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HIKING TRAILS IN JOHNSON COUNTY

Gentry Creek Falls Trail
Rating: Moderate
Elevation: 3,000' - 3,500'
Length: 2.5 miles each way (5 miles)
Trailhead: Gentry Creek Road (Laurel Bloomery)
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Head east on Hwy 67 (main Street) (two traffic lights) to Hwy 91 turn left (North) go 7.4 miles to Laurel Bloomery. Turn right on Gentry Creek Rd (across from A-Z market) go .7 miles, turn right. Follow that road (also Gentry Creek Rd) 1.8 miles and it turns into a dirt road, 0.2 mile beyond that there is a parking area to left, follow road to the right 1.8 miles (road is very rough and narrow). At end there is a wide spot to park.
Notes: Trail goes NE from here, crossing the creek 13 times. There are four log bridges. Gentry Creek Falls are actually two different falls, each about 30' high. During the early part of this century the railroad built a trestle to the top of the higher falls (the trestle is no longer there).





Doe Mountain, Hwy. 67
Rating: Average, Difficult
Length: 3 miles (1.5 up and 1.5 back down
Directions: In Mountain City start at intersection of Main Street and Hwy 421. Take Main Street (Hwy 67) west. Go 0.6 miles and turn left onto Hemlock Street (big Freewill Baptist Church sign on corner). Proceed on Hemlock Street for 0.4 miles, here Hemlock street will curve to the left but you will go straight (street turns into Settlers Secret) go 0.1 miles there will be a sign for the Outback, just before the sign there will be a service road (or an old logging road) you can park there or go 1 block and turn left then another block and the road curves right. There will be another service road on the left you can park there (do not block the service road).
Notes: If you park at the first parking area proceed on the dirt road to a T in road you will take the right road. If you park in the second area you will immediately see a dirt road going straight and another off to the right, take the one on the right (the dirt road going straight will go to the first parking area). You will follow the dirt road to the top, when you cross other dirt roads keep taking the one that heads upward.
At the summit you will see a small building and lots of Satellite dishes. There will be a cut in the trees all the way down the Mountain. You will be looking at the north end of Mountain City.



Backbone Rock Hiking Trail
Rating: Easy
Elevation: 2,200'
Length: 0.5 mile
Trailhead: Backbone Rock parking lot
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Proceed north on Hwy 421 to Shady Valley crossroads, 11miles. Turn right (Hwy 133) go 9.5 miles. Park in the parking lot on the south side. There is a fee to park ($2) pay at the envelope drop. Trail starts at the back of the parking lot. Go up the steps. Once you get to the top turn right. There are no guardrails, so watch how close you get to the edge.
Notes: Backbone Rock Park has a nice picnic area alongside scenic Beaverdam Creek.



Backbone Falls Hiking Trail
Rating: Easy
Elevation: 2,200'
Length: 1.0 mile
Trailhead: Backbone Rock parking lot
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Proceed north on Hwy 421 to Shady Valley crossroads, 11miles. Turn right (Hwy 133) go 9.5 miles. Park in the parking lot on the south side. There is a fee to park ($2) pay at the envelope drop. On the south side, cross over Hwy 91, go south along the road for about 100'. The looping trail is on the left. There are lots of steps.
Notes: Backbone Rock Park has a nice picnic area alongside scenic Beaverdam Creek.



Appalachian Trail (AT)
The Appalachian Trail runs over 2100 miles from Georgia to Maine. Thirty miles of this trail is in Johnson County. It enters Johnson County on top of Iron Mountain and runs north to Cross Mountain, where Iron Mountain and Holston Mountain intersect. At that point it crosses over to Holston Mountain and follows it to the Virginia state line. Access to the Appalachian Trail is available at Cross Mountain Road, at U.S. Hwy 421 on Holston Mountain and at McQueen's Gap Road. Access is also available by trails at Lynn Greer Lane and Backbone Rock in Shady Valley.
Rating: Average
Length: Approximately 30 miles
Trailhead: Varies
Managed by: Appalachian Trail Conference, Cherokee National Forest

