Tennessee Rock Trail – Black Rock State Park
The 2.2 mile Tennessee Rock Trail in Black Rock State Park provides an easy to a moderate, self-guided tour of nature in the northeast Georgia mountains.
The Tennessee Rock Trail at Georgia’s Black Rock Mountain State Park allows visitors to tour a rhododendron-filled mountain crest with the knowledge of a forest ranger.
For a dollar and tax, the Black Rock Mountain State Park Visitor’s Center sells An Interpretive Guide to the Tennessee Rock Trail. This 30-page booklet explains the significance of 25 posted points of interest along the trail. The guidebook doesn’t simply explain that this tree is an oak and that tree is hickory. Each point of interest highlights some specific feature that makes that part of the trail interesting, and the guidebook explains not only what is visible but also relates that feature to the history of the trail and to the unique qualities of the region.
Enjoy the Sights and Sounds Along the Nature Trail
Signpost number 4, for example, illustrates how useful the guidebook can be to the overall hiking experience. The signpost highlights a small spring that runs under a short bridge. The guidebook explains how important the spring is to the immediate ecosystem, which includes sprouts of the once abundant and now virtually extinct American Chestnut. The guidebook also explains the American Chestnut’s historical and cultural importance and how a blight totally destroyed this once-dominant tree population.
This same signpost also explains that a large woodpecker can be heard in this area in the morning, but hikers don’t have to be there in time for this suggested sound. When they stop to listen, several varieties of birds call in various languages to each other, providing a treble of “Tweetle-tweets” and “peeps.” The birds’ voices augment the spring’s bass-note tapping on softening rocks and hollow logs. This is just one of 25 points of interest along the trail.
Hikers should not, however, feel bound to see only what appears in the guidebook. The book provides a good starting point but is not meant to be an all-inclusive textbook. For example, signpost number 13 tells hikers to look “straight up” at the canopy of leaves and branches. Later, this canopy will be compared to the canopy at a higher elevation. But that should be only the beginning because the snail on the tree to the left deserves a closer look.
Signpost number 7 provides another such example. This point of interest includes a detailed explanation of a boulder field, how it’s formed, and how it helps orient hikers as to direction on this and other trails. The trail leading to the boulder field also includes one of the most interesting tree-growths along with this or any trail. The tree appears to be walking and even stepping over a rotting stump. Although the destination is signpost seven and the boulder field, the journey should not be overlooked.
Physical Features of the Tennessee Rock Trail
The trail itself is difficult enough so that hiking boots help, but the trail remains easy enough that boots are not mandatory. (In fact, trail runners often enjoy the trail in all-terrain shoes.) But hikers should be aware that no part of the path is paved, and roots and rocks stick up along the trail. Also, the often-muddy inclines can be slippery without the right shoe tread. Still, potential hikers, who happen to be in the area and who don’t come totally prepared, will still be ok on this trail. Only two relatively tough inclines have to be traversed along the trail – one is mercifully at the beginning when the hikers’ legs are fresh, and the other relatively steep incline leads to spectacular views of Germany Valley and The Blue Ridge Mountains of four states.
A Family-friendly Outdoor Adventure in Northeast Georgia
Hikers who are traveling with children may want to take this opportunity to let the child(ren) lead the trail. The trail offers many learning opportunities along the way, and the booklet allows children to take ownership of that learning. For example, much of the trail follows the Eastern Continental Divide, the geographical line that separates rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean and those that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The young hiker who points this out and asks more questions about this feature will have a greater understanding. Furthermore, any tough words in the booklet inspire questions and opportunities for children to share what they know.
The Tennessee Rock Trail provides a fun, easy communion with nature and views of breathtaking vistas, and it offers educational and family-oriented activities, as well. This trail also provides a good starting point for hikers who plan to become more adventurous and experience more strenuous trails, allowing young hikers to gain interest and confidence, offering enough distance to break in new hiking boots, and reminding everyone why hiking is a fun experience. Essentially, the Tennessee Rock Trail is a good appetizer for hiking in the Southern Appalachian mountains.
Hiking is a fun activity as long as the hiker can handle the trail’s difficulty, and the natural elements along the trail are recognized and understood. To truly experience nature, the hikers have to abandon the paved path, but the whole experience improves when hikers understand what they are seeing.