There’s a section of the Savage Gulf Natural Area in Tennessee that is packed with enough hiking to satisfy anyone’s need for woodland therapy. From steep trails, rocky cliffs to incredible views and flowing waterfalls, this Tennessee State Parks managed area is a must do if you’re a budding hiking enthusiast or a veteran hiker. We took advantage of this beautiful area recently with a day trip to hike the trails and check out some frozen waterfalls. Our main goal was to hike The Great Stone Door but Laurel Falls and Greeter Falls were a welcomed bonus for a number of reasons.
Admission is free to all Tennessee State Parks. Parking is free as well.
Great Stone Door & Laurel Falls
As you head into Altamont, Tenn. you’ll have several options within a 10 mile radius. Great Stone Door and Laurel Falls are on the same path in the same park. You’ll turn left to hike down to Laurel Falls along a steep staircase of wood, rocks and limbs. Once you get to the base you’ll be on an observation deck. The view is safe enough for children to stand there and see the falls, flow and pools of water. However, the hike back to the top is challenging.
Remind your children that what goes down, must come back up – right? This will apply to the Laurel Falls hike but also once you make it out to the Great Stone Door. Hiking out to the Great Stone Door is 1.6 miles of partially paved, then dirt path trails to a beautiful overlook of the Savage Gulf area. The actual area called Great Stone Door is to the right as you arrive to the end of the trail. You’ll climb down the stone steps but you’ll have to climb the steps again to work your way back to the parking lot.
What to bring:
Take water, snacks, good walking shoes, binoculars and camera – Plus be on guard with the kids. There are no rails around the overlooks and it’s a long way down to the bottom of the mountain.
Cell phone service:
We had service the entire time which is a bonus if you get in a bind with the kids or need help. (I always get nervous when the kids and I hike a trail in a no service area.)
Bathrooms are available at the ranger station as are trail maps. You can access the Google Maps version of the trail as well.
Greeter Falls is less than 10 miles away from Great Stone Door – in fact it’s on the way back to Monteagle, Tenn. or I-24. Greeter doesn’t have a ranger office or bathrooms. Once you head down to the main sign you’ll see a ‘Blue Hole’ maker to the right and Greeter Falls to the left. Blue Hole is a swimming hole, we skipped it. Greeter Falls forks, we skipped the loop and went straight to the falls. One more fork awaits you on the falls trail. Upper falls and lower falls will
Greeter’s scary hike to the lower falls isn’t for sissies heck, I almost turned around but then the massive ice formations appeared and we had to keep going. A spiral staircase was a fun challenge at the base of the trail. The ice was so thick the kids stood on it.
The staircase leads to another small trail that drops you off at the base of the falls. A beautiful Mountain Laurel framed falls cascading over large boulders.
What to bring:
Take the same items you would on a regular hike, but keep in mind this hike is strenuous and the less weight you pack in the better off you’ll be. I was prepared and made the kids hydrate before we hiked.
Level of danger:
This hike is scary for parents of kids who don’t pay attention. You need to make sure your kids are following your rules, paying attention and don’t run or play near the edge. The path is narrow at times and slippery.
Cell phone service:
We did have coverage.
Go here to see the Greeter Falls to Great Stone Door via Google Maps.