Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Backbone Rock

Up the road from the Blue Hole and "The Snake" on Highway 133 in Johnson County, TN is Backbone Rock. Unlike the Natural Tunnel in southwest Virginia, this tunnel is man-made. Its original purpose was as a railroad tunnel to haul timber out of the forest. (More history here). Today, the area is part of the Cherokee National Forest. There are picnic and camp sites available, along with fishing and hiking opportunities. Two trails begin next to the parking area on the Shady Valley side of the tunnel. The Backbone Rock Trail is an interesting climb to the top of the tunnel (a spur off of this trail connects with the AT 2.4 miles away). The Backbone Falls Trail is a short trail (0.4 miles) which takes visitors to the forty foot tall Backbone Falls. The trail makes a loop -- climbing up a series of stairs and then crossing the falls at the top before winding you back down more stairs and then back to the road. It's really well done. The waterfall is 'low flow' but is nestled in a beautiful rocky gorge. This might not be the best one for families with young children as there are many dangerous ledges along the way.

Directions: From Elizabethton, take Highway 91 (Stony Creek Road) to Shady Valley. At the main intersection in Shady Valley, continue straight toward Damascus, VA on Highway 133 for 8 miles to the park. (In all, it's 30 miles from Elizabethton). See map. Also, click here for a map of the immediate area around Backbone Rock.


  1. For those of you who enjoy "top-rope" climbing, this is the perfect spot with plenty of anchor points and overhang challenges. Just make sure that you know how to tie a figure eight or you may end up scarring a friend for life.

  2. I love the park me and my husband went to and we'll the walking trail they have next to the river that they have well it has grown up and you can't go through the old walking trails without a weed waker and they also let the face of the rock get overgrown with brush and weeds and the trees has took over spots where you could see the beauty of the rock where it has so grown over it just doesn't look like its old self anymore but I think it would be nice if they could clear the old walking trails and clean off the face of the rock on the front side but the back side still looks like it did still yet so I wish they could clean off the face of the rock so everybody can see it's Beauty


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