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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.
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. 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.
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.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.
What to wear to Rocky Fork in winter
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.
Cozy Sweatshirt – I have a few different Patagonia sweatshirts and love them all. They’re great for layering in cold weather. I have two Re-tools, a Better Sweater, and a Synchilla. Sometimes you can find them on sale on REI or Backcountry. I also like to keep an eye out for them on Poshmark (use code REDAROUNDWORLD for $10 off your first purchase) and Mercari (you can save $10 with that link as well!) I’ve found some really good deals on both.
Long sleeve shirt – I just have one that’s like Underarmour but not. I think I found it at TJ Maxx. I also just like these from Parks Project.
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
Thisis 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?