Lately it’s dawned on me that as a Tennessee Native, there is way too much ground I’ve yet to cover here! So during the upcoming fall I am making it my mission to visit some of the TN beauties still unseen by my own eyes. My starting point? Rock Island State Park.
This past weekend Slade and I ventured a couple of hours east to this Tennessee treasure nestled right in, you guessed it, Rock Island, Tennessee!
What a cool surprise to drive through the little town of Rock Island before entering into the park! It was full of antique shops that I would have loved to get lost in (unfortunately, the shops are closed on Sundays) and old houses that I wish we could have walked through. The little town was just an added bonus on top of everything else the park itself had to offer: beautiful scenery, rich history, and quiet hiking trails. What else could you need on a Sunday afternoon?
Once we happily drove all the way through town to the park, we pulled into the first parking lot we saw. Online it will say that parking is limited, and maybe it was just the particular day we visited, but there were plenty of free spaces! We had no issues with parking!
We got out of the car, harnessed up our girl, Nala, and took off down the first trail we saw, Old Mill – a .5 mile hike down to the infamous horseshoe waterfalls. Right off the bat, here are some things we would’ve loved to have known beforehand:
- Don’t start with Old Mill trail. Save the best for last and end your day here.
- Bring your chacos. Slade mistakenly thought he could get away easily in some old Nikes. I wore my Ahnu hiking boots (which have served me well in the wettest of hiking excursions like a down-pour in a rainforest on the island of Honolulu) but was kicking myself for not bringing my chacos because…
- You’re going to get wet. The trail itself is a creek streaming down a set of stairs. And once you get to the end of the .5 mile trail, if you turn right, it’s more wet rock to slip on, shallow water to walk through, and waterfalls to walk and crawl under. So much fun, but very inconvenient without my chacos! This way is, of course, also the route to what I thought was the prettiest view we saw all day!
After seeing the horseshoe waterfalls up close, which you have to do if you go, it was back up the slippery Old Mill trail and onto what we should have done first: check out the historic 19th century cotton textile mill that powered over 100 years ago!
I’m not as much of a history-junky as some people, but Slade always has a bunch of interest in these types of things. So for Slade and all you other history-lovers out there, you can check out how this old mill allowed the cute city I mentioned earlier in the post to thrive way back in the day. And then how it burned down because of the Civil War! This building has a cool little story to tell!
After scoping the place out, we jumped back in the car and headed to the trailheads! And while I said I wish I’d brought my chacos, I was glad I had my boots for the 4ish miles we hiked during the day! This just may be a trip for two pairs of shoes, readers!
The best loop we did was the Collins River Trail. By far, my favorite part about all of the trails in the park was how little they were traveled!
Clearly the trophy-piece of the park is its waterfalls; demanding the most time from its visitors. This leaving the trails empty and quiet, which in my opinion is the best way a trail can be. The worst thing when visiting a new place to hike is having to finagle your way through crowded trails, filled with too many sight-seers – it takes you out of nature a little bit!
These trails were wide, scarce of people, home to a few family cemeteries (again, cool for people like Slade), and perfect for Nala to chase deer. They also had several great places along the water that would have been perfect for our enos! If we hadn’t been dealing with a little rain, we absolutely would have strung ours up!
The entire time we hiked, we passed two people – and we hiked for a good while!
After hiking, and getting good and sweaty, we went back down to the parking lot next to Old Mill trail – the place we started at, but should have just ended with.
We changed into our swim suits in the bathrooms and headed back down the waterslide-like set of stairs. This time, we took a left. Remember, right is where the best view is after working your way through a bunch of wet greatness. Left is where you go for the sunshine, rocks to lay out on, and water to swim in – left definitely doesn’t lack on the views, either.
Okay, maybe both left and right have equally awesome views.
The pictures I have don’t do the place justice! It was absolutely one of the most memorable places in Tennessee both Slade and I had ever been to! Plus, swimming in the water was a blast – and Nala was exhausted the entire next day.
A few other things I wish I had known?
- Don’t underestimate the strength of the water’s current – we almost had a little puppy float too far down the way!
- Bring a change of clothes for the ride home! A rookie mistake not to. And I guess we’re rookies.
- From where I was laying out, there were trails up on the ridge on other side of the water. They had us intrigued! It also led to a place for cliff jumping! I wish we had the time to find those trails, but we didn’t. Next time, for sure!
- This time of year is probably the latest in the season to go before the water gets unbearably cold. That being said, I’d like to go back in the heat of the summer! And mid-fall for when the leaves have changed colors – not for swimming.
At the end of the day, it was a 5 paw review from Nala and a must-do recommendation from me and Slade. Maybe next time we’ll take our new tent for a stay overnight! What TN State Park should we go to next?!