Appalachian Trail: Uncle "Nick" Grindstaff Monument
Rating: Average
Elevation: At Monument is 4,100'
Length: 6 miles (3 miles each way)
Trailhead: Cross Mountain Road
Managed by: Appalachian Trail Conference, Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Head north on Hyw 421, go 11.0 miles to Shady Valley crossroads. Turn left onto 91 go South 3.4 miles to Cross Mountain road. Just before Cross Mountain road there is a parking area on the left side, park there. The trail starts at the SE corner of Cross Mountain Road and Hwy 91. Follow the trail south for three miles. The Appalachian Trail is blazed with white markings.
Notes: This trail is on Iron Mountain, which is the dividing line between Doe Valley and Stoney Creek. Most people think the monument was a chimney from an old house, it was not. The monument was erected by his friends out of cement and mountain granite. The inscription reads, "Lived alone, Suffered alone, and Died alone". Uncle Nick lived here as a hermit for 40 years. He had a pet rattlesnake that was killed by Sam Lowe, a dog-named Panter that stayed with him until Nick's death and a steer that he used as a pack animal. There are many great views of Doe Valley from this trail.



Appalachian Trail: Cross Mountain to Hwy 421
Rating: Average
Elevation: 3,500' to 4,247' to 3,400'.
Length: 7.0 miles - Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Cross Mountain Road; Holston Mountain summit
Managed by: Appalachian Trail Conference, Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Head north on Hwy 421 to Shady Valley 11miles, go past crossroads 2.6 miles to top of Holston Mountain. Leave 1 car in parking area. Proceed back to crossroads and turn right onto Hwy 91. Go 3.4 miles to Cross Mountain road. Just before Cross Mountain road there is a parking area on the left side, park there. The trail starts on the other side of the Hwy 91 and goes west from there. The Appalachian trail is blazed with white markings.
Notes: Double Springs shelter is 3.5 miles (4,247') halfway between the two trailheads. There is a spring approx 100 yards west of the shelter. Trail is completely in forested area and offers great views of Shady Valley.

Appalachian Trail: Hwy 421 to Abingdon Gap Shelter
Rating: Average
Elevation: 3,400' to 3,900' to 2,500'
Length: 7.0 miles - Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Ivan Greer Lane; Holston Mountain Summit
Managed by: Appalachian Trail Conference. Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at the intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67, go north on Hwy 421 towards Shady Valley. It is 6.5 miles to top of Iron Mountain. Continue on 421 to crossroads in Shady Valley 4.1 miles. Turn right at crossroads and proceed on Hwy 133 for 5.5 miles to Ivan Greer Lane on left. Proceed 0.3 mile on Ivan Greer Lane where there is a forest service gate on right. Leave one vehicle there. Proceed back to Shady Valley Crossroads and turn right. On Hwy 421, it is 2.6.miles to top of Holston Mountain. Park on area to right of highway. The Appalachian Trail for this section begins here and proceeds north (to the right). The Appalachian Trail is marked with white blaze.
Notes: At four miles you will intersect McQueens Gap Road, a dirt road that goes across the mountain. About 1.1 miles north of this road is Abingdon shelter. 0.4 mile north of shelter is trail on right side, 1.6 miles down the mountain. This is location of first vehicle.

Appalachian Trail: McQueen's Gap to Backbone Rock
Rating: Average
Elevation: 3,700' to 3,000' to 2,200'
Length: 7.0 miles - Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Backbone Rock; Holston Mountain Summit
Managed by: Appalachian Trail Conference, Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Head north on Hwy 421 to Shady Valley 11 miles to crossroads. Turn right (Hwy 133) proceed 9.5 miles to Backbone Rock. Leave 1 vehicle in parking lot on south side, required parking fee $2. Pay at envelope drop. Drive back 6.5 miles to McQueen's Gap Road on the right. Proceed on McQueen's Gap Road (which turns into a dirt road after about 1 mile) to the top of Holston Mountain. Park at side of road. The Appalachian Trail is marked with white blaze. Notes: Go to the right (north) 1.1 miles to Abingdon Gap shelter. Backbone Rock access trail is 5.5 miles north of Abingdon Gap Shelter. The access trail, marked with blue blaze, is 2.0 miles down to Backbone Rock and location of 1st vehicle.

Appalachian Trail: Backbone Rock to Damascus
Rating: Average
The Appalachian Trail is average, but the access trail to the top is Difficult (all uphill).
Elevation: 2,200' to 3,400' to 2,000'.
Length: 6.9 miles - Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Top of the stairway to Backbone Rock; Damascus Park
Managed by: Appalachian Trail Conference, Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Proceed north on Hwy 421 to Shady Valley crossroads 11miles. Turn right (Hwy 133). Go 9.5 miles to Backbone Rock, and then 5.2 miles to Damascus. Turn left on the main street, go 3 blocks to a park on the left (look for train caboose). Leave one car here. Proceed back to Backbone Rock. Park in the parking lot on south side of Backbone Rock (parking fee required $2, look for payment drop).
Notes: The access trail to the Appalachian Trail starts at the top of the stairway to Backbone Rock. The access trail is blazed with blue markings. This 2.4-mile section of trail is difficult in that it is uphill to the top of the mountain. At the Appalachian Trail, marked with white blaze, turn right (North) and the trail is downhill all the way to Damascus. This trail offers spectacular views of the mountains.


