Around the Mountain: Tennessee Hiking Trails and Safety

Cumberland Caverns, located in the mountains of the Upper Cumberland region of Middle Tennessee, offers day trippers an opportunity to explore above and below ground with caving tours and miles of incredible hiking trails. Hiking in nature is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health and wellbeing. It is also one of the best ways to connect with your friends and family and create memories to last a lifetime.

With any adventure, you will want to be prepared and make safety your number one priority. Our neighbor to the east, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, the most visited park in the nation, has put together an extensive list of hiking tips to ensure your visit to their area is an enjoyable, safe experience. Multiple items on the list apply to any location and we thought it was worth sharing with our friends since this hiking season is gearing up to be one of the busiest in decades.

Tips to help you plan and stay safe when enjoying the great outdoors:

  • Let a responsible person know your route and return time.
  • Always hike with another person. Keep your hiking party together and stay on officially maintained trails. Always keep children in your sight when hiking-do not allow them to get ahead of you or fall behind.
  • Do not rely on technology to save you. Cell phones do not work most places in the backcountry and GPS is sometimes unreliable.
  • Carry a flashlight or headlamp-even on a day hike. If you have trouble on the trail, darkness may fall before you can finish your hike.
  • Take adequate water-minimum 2 quarts per person per day. 3-4 quarts are recommended per person. All water obtained from the backcountry should be treated either by filtering or boiling. Please do not drink from a stream just because it looks clean.
  • Carry a small first aid kit.
  • Check the current weather forecasts and be prepared for quickly changing conditions.
  • Wear shoes or boots that provide good ankle support.
  • Avoid hypothermia (the dangerous lowering of body temperature) by keeping dry. Avoid cotton clothing. Dress in layers that can be easily removed or added as you heat up or cool down. Always carry a wind-resistant jacket and rain gear-even on sunny days!
  • Don’t attempt to cross rain-swollen streams; they will recede rapidly after precipitation stops and the wait may save your life! When crossing any stream more than ankle-deep: unbuckle the waist strap of your pack, wear shoes, and use a staff to steady yourself.
  • Check the terrain of your trip and plan an itinerary that is realistic for your group’s level of backcountry experience and physical abilities to backpack in steep, mountainous terrain.
  • Do not leave any valuables in your car where they can be seen by others. Take them with you or hide them in your car.
  • If you have an emergency and have cell phone access, call 911. Be sure to tell the operator what trail you are on or what campsite/shelter you are at. If you are on a trail, giving the nearest trail intersection and your distance from it is very helpful. Be prepared to give the operator a thorough description of the problem. If you do not have cell phone access, send other hikers to get help.

Please be aware, we have witnessed a few bears in our area in the last few years. While this is a rare occurrence and no one has reported being attacked, it is always a good idea to carry pepper spray and/or an air horn with you on your adventures to detour any wild animals.

Tennessee is also home to 4 venomous snakes:

  • Northern and southern copperhead
  • Timber rattlesnake
  • Western cottonmouth
  • Western pigmy rattlesnake

We have timber rattlesnakes and copperheads on Cardwell Mountain. We also have a wide variety of non-venomous snakes as well. Snakes typically do not bite unless provoked and so, we encourage you to be aware of your surroundings and avoid contact with all snakes when hiking just to be on the safe side.

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park also warns against insects such as Yellowjacket wasps which are extremely aggressive and build nests close to the ground along trails and streams. To detour insects, avoid perfume, powder, hair products, and scented deodorants. I personally recommend carrying a product called “Sting Kill” in your first aid kit at all times as it is very effective in relieving pain and swelling. Of course, stings can cause a severe allergic reaction in some individuals and if you or anyone in your group has a known severe allergy, you should carry an Epi-Pen or epinephrine kit.

We welcome you to come and spend some time exploring our mountain. Please check in at our gift shop and let us know you are going to be on the trails. We have decent cell coverage in most areas, so, please add our number 931-668-4396 to your phone before heading out, just in case you need assistance. If you would like a guided tour with the history of our area, give us a heads up that you are coming, and we will arrange an “Apple Brandy Trail” special guided hiking tour for you and your guests. Our trails are well marked and offer a wide array of plant and wildlife to view and enjoy. We hope you will love Cumberland Caverns and our mountain as much as we do. Please remember to not leave anything behind but footprints.

Here is more information on the Apple Brandy Trail Guided Hike: https://cumberlandcaverns.com/product/apple-brandy-trail/

Here is a link to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park article in its entirety: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/hikingsafety.htm

Happy Hiking!