Rocky Fork State Park: A Tennessee Hidden Gem

There are affiliate links in here.  If you purchase anything through them, I get a tiny commission at no extra cost to you.

I’ve wanted to visit more state parks over the last few years, not just in Utah, but everywhere.  Florida has some of the best state parks and I think that’s how this started. 

Rocky Fork State Park in Tennessee was my next top on my state park quest and quickly became a favorite. I even went back in the fall of 2020!

Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential. – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.

rocky fork state park tennessee in fall

Rocky Fork State Park is one of the newest state parks in Tennessee, one of the Tennessee state parks with waterfalls, and isn’t too far from the North Carolina border. 

On our trip to Asheville this winter, we were trying to decide where to go on our last day and ended up at Rocky Fork State Park, about an hour from Asheville.

We were having a hard time deciding where to go because the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed for the government shutdown and most things we wanted to do were on the parkway. 

rocky fork state park tennessee in fall
The log bridge I mention below that I love? This is what was there on our visit in 2020

Well, I’m glad we weren’t able to go on it because I loved Rocky Fork State Park.  Like, a lot.

It was a little chilly the day we went, but it was still really nice.  The drive from Asheville to Rocky Fork State Park isn’t super long, but it is pretty. 

We got to the park and saw a few other people there but I think they were getting ready to leave because we didn’t see anyone else until we were on our way out.


With no or idea on what to do, we set off on the trail and followed the Rocky Fork Trail and part of the Flint Creek Trail until my hands were too cold and we had to turn around. 

The trail follows the Rocky Fork Creek and you pass a few waterfalls.  We passed over a couple of small wooden bridges then got to the coolest carved log bridge crossing Rocky Fork Creek or Flint Creek.

rocky fork state park tennessee mushroom

Just past the cool log bridge, there was a little pond and a couple more little bridges.  We lingered for some pictures before heading back since it was cold and getting late. 

While we only spent two or three hours here, it’s definitely one of my favorite state parks I’ve been to so far.  The water was really pretty, it wasn’t busy at all, and the hiking didn’t kill me.


What to bring to Rocky Fork State Park for hiking

Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side.  They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  Even if it’s not hot you need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, or a visor.  A baseball hat should be fine but I like my giant sun hat, too.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case. 


What to wear to Rocky Fork in winter

Warm hat – You’ll obviously want to keep your ears warm in the winter. Check out the hat here.

Microspikes – These are very handy to have for hiking in the desert in winter. They aren’t always necessary but if trails are icy and steep, these make hiking much easier. Buy microspikes here.

Gloves – If you plan on being outside all day, you’ll probably want thicker gloves, but these are perfect for a few hours.  Buy my gloves here.

Hand and toe warmers – If you don’t want to get thicker gloves, bring some hand warmers.  If your feet get really cold really easily, definitely bring toe warmers.  They’re a game-changer.  Buy hand warmers here.

Warm socks – I love my Darn Tough socks. I only have one pair right now but I think next time I need hiking socks, I’ll get these again.

Warm bootsI love my Sorel boots.  They’re cute, comfy, and warm.  Plus, there is room under my toes for toe warmers.  Buy my boots here.

Patagonia Synchilla – I think of my Patagonia sweatshirts, the Synchilla is the warmest. I have two of these and really like them.


What to do at Rocky Fork State Park


There are about 20 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Fork State Park with direct access to the Appalachian Trail.  You’ll be able to hike through gorges with towering walls, along and over creeks.  There are nine trails in the park, plus the Appalachian.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail Access Route – 0.35 miles

This is a moderate trail that will connect you to the Appalachian Trail from inside of Rocky Fork State Park.

Rocky Fork Trail – 0.70 miles

This easy trail is the main road into the park and gives you access to all the other trails.  This follows Rocky Fork Creek, and eventually crosses over, as it splits off to the other trails.


Whitehouse Cliffs Trail – 0.70 miles

This moderate/strenuous trail is short but steep.  You’ll be rewarded with wonderful views of the whole park.

