Trail Review: Frozen Head State Park

“The poor man’s Smokies”

“This is the poor man’s Smokies.” – Donner

Last month, Donner, ThrillBilly, a new friend named Steve, and I went on a quick overnighter at Frozen Head State Park. Even though it was pretty warm around mid-day (especially on that dang Spicewood Trail), the weather was almost perfect. It was a low-mileage trip; roughly 6.5 miles the first day and 5.5 the second day. Don’t let the short miles fool you – there were definitely some difficult routes and elevation gain.

[Click here to see the trail map.]

We started off from the Visitor Center – staffed by two very nice rangers – and walked the Old Mac Trail (rated: easy) a little less than half a mile. We then turned onto the Spicewood Trail (difficult). Hoo boy, it was a climb/scramble up 2.5 miles, with stops to catch our breaths and wipe the sweat from our eyes. I was told the trail is best hiked in the earlier spring, when all the flowers along the way are in bloom. It was still lovely, and a fun, technically challenging trek – as challenging as you can be outside the big mountains.

 

(Plants top to bottom: two pictures of ferns; spiderwort; autumn hawkbit; Indian pink. We also saw a lot of Jack-in-the-Pulpit.)

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Met a new frenemy, Mr. Young Rattlesnake

From there, we headed north on the Chimney Top Trail (difficult) for a mile, then the Lookout Tower Trail (moderate) for about 2.5 miles to the Squire Knob campsite.

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View from fire tower; a bit too hazy to see very far

It was fairly hot mid-day, but there was a PERFECT spring just a little before camp. Someone has built a little grotto for it, and it was clear and cool and so, so good.

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The campsite was really nice – lots of places to setup tents, great trees for hammocking, tables (!), and an established fire pit with rock chairs. There was even a bear box, which I love because I am lazy.

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We set out the next morning for about half a mile until we turned west on the Cumberland Trail (difficult) and hiked about 2.5 miles. We then turned on the Bird Mountain Trail (difficult) for another 2 miles and ended up at the big campground. One of the cool things about this campground is the gate at the end, also known as the starting point of the annual Barkley Marathons.

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Barkley Marathons starting line

Even though this park isn’t as majestic as the Smokies or out West, and there aren’t any views, there was plenty of water, a nice breeze, relatively clear and well-blazed trails, and a good group of hikers to join on a walk in the woods.

(Me being my normal goofy self; Donner telling some story; L:R – Steve, Donner, ThrillBilly)

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