I know this site is mostly about Wisconsin but on occasion I like to talk about other states. I was in Tennessee recently and was impressed with the places for outside adventures.
Rappelling is an easy way to feel like a rock climber without actually having to climb anything. Sure, you do rappel from the top of natural structures after a long day of rock climbing if you are a pro.
However, if you want the thrill of climbing without all the work, grabbing someone who knows how to climb and driving out to one of Tennessee’s gorgeous wooded state and national parks is the perfect solution. You have to get a permit for groups larger than 10 people, but for the most part, all you need is some ropes, hard hats, harnesses, maybe some climbing shoes, and a trail to the top of a bluff.
These five parks throughout Tennessee have what you will be looking for to channel your adventurous side.
Cherokee National Forest
This national forest is by far one of Tennessee’s most famous tourist destinations. Located in east Tennessee on the North Carolina border, Cherokee National Forest is divided in half by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
This park contains all kinds of tourist draws, including Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, miles of hiking trails, and a number of thrilling water sports. You will find rappelling spots all over this park. The Appalachian Trail passes through the park, and if you are out for a day hike, you may see what are known as “through hikers” on their way up the east coast.
For a day experiencing the beginnings of rock climbing (and a little people watching) — find a map of the park and look for bluffs to start planning your next rappelling trip. However I would recommend you stay overnight to get the full experience. There are many campgrounds in the area but you will need to bring a tent as there are no cabins. You can find some recommendations on camping and backpacking gear here.
Big South Forth National River & Recreation Area
Big South Fork is another popular destination for hikers and those seeking the adrenaline rush of rappelling. The Twin Arches, a rock formation near the beginning of one of the trail heads near Pickett State Park, draws groups of people to rappel from their 62 to 103-foot heights, depending which arch you choose.
There are other rock formations to throw your rope around in the rest of the 123,000-acre park, so don’t be discouraged if a group has already staked its claim on the Arch you were hoping for. Just grab a map and your gear, and get hiking. Its easy to get lost here, I would recommend a hiking watch with GPS to navigate your way around
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Although like most other state parks in Tennessee, you will not find rappelling listed on the government website, as one of their activities. However, that does not mean you can’t find a good rock or two to jump off of. Rock climbers and ‘rappellers’ alike venture into this 26,000-acre state park in all seasons and find plenty of cliffs. Fall Creek Falls is Tennessee’s most-visited state park. Crowds are drawn in by its picturesque views, efficient trails, accessible streams, and great camping.
The Eagle’s Nest, near Ruby Falls
The Eagle’s Nest is an abandoned rock quarry near Chattanooga’s famous Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls areas. It is the perfect place to find a cliff of any size and shape for your rappelling skill level. This spot draws rock climbers and ‘rappellers’ all year long.
You can see the Eagle’s Nest as you drive down Scenic Highway on your way from Ruby Falls, and after you park, you can follow a trail to the bottom of the quarry. Keep in mind that you have to be out of there by sunset each day— so start your trip bright and early.
Stone Door, South Cumberland State Park
South Cumberland State Park is located near Chattanooga, and its over 25,000 acres sprawl across four Tennessee counties. Stone Door, together with another hiking area called Savage Gulf, contain 55 miles of hiking, climbing, and rappelling access. You will see waterfalls and historical sites like Stage Coach Road. Stone Door is a line of cliffs overlook Savage Gulf, giving ‘rappellers’ ample room to find the perfect spot.
The best part about rappelling, as with most outdoor sports in Tennessee, is the incredible backdrop that covers the state. Be sure to take a camera with you!