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.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
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.