The original article has been updated to remove inaccurate information.
The Chattanooga area may be a camping mecca, but the literature on free one-night sites less than an hour away is limited. This occasional series is designed to help locals rough it for no more cost than the gas to get there.
Site: Rock Creek Campsite
Part of the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail, the Rock Creek segment—namesake of the trendy outdoors store—includes stretches of the actual Cumberland Trail.
An earlier version of this column described a campsite on the Rock Creek Loop Trail, but that is not a designated campsite.
Tony Hook, general manager of the Cumberland Trail Conference, said camping is not allowed because the trail loop is only intended for day use.
But the Rock Creek segment does have a free, designated campsite about 3 miles from the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead, Hook said. The campsite is near the Rock Creek Bridge. For more information, click here.
The drive from Chattanooga to the trailhead is a 40-minute cinch. Take Highway 27 north past Soddy-Daisy into Sale Creek, where you want to be sure you’re going the speed limit—the local highway patrol doesn’t kid around. Halfway through Sale Creek, turn left on Leggett Road, and proceed to the Upper Leggett Road Trailhead (you will pass the Lower Legget Road Trailhead on the way).
Gravel parking at the upper trailhead can fit three to four cars, according to Hook, but there is additional paved parking at the lower trailhead. Using the lower trailhead will make the trek to the campsite about 5 miles.
Because this site is a 3-mile walk from the parking lot, it’s best to pack as lightly as possible. Before you leave home, make sure you have your gear packed in such a way that if every member of your party has both hands full and a bag across the shoulders, there’s nothing left to carry.
As this is part of the Cumberland Trail, you have to register here. You can also just leave your information in a voicemail at 931-456-6259.
Fishing is allowed here if you have a Tennessee license. Rock Creek is home to a thriving community of brown trout (I know from experience with my $5 Walmart bamboo pole).
Finally, bring some bug spray.
Updated @ 11:25 a.m. on 8/19/13 to correct inaccurate information.
Conner Armstrong spends his time trying to keep up with his wife's intellect, his son's energy and his lawn's weeds. He writes fiction when he can, trade magazine copy when he must and freelance columns when the spirit moves. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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