Experience the “New Deal” State Park
A Day of Wildflowers and Waterfalls at Standing Stone State Park
A GUIDE TO EXPLORING THE CUMBERLAND RIVER BASIN
Standing Stone State Park is one of the older state parks in Tennessee. It is part of the Works Progress Administration program begun in 1935 by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal. It was constructed by CCC camp workers as part of the plan to put American’s back to work, create recreation opportunities, as well as restore damage to the land. It is located in the Upper Cumberland region in Hilham. It is a wonderment of rolling hills, low mountains, deep hollows, cascading streams, and one of the best Spring wildflower spots in the state. It is a treasure trove of recreation opportunities such as hiking, exploring, fishing, boating, swimming, and camping. A visitor to the upper Cumberland would find numerous ways to fill a day in this one state park alone. This guide will touch on some of the ways to occupy a day full of natural beauty, exercise and relaxation.
Hiking is great exercise and there is no better way to appreciate an area up close. One such hike in Standing Stone State Park is a hike around the former cabin loop to see the original cabins from the CCC era. It is like stepping back in time. Many of those cabins were constructed of lumber from the chestnut trees killed by blight. The lumber from those trees is extremely durable and consequently many of the cabins are still standing! It is a little ghost town sitting tucked away in the woods. Hiking the loop in Spring reveals one spot after another of lovely wildflowers.
Find the Trailhead From the headquarters at Standing Stone State Park drive 2 miles along Hwy 136 through the park to a left turn onto Beach Road. Stay on Beach Road 3 miles to the old reservoir. Pull over to the right at a gate. Here is where your hike begins.
Hiking Directions: Hike past the gate and continue uphill to a point where the road splits in about 0.10 miles The hike directions are for hiking it clockwise so first go left where the trail goes uphill. You won’t go far until you begin to see the ruins of the cabins in the forest above you. Continue around the loop taking time to walk over to some of the cabins and inspect them. They are not safe to enter, but you can get close enough to peer in windows and doors on some of them. Continue following the trail as it winds gradually uphill and at about 0.30 miles the trail will level out. You are now on the back part of the loop and will not see any cabins for another 0.20 miles or so. You will come to a point shortly that you start to see cabins again downhill to your right, straight ahead of you, and some to your left.
Here you need to continue to the right, but take a moment and look at the cabins around you while making note of where you need to continue your loop. The trail begins to trend downhill gradually. You will continue winding through a pretty forest until you arrive at a point where the trail appears to end. You will have a thin veil of trees between you and the closure of the loop on the old pavement.
Gently ease through this opening and continue downhill and toward your right. You will see you are now back on the pavement you started on and at the intersection where the trail first split. Re-trace your steps back to your parking spot.
Bonus: On the right heading back to your car just below the trail is a small stream. This comes out of a spring. If you want to check it out work your way over to the woods and see the spring box for drinking water.
Check out the old swimming reservoir. You can see the dam and the old metal frame of the former lifeguard chair sitting out in the water. If you want you can carefully walk round the back of the reservoir toward the lifeguard chair area. From here you can see the remains of concrete steps on the slope behind you.
There is a concrete walled swimming enclosure here as well in the reservoir.
Bonus: If you want to see a secret cabin and a pretty cascade-
From the point where you first arrive at the end of the pavement heading uphill from your parking spot you will see the concrete slab of a former bathhouse to the right. Walk past it into the woods and you will see a couple mounds of rocks and boards from two very rotten cabins. Here you will pick up a foot path and you will be able to see the roof of a bonus cabin tucked away down the slope!
The foot path takes you right to it. Listen carefully and there is a stream just down at the base of the hill. Gently pick your way down the slope among wildflowers galore to a view of the stream and a low, scenic cascade. Return up the hill to your vehicle retracing your steps if you choose to add this to your hike.
Total hike distance is 1 mile round trip if you hike the loop with the bonus trip to the tucked away cabin and the reservoir. If you hike only the loop the round trip distance is 0.80 miles.
One of the more uncommon wildflowers you may encounter at Standing Stone State Park is golden seal. You will have to watch very closely for it as it is not a showy, colorful wildflower, but it is very special. Golden seal has been over harvested in many areas around the state and country for its wonderful medicinal properties. It is the root of golden seal that must be harvested and used to produce medicines so it kills the plant. It isn’t like some flowers or herbs where the leaf or stem will suffice. It produces a chemical compound called berberine with has been shown to be a “molecular master switch” for cell receptors. Digging plants in state or national parks is illegal so do not engage in this please. It is another reason to watch where you walk so you do not damage them.
Another pleasant way to spend the day seeing Standing Stone State Park and getting some exercise is to hike the loop around Kelly Lake. The state park was constructed around an X shaped lake that is a great place for fishing or boating. The hike is a moderate 4.7 miles of gradual ups and downs. Numerous starting points are possible for hiking all or part of this trail, but I will give directions the way I hiked it.
