This is a 6.5 mile course along the Cumberland Trail in Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area just outside of Chattanooga, TN. The course is mostly shaded taking you along a route following the natural terrain features from Indian Rockhouse to Snooper's Rock with a couple of small water crossings and numerous rock formations. At Snooper's Rock you will be treated to one of the best views of the Tennessee River Gorge. This is a peaceful walk in the woods with a few short climbs.
Check the Prentice Cooper website for hunting dates. During those times the area is closed. Carry water, tell someone where you are going and carry a phone, the reception can be spotty there is typically reception at parking lot and exposed spots on trail. You probably won't see anyone else on the trail so you are on your own. It is not a strenuous hike but there are a couple of short, twisting climbs and rocks you must negotiate. For the most part, the trail is pretty level and well-worn and getting lost on this track is not an issue.
The parking lot for the trailhead is 3 miles down Game Reserve Road on the right. There is a wooden kiosk, picnic table and primitive outhouse. The trailhead within the lot is the end of Mullen's Cove Loop a 10 mile loop which is technical and strenuous in places. Your Trailhead is across the gravel road.
Cross the gravel road towards the grassy area and you will see the trailhead. The trail begins with a nice downhill section leading to Indian Rockhouse. If you do nothing else, walk down to Indian Rockhouse and take a look the stairs and rock formation it is worth your time. Remember to follow the white blazes while on the Cumberland Trail.
The path narrows to shoulder width in between this natural gap in the rocks creating a pathway to the bottom. Careful on the steps they are neither level nor evenly spaced. Once at the bottom you are will see a the a sign. To the left is Hwy 27, Suck Creek Road, and to the right is Snooper's Rock, your destination.
After a short hike you will cross a small creek, one of several on the trail. It had rained during the night, and would again later that day, so there was water aplenty. Careful when crossing stream the rocks are usually pretty slippery.
The Cumberland Trail is very rocky along the River Gorge and the are all sorts of boulders and formations to explore and view. There are plenty of trip hazards so be careful when running, a moment's inattention will have you sprawled out on the trail.
One of the more interesting features along the course is a rocky ledge. There is a set of stone steps which leads you up and around to the top where you are treated to a nice view of the trail below. On the day I was out there was still evidence of a primitive fire where someone had camped.
I love the water crossings along this route. There just seems to be character with each one. The rocks, the water pools, the plantlife, each one is unique. It makes the route much more interesting when there is water. Also, at water crossings where you make a decided turn there is usually a tree with a double white blaze to indicate a turn or a break in flow of trail.
If there is a mistake to be made this is the spot. There is a gap in 2 trees with a trail going uphill. That is the wrong turn. You will come back that way later. Keep going and look for white blazes. Your turn is a mere 10-20 yards further and has a wooden sign and 3 sets of white blazes on the trees. The course is well marked on raceday, but still come out and see this intersection and know where you are going beforehand.
Snooper's Rock a local landmark and it is worth taking a few minutes to enjoy the view. The Tennessee River Gorge can be seen from a myriad of points and each offers a unique perspective. I never tire of taking in all the scenery and am thankful for the preservation efforts to keep it undeveloped.
After Snooper's the CT crosses a parking area. Turn right and follow road paralleling the CT back to the creek. The other road leading uphill takes you out to Game Reserve Road. On raceday there is an aid station at this spot and course markings.
This turn can be tricky. I missed it and had to come back. You will head up a very steep hill. There will be a large set of boulders on left. Just after passing them begin to look for a trail on right. The road turns left and the canopy opens up. There is a tree with a silver metal sign nailed to it just off roadway. Turn right. The day I was out it was raining and the trail looked like a runoff spot I even explored and initially moved past. It becomes an actual trail after the initial downhill. If you stay on road you will wind up on Game Reserve Road and you know you missed it.
Once off the ATV trail there is a steep downhill to start and then the trail rolls over a couple of hills and into small valleys before depositing you back onto the Cumberland Trail near the creek at what I called the Tricky Intersection earlier. Take a left onto the CT going upstream and head back to Indian Rockhouse and the trailhead.