Located on 3,000 acres in Fentress County, TN, Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area is one of the Cumberland River Basin’s most beautiful and best-kept secrets.
The natural area, which borders – and, in some parts, is contiguous to – Pickett State Park, is characterized by the spectacular gorge that carves out the land, along with the exposed cliffs and sandstone formations distinctive of the Upper Cumberland Plateau. The area is named after Pogue Creek, which runs through the gorge as a tributary of the Wolf River, before flowing into the Cumberland downstream.
The natural area also hosts a range of rare plant and animal species that inhabit their mixed forest and rockhouse environments. Visitors can enjoy the natural features and rich biodiversity of Pogue Creek Canyon by hiking along several trails that showcase the natural area’s beauty and provide opportunities for wildlife spotting.
Hiking is the main way for visitors to explore Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area and all its glory. The area hosts three main hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties. Be aware that cell service is limited, along with signage on some trails. Because of this, and of the remoteness of the area, it is advisable to bring a map, or download one on your phone, before venturing out to the gorge.
The Pogue Creek Overlook Trail is a 1.5 mile loop that takes hikers from the parking area – which doubles as Pickett’s Astronomy Field– through the mixed forest and along a giant rockhouse to a plateau overlooking Pogue Creek gorge. The overlook offers spectacular views of the canyon and the sheer sandstone cliffs on its opposite side. This hike is a good, easier option for those looking for incredible views without a long trek.
For those looking to extend their hike past the overlook trail, the Upper Canyon Trail takes hikes down the gorge and deeper into the Pogue Creek wilderness. Here, you will hike along more sandstone formations, caves, and dense vegetation. This hike, accompanied by the Overlook Trail, totals to 6.3 miles, and is rated moderate.
The Mesa Top and Upper Canyon Trail is the last of the three designated routes within Pogue Creek Canyon. This 2.6 mile hike takes visitors along the natural area’s mesa and features more characteristic rock formations and caves. Hikers can opt for a hike to Killdeer Arch from this trail, a worthwhile extension that showcases the beautiful tunneled rock formation.
The mixed forest and rockhouses throughout Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area make it a great habitat for many rare and endangered species.
The Cumberland sandwort and Lucy Braun’s snakeroot are among the rare plants that are included in the 300 species of flora that have been recorded in the preserved area. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a bald eagle, glass lizard, or green salamander; all rare animal species that can be found throughout the natural area.
In 2006, the state purchased the natural area’s land from the Nature Conservancy. Since then, the organization has continued to sponsor work in Pogue Creek Canyon to survey the land’s flora and fauna and preserve its unique habitats.
Camping, climbing, hunting, and fishing is prohibited within Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area. Nearby state and federal parks, such as Big South Fork and Pickett State Park, offer lodging accommodations for those looking for an overnight trip.