Iron Mountain Trail (IMT)
Rating: Average
Elevation: Varies
Length: 18.36 miles
Trailhead: FR 53
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest

Iron Mountain Trail: Cross-Mountain to Hwy 421
Rating: Average
Length: 5.0 miles Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Hwy 421; Cross Mountain Subdivision
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest
Directions: At the intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67, go north on Hwy 421 towards Shady Valley. It is 6.5 miles to top of Iron Mountain. Parking area is on the left, leave one vehicle there. Continue on 421 to crossroads in Shady Valley 4.1 miles. Turn left onto Hwy 91, go 3.5 miles to Cross Mountain Road. Turn left and proceed 1.1 miles, look for radio towers on right. Park vehicle. The Iron Mountain Trail starts to the right of the gates to the Cross Mountain Subdivision. This trail is marked by blue blaze. About 100 yards from the road, the trail splits, take the right fork. Look for the Iron Mountain Trail post.
Notes: This trail proceeds along the ridgeline for 5.0 miles to Hwy 421. To the right of the trail is Doe Valley and to the left is Shady Valley. There are yellow mile markers at ground level.

Iron Mountain Trail: Hwy 421 to Corinth Church
Rating: Average
Elevation: 3,860' to 2,900'
Length: 8.7 miles Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Corinth Church; Hwy 421
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Go east on 67 (Main street) (two traffic lights) to Hwy 91, turn left and go North 6.8 miles to Deer Run Road, turn left, go 1.8 miles. Park one vehicle at the Corinth Church. Go back to Hwy 91, turn right (south) 6.8 miles. Turn right on Main Street, go to Hwy 421 and turn right. Proceed north on Hwy 421 towards Shady Valley. It is 6.5 miles to top of Iron Mountain. Parking area is on the left. Walk 150 beyond the parking lot on Hwy 421. The trail is on the right side of the road with steps leading up from the road. There is an Iron Mountain Trail marker there.
Notes: This trail is marked with blue blaze and has yellow metal mile markers at ground level. At mile marker 13, there is a trail to the right, which goes down to Corinth Church. This trail proceeds along the ridgeline of Iron Mountain. To the left side of the trail is Shady Valley and to the right side is Cold Springs.

Iron Mountain Trail: Corinth Church to Camp Ahistadi
Rating: Average
Difficult ascent from the church to Iron Mountain Trail
Elevation: 2,900' to 3,800' to 2,200'
Length: 6.0 miles Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Corinth Church; Camp Ahistadi
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67. Go east on Hwy 67 (Main street) (two traffic lights) to Hwy 91, turn left (north) 10.3 miles to camp Ahistadi and leave one vehicle there. Turn around and go back 3.5 miles to Deer Run Road, turn right go 1.8 miles and park at the Corinth Church.
Notes: From the Church to the Iron Mountain Trail is uphill and difficult. At the Iron Mountain Trail go right (north). Hike approx 3 miles and look for the trail to Camp Ahistadi on the right.

Iron Mountain Trail: Camp Ahistadi to Damascus
Rating: Average
Access trail from Camp Ahistadi to Iron Mountain Trail is Difficult
Length: 4.1 miles Two trailheads (Need two cars)
Trailhead: Old Hwy 91 (Damascus, VA); Camp Ahistadi
Managed by: Cherokee National Forest
Directions: Start at intersection of Hwy 421 and Hwy 67 go east on Hwy 67 (Main street) to second light Hwy 91, turn left. Proceed north 13.0 miles turn left to Old HWY 91. Proceed about 0.1 mile to Iron Mountain Trailhead (on left). Leave one vehicle on right side of road. Return to Hwy 91 and turn right (South) proceed 3.0 miles to Camp Ahistadi on the right. Park outside the fence. Negotiate the fence, follow road over the bridge. Turn right and follow the trail to top of mountain about 1.5 miles. At the Iron Mountain Trail post turn right and follow blue blaze to Damascus about 2.5 miles.