9 miles round trip rated moderate
Lora and I hiked the North Chickamauga segment of the Cumberland trail on a cold New Years Day. When we got to the trailhead there was one other car there. We took the upper loop on the way in. The wind was a little rough on us when it got whipping, but the rest of the time it was good hiking weather. It is pretty easy hiking until you go down the second ladder. From there to Stevens Branch campsite it is a lot of rock hopping and climbing.
At the mineshaft, we decided to check it out at least as far as you can see without lights. Glad we don't have to work in a coal mine.
Right before the first ladder, Lora and I met Tom. He said that he had hiked to the overlook and couldn't find the rest of the trail. So Lora and I decided to show him. We were quite proud as we hiked right by the first ladder and soon realized that we had lost our trail markers. When we stopped and said something to Tom, he said that we had already passed the ladder. So being the tough hikers that we where, we just climbed straight up to meet the trail at the top. This is not the suggested way of hiking this trail. On the way out Lora and I came down that ladder and it is pretty obvious that it is there. We are still not sure how we missed it as the ladder also has a walkway so there is treated lumber all up the side of the rock wall next to the trail.
Once we got back on the trail, it follows a old road way to a waterfall. There is a cable crossing and then you go down another wooden ladder to the base of the big fall. Look for the trail going down from here under the rock overhang as it is hard to find. You rock hop down to the river and campsite number one. This is where Tom left us and we continued on to Stevenson Branch campsite and waterfall. I would imagine that this part of the trail would be under water in spots during high water.
We ate lunch at Stevenson Branch campsite and then hiked out. We met quite a few folks on the way out. We even took in the overlook and used the ladder to get back down. One of the water falls down a rock wall put on a show for us with a rainbow. We also caught the sun dropping behind the other side of the gorge on film. We took the lower loop on the way back to the truck.