SHADY VALLEY, Tenn. (WJHL)- If you’re a beginner hiker and a fan of trails with end-destinations, look no further than the backbone rock area in the Cherokee National Forest.
Round trip these trails are less than 1.5 miles combined and brings you to 3, arguably 4, destination spots, one being the shortest tunnel in the world!
Before heading out though, be aware there are warnings that hikers need to be aware of before hitting the trail.
This hike mostly full of rock steps which means during or after rain, this hike can be extremely slippery and dangerous; primarily meant for sunny days, rangers do not recommend this hike after a storm.
The first and by far the most well known is the backbone rock trail, which takes you above the Backbone Rock Tunnel which was created in 1901, however the tunnel was created by accident.
Originally, workers were trying to blow the entire rock out, but instead, they failed to use enough dynamite and only created a tunnel.
Ranger Keith Kelly explains that the rock, “was the one thing that was in their way, and they went to blast it and when they blasted it they didn’t have enough in there so instead of blasting the whole rock out they created a tunnel. And then when they put the railway in they realized they didn’t allow room for the smokestack, so they basically had to hand-chiseled so the trains could go through.”
The 2nd end destination quickly approaches after you hike off the top of the tunnel. This 2nd destination is a 1930’s era pavilion!
What also makes this so neat is that it is equipped to handle a family BBQ. This pavilion contains picnic benches, charcoal grills, and bear-proof trash cans. At this 2nd destination, hikers are also brought straight to a beautiful creek, which you can swim in! This creek has plenty of entrance points and spots deep enough for adults to swim in. After leaving this area of the Backbone Rock trails, hikers will be brought back out to the main road. From here, hikers will head to the 2nd trail, which will bring them to Backbone Falls!
The entrance to the Backbone Falls trail can be found right down road from the exit of the Backbone Rock Trail. This hike is steep, but very short and has two entrances.
The first entrance will take you the longer route but will take you up and ever the waterfall. Hikers will actually be able to cross the small creek that creates the waterfall. However, like the warning says, be careful of slippery rocks; there are no handrails here so slipping is very possible. The 2nd route will take hikers almost straight to the falls, with no uphill hiking.
This waterfall is not one a hiker will want to swim in, considering no ‘pools’ of water are formed.
No matter how long the hike is though, if you’re hiking in the summer remember to always bring an EXTRA bottle of water, 1 more than you usually bring is reccomended.
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