Hiking Directions: Follow the main road Hwy 136 through the park and start your hike where you parked below the dam. Walk across the grounds and cross the suspension foot bridge that crosses Mill Creek. From here you will hike 0.65 miles on a gentle uphill grade to where the trail meets and crosses Hwy 136 once more.
Once across Hwy 136 your hike will trend downhill and you will quickly come to the site of the historic Moses Fisk house. Take a moment to check it out.
Moses Fisk was an early settler of Overton County and founder of Hilham. He was a scholarly man and quite accomplished. He was ahead of his time in being an advocate for women’s education and founded the Fisk Female Academy. He was also an abolitionist and advocate for Native Americans.
This segment of the hike goes for 0.60 miles on a winding course until it crosses Bryans Fork via Beach Road. Use care in crossing the road. This is an excellent place in Spring. One of the prettiest wildflower spots in the park! The next 0.95 miles of the hike wind around the contours of the terrain until you cross Beach Road a second time.
Once you have crossed Beach Road the second time you will hike a short section of 0.30 miles until you come upon the Hawk’s Nest Picnic Shelter. It is a particularly pretty spot with a great view.
Once you get to the end of that 1.05 mile segment the trail crosses Mill Creek and winds another 0.40 miles around the contours of the terrain in the forest until you will come to the Cabin Spur trail on your right. Turning here will take you uphill to the rental cabins up at the level of the park headquarters. To continue the loop hike go straight and in about 0.20 miles you will pass the first boat house that is visible in the photo above. Continue around the lake and in another 0.20 miles you encounter the second boat house.
Continue following the trail around the lake shore until you will arrive at the boat dock. Once here you will close your loop by passing the dock, crossing Hwy 136 and drop down over the slope to your parked car.
Standing Stone State Park is a good hiking destination, but some may prefer a scenic drive. It is a good place to do that especially in Springtime for wildflowers or in Autumn for the pretty foliage. It provided a chance to see numerous roadside cascades and waterfalls as well as wildflowers.
Scenic Drive Directions–
Begin your scenic drive on Hwy 136 which is the main road through the park.
Drive for 1 mile and you will come to the campground for the state park on your left. It is very attractive.
Drive another 0.30 miles further and you will see the recreation hall, swimming pool and tennis courts area on the right. Once you have driven 1.5 miles total you will see the state park headquarters and office on the left.
It is an appealing facility. The buildings are stone construction and very rustic.
Continue along Hwy 136 and less than 1/10th mile further on the opposite side of the road is the ranger headquarters. It has a view from this spot so pull over and check it out and admire the rows of historic cabins in this area.
Continue driving along Hwy 136 and at 2 miles you will arrive at the point where a bridge crosses the dam for the lake. Do not cross here, but instead turn RIGHT and go to the recreation area below the dam. It is a particularly pretty spot with a picnic pavilion, ample parking, a view of the dam, and a suspension bridge. Here is a good spot for kids to get out and play in the shallow waters of Mill Creek. They have a playground, and volleyball courts.
Once you have checked out the area below the dam, return to Hwy 136 at the top of the slope and carefully turn RIGHT crossing the bridge. Continue on Hwy 136 as it winds is way uphill through the forest until at 2.60 miles you will come to a RIGHT turn into Scenic Lane. Pull in here and go 0.10 mile to the end of this lane where a picnic shelter and a view can be found.
Enjoy the view then return to the main road Hwy 136 and turn RIGHT again to continue.
Once back out on Hwy 136 having turned right drive for 1 mile through the forest to a LEFT turn onto Beach Road which trends down hill. At 0.70 miles along Beach Road you will come to Bryans Fork and a small pull out on the RIGHT. This is a good place to stop and check out the stream and the sides of the road especially during Spring. It is an area rich in wildflowers with an easy view of the road. The sheer variety of them is amazing. You can also see the low mill dam that crosses Bryans Fork. Overton County used to have lots of mills.
Once you have experienced the bottom lands and forest around this area continue down Beach Road and at 1.25 miles you will be along the lake shore of Kelly Lake. It is a great place to pull over to fish or check out wildlife.
Proceed along Beach Road and at 1.8 miles along this stretch you will come to
Hawk’s Nest picnic shelter on the right in a curve. You can see where the road bends left and heads across a bridge in the direction of Overton Lodge on your left. There is a good view of the lake here.
Once you have passed Overton Lodge the road bends back right and straightens. The next 1.25 miles of Beach Road is one of the prettiest in the park in my opinion especially in Spring. It is loaded with roadside wildflowers. Two waterfalls are here along this stretch. If it has been raining wet weather falls will be flowing out of the hollows on either side of the road. You will want to take your time and enjoy this section.
