Hike Into History | “Pioneers of the South Cumberlands”
Highlights for a self-guided hike
Trailhead: Stone Door Ranger Station (follow signs from TN-56) Beersheba Springs, TN [map]
On the "Pioneers of the South Cumberlands" route, you'll get a glimpse of what life was like for the earliest European settlers in this area. Several historic cabins have been preserved in the park, the most notable of which is the Decatur Savage cabin, named for the man whose family gave its name to Savage Gulf. Decatur Savage and his wife, Fannie Tate, farmed and lived in the bottom of Savage Gulf for many years. The Savage family can trace its presence in "The Gulf" back as far as 1719, when Robert Savage obtained about 250 acres in the area. In the bottom of Savage Gulf the observant hiker can also see remnants of early logging operations; the old Savage Gulf schoolhouse; and other long-abandoned signs of early European settlement.
Leaving the Stone Door Ranger Station trailhead, here are some of the trail highlights:
» 0.2 miles | Laurel Gulf Overlook, with a great view of the gorge. The Decatur Savage Cabin, your destination, is at the bottom of the gorge, at the intersection of the three large "Gulfs," as the local ravines are called
»0.9 miles | The Great Stone Door, so named because it resembles a giant door left ajar. Descend thru the Door on the stone staircase, and continue toward the bottom of Big Creek Gulf.
» 1.8 miles | Junction with the Big Creek Gulf and Connector trails. Take the Connector trail, to the left.
» 2.4 miles | Trail crosses Laurel Creek; streambed has huge boulders and is normally dry.
» 3.3 miles | Trail joins Jay Hobbs Road, an old logging access. Hobbs was another early pioneer in Savage Gulf; a reconstruction of Hobbs Cabin (roughly five miles ahead; photo below) is available for overnight hikers to use on a first-come, first-served basis.
» 3.7 miles | Trail crosses Big Creek (normally dry)
» 4.3 miles | Short spur trail to the Decatur Savage Cabin in on your left
From the Decatur Savage Cabin, you can retrace your route back to the Stone Door Trail, up through the Great Stone Door, and back to the Stone Door Ranger station; or, if you wish to also visit Hobbs Cabin, continue another 4.2 miles on the Connector Trail, beyond the spur trail to the Savage cabin (the complete round-trip to Hobbs Cabin and back is 17 miles; you can make reservations online if you wish to overnight at Hobbs).
Total trail distance:
about 8.6 miles (to the Decatur Savage Cabin) | very strenuous
In front of the cabin that bears his name and still stands today is Decatur Savage, bottom center, with his wife, Fannie Tate, behind him; daughters Lou and Barcia flank their mother.
(above) The Decatur Savage Cabin, today.
(below) Hobbs Cabin, today.