Everything You Need to Know To Hike Fiery Gizzard Trail

South Cumberland State Park (Tennessee)

by Grace

If you’re reading this, you either decided to hike the Fiery Gizzard Trail OR you are on the fence. If you are planning the hike, get ready for one of the most beautiful and challenging hikes in the United States. Keep reading for a complete guide for the Fiery Gizzard Trail! Still have questions after, read my tips for the trail here. If you are on the fence, allow this post to serve as the extra push you need to hike – it is absolutely incredible! I was short on time, so I hiked from Fiery Gizzard to Raven’s Point rather than a thru-hike of the trail. Coming from someone who has bagged a few 14ers in Colorado and hiked some pretty cool trails in my life (in my opinion), the Fiery Gizzard Trail offers some of the best (and most challenging) hiking I have ever done!

What You Can Expect on the Fiery Gizzard Trail:

  • Lots and lots of STUNNING waterfalls
  • Very rocky, rooty, muddy, slippery terrain (WORTH IT)
  • Maybe a snake or two (I personally didn’t see any, but I chose a day that I knew they wouldn’t be very active… #notasnakeperson.)
  • Losing the trail at least once
  • Tons of PUDs (What is that you ask? That is thru-hiker for ‘pointless ups and downs’.)
  • Almost falling 100 times on rocks you thought were stable and not slippery (ha, you wish)
  • Being really freakin’ proud of yourself for making it to Raven’s Point

The Numbers:

Distance: 11.22 miles (~0.2 miles from getting lost and ~0.5 mile from going to/from Sycamore Falls)

Total Time: 6 hours 52 minutes

Moving Time (a.k.a time spent hiking): 4 hours 14 minutes

Elevation Gain: 1,677 feet

Gear You Should Bring:

  • Day Pack. I brought my Rucker 20L from GORUCK and it was the perfect size. This is my go-to day pack for almost everything and it is incredible (not sponsored, just love this pack). I saw many 40-50L packs on Fiery Gizzard. This is overkill unless you are training for another hike or planning on being on trail overnight.
  • Extra change of clothes. You will probably want to change after the hike. I was absolutely disgusting and I felt bad for the hikers I passed haha (Maybe this is TMI, but I’m pretty sure I sweat my deodorant off in the first 3 miles).
  • I brought two PB&J (my all-time favorite trail snack) and a couple CLIF bars/blocks. You will be hungry once you get to Raven’s Point… guaranteed.
  • I brought about 3L (96 oz) and drank about 2L (64 oz). I am terrible about drinking water on trail, but I am working on it. The general guideline is about 0.5L (16 oz) per hour, but it is highly dependent on the terrain, weather, how much water you tend to drink while hiking…
  • Close-toed Shoes. Absolutely non-negotiable. Do not wear Chacos or the likes on this trail or you will come back missing a toe or two. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but you will be grateful for close-toed shoes about the time your foot gets wedged between a rock because you slipped (it will happen).
  • Small med kit. Much of the Fiery Gizzard Trail does not have cell service. Remember band-aids and bandages for any accidental slips on rocks and moleskin/duct tape for blisters. Even if you have well broken in shoes, your feet will move around in your shoes differently than traditional hiking and you may get blisters. There are also poisonous snakes in the area, so consider bringing a snake bite kit.
  • Flip-Flops (optional). Do not forget this stable item for post-trail. Changing out of your sweaty shoes and socks after 11+ miles never felt so good!
  • Hiking poles (optional). Most people did not have hiking poles. They are not necessary. There are many trees to grab onto for support (or you will likely want to use your hands to steady yourself as you cross rocks). The hiking poles will probably get in the way more than they are useful on this trail.
  • Camera (optional).

The Route (at least the one I took):

The Short Version

Grundy to Raven’s Point (via Fiery Gizzard Trail)

  • Grundy Day Loop Trailhead
  • Clockwise (Turn Left) on Day Loop – Look for creek crossing around 0.8 miles. If you are at a mile, you went too far.
  • Continue straight when you reach the split off for Dog Hole Trail. (Dog Hole will be on your left and goes up a very steep hill immediately). You will pass a warning sign.
  • Follow the white blazes through the many boulder fields. Around 4.1 mile, you will start gaining elevation rapidly. This continues for the next mile or so.
  • Turn right when you reach the sign for Raven’s Point. Follow this trail about 0.5 mile to the overlook.

Raven’s Point to Grundy (via Dog Hole Trail)

  • Trace your steps 0.5 mile back to the Dog Hole/Fiery Gizzard split-off. Continue straight onto Dog Hole Trail (Fiery Gizzard Trail will now be on your left).
  • Continue down this trail for approximately 3 miles (from the Fiery Gizzard split off to the bridge crossing).
  • Pick whether you want to complete the Day Loop or retrace your steps on the Day Loop.
  • That’s it!

The Long Version

I arrived at Grundy Day Loop Trailhead around 8am. It was a cool 70 degrees with relatively low humidity, so a prime hiking day in Middle Tennessee. The parking lot had plenty of spots, so I wouldn’t worry too much about finding a spot. I used All Trails directions to find the trailhead and it took me to the correct place. (You will travel through a small neighborhood if you are going the right direction).

