distance from nashville.
distance from nashville: 120 miles
number of hiking trails: 6
total mileage: 15 miles
camping: 147 developed sites, several backcountry sites along Cumberland Trail
trail rules: pets on a leash, no bikes, no collecting of plants (although, seasonal berries may be consumed)
best kid trail: Pioneer Short Loop
facilities: maps, restrooms, phone, water, picnic areas
Ironically, recreation rather than conservation provided the impetus to establish Cumberland Mountain as a park. In the mid-1930s, 250 families moved into this area under the Homestead Act, a law designed to populate remote areas of Tennessee. In order to provide recreation for these people, the Farm Security Administration obtained 1,720 acres of land and constructed the park with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Work Projects Administration.
A large dam impounding Byrd Creek is perhaps the park's most impressive feature. This freestanding structure stretches across the center of the park, and is built entirely from a unique local limestone called Crab Orchard stone. Especially after a day of rain, water thunders through the dam's stone arches. Standing at its base, try not to think that the structure contains absolutely no steel.
Formed by the dam, Byrd Lake seems to divide the park's ecosystems the same way it divides the park itself. North of the lake, along Byrd Creek, mountain laurel and rhododendron dominate the landscape. Large hardwoods tower impressively by the side of the stream, interrupted occasionally by stands of evergreens. A recent storm has jammed the stream, as well as the trail, with downed trees. South and west along the shores of Byrd Lake, oak and hickory trees slowly give way to hemlock and laurel. Streams flow across, and occasionally drown, the trails themselves as they feed water into the lake. On the paths that stretch beyond the reaches of the lake, several large bo