4 Best Outdoor Activities In Sparta


The sound of the 110-foot waterfall roared in my ears as a twig of water cooled my pores and skin after a rigorous hike by the pristine Higher Cumberland panorama in northern Tennessee.

Whereas visiting Tennessee as a hosted visitor, I made a decision to deal with the spectacular and strenuous Virgin Falls hike simply outdoors of Sparta. I knew it was going to be a difficult hike, one stuffed with tough trails, slick shoe-grabbing tree roots, and sketchy inclines that may make my calves burn.

I additionally knew it will be an beautiful hike, one stuffed with waterfalls, eye-watering magnificence, and quiet solitude in nature, so the “strenuous hike” warnings appeared like a superb trade-off. 

I wasn’t mistaken. Moreover the Massive Laurel Falls and Virgin Falls itself, the stream that ran alongside the path for a lot of the 4-plus-mile one-way hike was riddled with falls and speeding little rapids. The bushes towered above like damp, mossy sentinels, and I felt as if I had been seeing this a part of Tennessee because it appeared earlier than man got here and began knocking issues about.

The Higher Cumberland area of Tennessee is one in every of my favourite locations in that mountainous, inexperienced state. Residence to 14 state parks (probably the most in any area), it’s a implausible place to get your nature and open air repair. 

Eschewing the standard suspects of Cookeville and Crossville, we made the Heart Rock Hideaway trip residence in charming little Sparta our residence base for the week. Moreover not having the site visitors of the bigger cities, Sparta appears to be smack dab in the midst of all of the implausible out of doors actions and has that small-town appeal that makes me swoon.

Sparta as a group and county seat of Tennessee’s White County is greater than 200 years previous. In reality, it virtually grew to become the state capital, shedding to Nashville by just one vote within the 1800s. 

The out of doors adventures within the space are numerous, however listed below are 4 implausible out of doors actions close to scenic Sparta, Tennessee, to take pleasure in.

Hiking near Virgin Falls near Sparta.
Heide Brandes

1. Hike All The Trails

Climbing is one in every of my absolute favourite issues to do, and when you really feel the identical, you’ll run out of time earlier than operating out of trails to hike close to Sparta. From the .3-mile stroll to the Welch’s Level outlook and its expansive views to the 9-mile round-trip Virgin Falls path, you could find a hike that’s simply your velocity.

The Virgin Falls path was my favourite. Virgin Falls is a 1,157-acre pure space close to Sparta; it options the 110-foot Virgin Falls, which begins out as an underground stream rising from a cave earlier than dropping over the cliff and disappearing into one other cave. 

This hike additionally has different waterfalls — just like the Sheep Cave Falls, the Massive Department Falls, and the Massive Laurel — however bear in mind that the hike is taken into account strenuous by all accounts.

Different trails to take a look at within the Sparta space embody the Gorge Overlook and Woodland Trails at Fall Creek Falls State Park, a reasonable 2.9-mile loop path that results in a waterfall; the 9 trails at Rock Island State Park, which vary from .5 mile to 2 miles and weave by the beautiful lake and falls; and the 9 primary trails and eight spur trails within the Bridgestone–Firestone Centennial Wilderness.

Often known as the Grand Canyon of the Cumberlands, the Bridgestone–Firestone Centennial Wilderness is a ten,000-acre park that was donated by the Bridgestone–Firestone Company to the state of Tennessee. Its trails vary from reasonable to strenuous and convey you to scenic vistas like Welch’s Level and to 9 waterfalls within the space. 

Kayaking, Rock Island State Park, Sparta.
Heide Brandes

2. Kayak By way of Rock Island State Park

Eric Jackson is the founding father of Sparta’s Jackson Kayak. After we had been in Sparta, we had been fortunate sufficient to check out his latest enterprise — the Apex Watercraft fishing kayak, the lightest composite fishing kayak on the planet.

You don’t should be a fishing fanatic or have the most recent kayak to benefit from the waterways close to Sparta, although. Rock Island State Park, positioned simply 18 miles south of Sparta, is likely one of the prettiest locations to place in a kayak or a canoe (or perhaps a stand-up paddleboard, if that’s your jam).

The excellent news is that the majority Tennessee state park boat-rental operations will open this summer time, so you’ll be able to hire your watercraft of alternative at Rock Island.

