullins Cover Overlook 4.50 m

A short spur off the main trail will reward you with a fantastic view of Mullins Cove and down into the Tennessee River Gorge.
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Stream Crossing

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Steep Switchbacks 6.06 m

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Lower End of Hailey Rd. 6.7m

You'll see a sign for Haley Road, cross a creek and then hit an ATV road. Turn right and uphill. Watch for TRAIL sign on left. Travel on road for .13 m. Pay attention for the double white blaze indicating a turn.
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Upper End of Hailey Rd. 6.83m

Pay attention for the double white blaze indicating a turn. This spot serves as the third and final aid station during the Rock/Creek River Gorge trail race.
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Overlook to Haley Road

After passing Mullen's Overlook there's a long stretch of single track as you enter Mullen's Cove. You may hear the creek below on the valley. There are a few minor creek crossings, but mostly just undulating single track.
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Beginning of Descent Into Rock Garden 8.26 m

Trail transitions into rocky terrain.
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Rock Garden

The photos here do a good job of describing the difficulty of this section. Slow down and take caution here. A rescue from this location would be most difficult.
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Short Creek

After the Rock Garden you parallel Short Creek for a bit and then climb away to the right.
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Last Section

You cross an ATV road and then hit a very runnable section to the finish. Slightly uphill you will have to work, but you know you are almost done.
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Finish 9.76 m

Pictures in this guide taken by: WildTrails

Mullins Cove Loop Trail Map


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WildTrails
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