At 1 mile along Beach Road from Overton Lodge on the left side there is a wide spot and a pull out. Cascading down to the stream beside the road is the multi tiered Grave Flower Cascade. We got out and waded the stream and walked up it very carefully to see the many different drops. Each one different and each one beautiful. The narrow hollow it lies within is lined with wildflowers in Spring. Click this link for a page of information and location of Grave Flower Cascade on Tennessee Landforms
A mere 0.25 miles further past Grave Flower Cascade is Morgan Creek Cascade . It is another roadside attraction. It is easily viewed from the road, but there is no pull off . Pull past it 0.10 mile on the right
and there is room to allow you to park safely and walk back to see it. I went down the stream and found a better place to climb to creek level and walked the very short distance upstream to the base. Click the link here to look at a page of information on Morgan Creek Cascade on Tennessee Landforms including maps. Click the link here to see a video of Morgan Creek Cascade.
From the point where you are parked at the pull out at the intersection of Beach Road at the old reservoir this is where you need to reverse course and make your way back the way you came. Before you go take a few minutes to check out the old historic reservoir from the CCC era days of Standing Stone State Park. It is across from where you parked. You can see the old metal frame of the old lifeguard chair and swimming area.
The dam itself is a manmade cascade. Watch the reservoir and you might see Canada geese or a beaver working on his dam.
Glasscock Cemetery: From here one can choose to visit the historic cemetery to see comb graves that date back to the 1800s. Drive Beach road for 1 mile and turn left on Rocky Mound Rd. Go 0.85 miles and turn left on Glasscock Cemetery Rd. and drive 0.30 miles to the cemetery on the left. Below is a look at the cemetery. Comb graves are unique to the region. They are designed to protect graves from the settling of the spoil heap, prevent cattle from trampling on them, and the tent like design causes any acorns and such to roll off to the sides thus keeping trees from starting to grow on the graves.
Standing Stone Fire Tower : If you want to see the fire tower as part of your drive you can do so Monday to Friday dawn to dusk. Those times it is possible to drive to the tower. Other times you will need to hike the 1 mile one way from the gate on Fire Tower Road. To reach it drive 0.80 miles from the intersection of Beach Rd with Hwy 136 south. Turn right on Fire Tower Ridge Lane then turn left on Fire Tower Road. There is a great view here atop the tower seen below.
Roaring River Falls : I have always enjoyed the drive down Celina Highway heading south. It provides an opportunity to stop by a lovely roadside attraction of Roaring River Falls shown below. To see this drive 5 miles south on Hwy 136 to a pull off on the right. It is a 200 foot walk over to the falls. It is very family and kid friendly. It would be a good choice for entertaining older guests or those with limited mobility or limited endurance.
From Roaring River Falls continue down Hwy 136 for another 4 miles to a sharp right hand turn onto Waterloo Road. From here drive Waterloo Road for another 0.60 miles crossing the bridge over Spring Creek Scenic River. Once across the bridge turn left into Virgil Murphy Circle. Follow it round to a parking area next to the river in 0.20 miles. Park here and walk downstream for 250 feet to Waterloo Falls. It is a beauty!
Waterloo Falls: Two additional waterfalls are not far away from Roaring River. You can stop by Waterloo and Upper Waterloo Falls and get a look at the Spring Creek Scenic River. Waterloo Falls is private property and is now an event venue. They have always been very gracious in permitting visitors to the falls. They continue to do so even after changing over to an event center. It is another easy option for families, kids, or those with limited mobility since it is a pretty drive, short walk and very easy.
To see Upper Waterloo Falls walk back to the parking area and walk upstream for 0.20 miles or you could pull your car up closer and walk 0.10 mile if you have along guests who are not able to walk very far.
Upper Waterloo falls is about fifteen feet high and another river wide cascade. It is pretty any time of year, but Spring has the surrounding forest dotted with pink from red bud trees. The clear aquamarine cast to the water makes it especially appealing.
Once you have seen all you care to at Waterloo Falls be sure to pull over off the side of Virgil Murphy Circle where it meets Waterloo Road. Walk over to the bridge across Spring Creek Scenic River and take a look both upstream and downstream. The water is so clear you can see the rocks on the stream bed most days.
Conclude your day by driving back to the state park to picnic or grill out in one of the many nice spots you have seen or if you are in the mood to dine out head east toward Livingston which is the nearest town. Here you will find a couple fine dining options which I have found exceptional. The Steel Coop is located at 209 S. Spring Street Livingston. They have a menu that has something for everyone. They feature live entertainment some evenings. The atmosphere is both casual and elegant, serving lunch and dinner. It is a more contemporary dining establishment.
Another option for dining in Livingston is Wayne’s Grill. It features American cuisine and serves lunch and dinner. They have a bar and are a long time favorite of locals. The atmosphere at Wayne’s is hometown Americana. It features lots of area history in the decoration. Wayne himself can often be found interacting with the patrons and checking on their satisfaction and service. It is delightful to see the personal touch he brings and the pride shown in an era of big franchise dining. They have an extensive menu with plenty of selections for every palate. It is located at 1035 East Main Street Livingston.