Blockstand Creek Access Trail – 0.90 miles

This is a moderate trail that connects you to the Blockstand Creek trail and Blockstand Ridge.  You’ll get to pass some cool mushroom and plant communities.


Headwaters Trail – 1.0 miles

This moderate trail will take you to some of the best fishing in the park whether you’re fly fishing or fishing for native brook trout, this is the place to go.  And if you don’t fish, this is still a great place to see high country streams.

White Oak Flats Trail – 1.30 miles

This is a moderate/strenuous trail that used to be the home of a saw mill and a bunch of cabins.  Now it is a great place for a picnic and wildlife viewing.

rocky fork state park tennessee in fall

Flint Creek Trail – 2.05 miles

This is a moderate historic trail that marks the battle site of the Cherokee vs. John Sevier, where he ambushed a Cherokee camp in 1789.

Birchfield Camp Trail – 2.70 miles

This strenuous trail is part of an old logging trail that takes you through the park into Cherokee National Forest.  You’ll find yourself at a 5-acre high country lake that was originally made by loggers in case of a wildfire.

Blockstand Creek Trail – 4.20 miles

This strenuous trail takes you along Blockstand Creek, one of the most important and overlooked creeks in the park.  The trail follows Blockstand Ridge.



With about 15 miles of mountain biking trails Rocky Fork State Park, there is plenty to keep you busy for a day or two. 

The trails in the park boundaries give you access to 8000 acres of remote, unmarked, and unsigned logging roads.  There are no paved roads or trails in the park right now.

The log bridge I loved


If you like fishing, this will be a great place for you.  In the creek along the road into the park, you’ll find rainbow trout, but if you go to the headwaters, two miles down Rocky Fork Trail and one up Headwaters Trail, you’ll find the native brook trout.  The park is also popular for fly-fishing.

rocky fork state park tennessee in fall


If you’re feeling brave or really love icy water, go for a swim in the blue hole, just before the park gate.  This is the best place to swim in a deep pool under a small waterfall.  There are some other opportunities along the creek as well.



There are a few Geocaches in the park.  I didn’t look for them, but there are a few along the hiking trails.  There is also a small one at the view/rest area just before the border with North Carolina if you stop there.


In case you love these hiking boots, they’re the Forsake Patch.  You can find the black and tan ones at REI and a few other colors at the Forsake website. 

When to visit Rocky Fork State Park

I don’t think there is a bad time to visit Rocky Fork State Park.  During a summer visit, you’ll be able to swim, which would be very refreshing because of how cold the water is. 

It may also be a little busier.  In the winter, it won’t be as busy and you might even have it to yourself, but it will be colder if that’s an issue for you.

Fall is amazing because you get to see the leaves changing and that was the best color we saw (between Asheville and the park) on our 2020 trip.


How to get to Rocky Fork State Park

I’ve included maps from Asheville and Gatlinburg, two popular places to visit in this area.

Asheville, NC to Rocky Fork State Park

Gatlinburg, TN to Rocky Fork State Park


Have you been to Rocky Fork State Park?  What did you think of it?  What is your favorite state park?

11 thoughts on “Rocky Fork State Park: A Tennessee Hidden Gem

  1. Hey, cool blog! I like your photos, too. I’ve always felt there’s something kind of mysterious about the south and that seems to come through in your pics. Keep up the good work!

  2. I’m a Tennessean, and am embarrassed to say I have never heard of this park! It looks beautiful. I’ll have to check it out!

    1. Definitely! I think it’s kind of small and pretty new, so maybe that’s why haha. I’m from Wisconsin and am a little ashamed at how much of it I haven’t seen.

  3. I’m glad you mentioned something about Rainbow and Brook trout. I was drooling about the fly fishing possibilities looking at each picture. Looks beautiful.

    1. While I donn’t fish, I knew it was popular there so I couldn’t not mention it haha. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.