Window Cliffs Natural Area was dedicated on April 7, 2017, and is now open to the public. Formerly on private land, it was still a favorite place for local hikers and ATV’ers. Now owned by the state of Tennessee, Window Cliffs is managed by the Burgess Falls State Park staff.
Over the past year, a well-defined, 5-mile round-trip trail has been constructed. After a 300′ steep, narrow descent, the trail (old ATV road) follows and crosses the scenic Cane Creek and one of its tributaries. The dedication hike followed a period of heavy rains, so the nine water crossings were wet — up to your knees wet in some of the crossings. Park-installed cables at the nine crossings facilitated safe passage against moderately strong currents and very slippery rocks. At other times of the year, you may barely get the bottoms of your shoes wet. Come prepared! I was happy to have sandals in my backpack to change out of my socks and hiking boots for most of the hike.
Along the wide trail and at crossings were many views of small picturesque cascades in the creek. There were a number of areas where the creek is bounded by tall cliffs on one side, many of which were dripping water. In early April, trees were beginning to display their leaves and wildflowers, especially Trillium, were everywhere. Only in one spot, however, were there a couple Trillium’s with their flowers completely unfolded.
After crossing #8 and just prior to the final creek crossing, there is an overlook on the left side of the trail where you can see a 20-foot waterfall, the only one in the park.
After crossing #9, the trail continues to closely follow the looping Cane Creek, until the trail narrows, beginning a moderately steep ascent that ends near the top of a “knife-edge” ridge. Slightly below the ridge top are two windows, formed by collapsing weak strata while leaving rock arches overhead. The windows can be observed in the distance from an observation point fairly near the end of the 2.5 miles hike in. During an opportunity to preview a portion of the Window Cliffs area in July 2015, two rangers led a small group of us to the base of the windows (picture included). Access to the windows is now appropriately blocked to the public as the drop-offs are extremely steep and dangerous due to narrow ledges and loose rock. However, those with mountain goat tendencies who are not afraid of heights can climb to the top of the very narrow ridge. On both sides of the ridge, cliffs plummet to Cane Creek below, as the creek loops around the ridge structure. The views are incredible at the top of the ridge, but be careful about taking one step to either side while looking through your camera!
The return trip follows the same path as the one that got you to the window cliffs. Yep, that means another nine creek crossings followed by a steep ascent to the trailhead.
As you view the photo gallery, please note that the final seven images are from July 2016. Two images are at the windows, spots that are not open!