Based on reading reviews of the trail, I planned on hiking the trail southbound (although this doesn’t really matter unless you are planning on hiking all 13 or 26 miles of the trail depending on if you hike one or both directions). The trailhead had nice maps, as well as bathroom facilities and picnic tables. Stepping off on the trail, you will run into your first split off within a few hundred feet. (If you watched my Youtube video on Fiery Gizzard Trail, you know I was already confused by this decision… let the second guessing of planning begin.) I chose to go left (clockwise) on the Day Loop. Following the trail, you immediately run into the creek, which you parallel all the way until the (lack of) bridge crossing.

I would recommend you start looking for the bridge/creek crossing around 0.8 miles. I walked right past it at first as I didn’t see the pillars AT ALL. Some people say you can’t miss them, which might be true if I had gone the other direction around the Day Loop. If you travel clockwise, look towards the creek for a pile of downed trees in the creek. They form an upside-down V when you are looking at them. THAT is your crossing! (Double check yourself by finding the concrete pillars that stand about 4 feet tall). After watching a lady slip and fall trying to cross the rocks, I chose to scoot across the trees on my butt. I would highly recommend this option – the trees are very secure and you have a long day of hiking ahead of you. You don’t want to get wet right off the bat.

After the creek crossing, follow the white blazes until you reach the Dog Hole Trail split-off. You can either go straight (towards Fiery Gizzard) or you can go left up a steep hill on Dog Hole. I recommend continuing straight onto Fiery Gizzard trail. You will pass a warning sign on a tree and you are off to the races. From here on out to Raven’s Point, it is an all-out grind on slippery rocks. Trust me when I say it is boulder field after boulder field. The trail is very well-marked with white blazes every 15-20 steps (even the rocks have blazes on them). If you don’t see a white blaze within that distance, you may have gotten off trail. I would retrace your steps and look around again.

The trail follows the creek for most of the way. There are a couple spots where you are right next to a decent drop-off. If you have a fear of heights, this may freak you out a bit, but it shouldn’t discourage you from doing the trail. You almost always have a tree nearby to help steady yourself. Quite frankly, I found myself worrying about where I put my feet so much that I didn’t hardly notice the drop-offs.

Around 4.1 miles, the last big push begins. You can expect about 1 mile of steep climbing and switchbacks. This section is very steep, but it is not nearly as rocky. You are ALMOST there!

Around 5ish miles, you will reach your final turn before Raven’s Point. Follow the sign that indicates you should make a right turn. You will hike about 0.5 mile before you run into the overlook. Like I said, I hiked on what I would consider a prime hiking day and there were 3-4 people at Raven’s Point. A larger group of 5 showed up shortly after I arrived, but the overlook has plenty of space for everyone. Enjoy your snacks and soak up all the good views!

After spending about 2 hours at the overlook (I spent a lot of time chatting…), I made my way back the way I came. I actually hiked part of the way back with the group I met at the overlook. We had a great chat for the 0.5 mile or so, but then we came to the Dog Hole/Fiery Gizzard split off. As planned, I continued straight on the trail to follow Dog Hole. Compared to Fiery Gizzard, Dog Hole was completely different. Fast, ‘easy’ hiking all the way back to the initial split-off. Don’t worry. The views are beautiful, but completely different than Fiery Gizzard! Dog Hole had a couple waterfalls and an overlook, so you can still get some gram-worthy pictures if you choose this path.

Once you reach the end of Dog Hole, you will have completed a loop. The last steep section on Dog Hole is a little sketchy, so be really careful and take it slow. Make a right off of Dog Hole to head back towards the Grundy Trailhead (there is a sign that indicates the direction of the trailhead). You will retrace your steps on the way back towards the bridge/creek crossing. If you didn’t stop at Sycamore Falls on your way to Raven’s Point, consider taking that short detour (marked with blue blazes and a sign pointing you towards the Falls).

Once you reach the bridge crossing, you are in the home stretch. Cross the creek and make your last decision – do you want to complete the Day Loop or follow the Day Loop back the way you came. I would recommend doing the entire loop. There are some really cool spots where you could go for a little swim if you wanted or hang out at one of the many Falls.

And that’s it! You’ve done part of the Fiery Gizzard trail! Go eat some good food. You earned it!

Tips for Hiking Fiery Gizzard Trail

Below are just a few tips. For more, I have a full blog post dedicated to tips for the Fiery Gizzard Trail.

  • If you want to make the trip quicker and still see the incredible overlook at Raven’s Point, you can hike Dog Hole in both directions. Although I would HIGHLY recommend Fiery Gizzard, hiking Dog Hole the entire way would cut down time significantly.
  • Not planning on doing the entire trail from Grundy to Foster Falls? You should still visit Foster Falls. I highly recommend going in the morning. Foster Falls is not only a popular waterfall viewing area, but it also is a top destination for rock climbers in the area. This means that it gets busy early. Avoid the crowds by going early. It is just down the road and a nice little warm up before you spend the rest of the day hiking.
  • The Fiery Gizzard trail is not a beginner trail. It is quite technical and mentally exhausting, not to mention the physical aspect. This was tougher than some of the 14ers I’ve completed in Colorado in my opinion. While I’m sure you are all hiking beasts, spend extra time preparing and be sure you are ready for a hike that will likely take longer than expected.

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