The launch ramp on Heart Hill Lake and different ramps on the Caney Fork and Collins Rivers make it simple to get out on the water for some leisure boating, fishing, or kayaking. The park can also be recognized for its whitewater kayaking, if you’re expert in that space. I’m not, however I want I had been, as a result of the park additionally hosts worldwide freestyle kayaking occasions. 

A lot of the 14 state parks within the Higher Cumberland have some type of boating and kayaking entry, so when you can’t get to Rock Island, the parks nearest you’ll have alternatives.

Professional Tip: Heed these phrases from the Rock Island State Park officers and take them significantly: “Some areas of the park are for knowledgeable whitewater kayakers or canoeists solely and will be harmful. Water ranges and currents can change rapidly downstream of TVA’s powerhouse or dam with out discover. Giant quantities of water could also be launched at any time with out warning. Exit instantly when you hear warning sirens or discover modifications in situations.” Don’t fiddle when you hear the sirens — simply get to increased floor as rapidly as attainable. 

Aaron Tippin and family, TN Flying Machines.
Aaron Tippin and household at TN Flying Machines (Picture Credit score: Heide Brandes)

3. Fly Excessive With TN Flying Machines

In the event you suppose this a part of Tennessee is fairly on the bottom, wait till you see it from the air! TN Flying Machines has three distinctive plane (together with two World Battle II-era warbirds) that can take you on an air tour of the Higher Cumberland space.

The morning I went up with Aaron Tippin (sure, the nation music star Aaron Tippin), the winds had been a bit too gusty for my liking. However Aaron has greater than 30 years of piloting expertise, so I used to be in good arms as we flew over the waterfalls at Burgess Falls State Park.

Run by the Tippin household, these flights take you over Heart Hill Lake and its stunning waterfalls, Rock Island State Park’s beautiful waterfalls, and different notable areas.

Positioned on the Upper Cumberland Region Airport, TN Flying Machines is likely one of the latest sights within the Sparta space, so get in line to be among the many first to have an journey within the skies.

The Legacy Tour Adventure at Cumberland Caverns, Sparta.
Heide Brandes

4. Go Caving At Cumberland Caverns

In order for you a extra excessive out of doors expertise, know that the wild caving excursions at Cumberland Caverns are a once-in-a-lifetime journey. I’m an avid caver, and I’ve delved into caves all around the world, however I’m not too proud to say that the wild caving tour we did at Cumberland Caverns was among the many most difficult I’ve executed.

I’m a bit shaky with heights, however present me a gap within the floor, and I’ll need to climb in. That being stated, the tour we did with native caver Chuck Sutherland and our 19-year-old cave information, Collin, was virtually like underground mountain climbing.

These poor guys heard probably the most surprising cuss phrases from me as I butt-scooted over towering rocks at midnight. I stubborn much more after I had to make use of a information rope to navigate a small ledge over a black drop-off of unknown peak, and I invented new cuss phrases as I squeezed by tiny, twisting passages and climbed up rickety picket ladders — all within the looming darkish of the cave.

Regardless of my fixed potty mouth and clumsy scrambling, the Legacy Tour Adventure was my favourite journey of the journey. We delved deep into the greater than 30 miles of mapped cave passageways and found distinctive and beautiful cave formations most guests by no means get to see. We gazed at calcite veins that glowed at midnight, puzzled at an underground waterfall, and marveled on the milky citadel formations of the Cathedral.

Remember that the 4-hour Legacy Tour is rated “most excessive” and includes excessive climbs, ladders, ropes, and traversing handlines. I discovered it extra bodily demanding than any hike or caving I’ve executed. 

Don’t fear — when you’re not sport for an intense underground crawling and scrambling journey, Cumberland Caverns has a reasonable and lighted Discovery Walking Tour that leaves each hour. You’ll nonetheless see wonderful formations, waterfalls, and the well-known Volcano Room that sparkles with a big chandelier hanging from the cave ceiling. 

Professional Tip: Put on sturdy, closed-toed sneakers with good traction and garments you gained’t thoughts getting muddy or destroyed. I wore mild mountain climbing pants, and by the tip of the tour, I had torn the seat of my pants so severely that one buttcheek was hanging within the wind. Our caver pal Chuck recommends good cargo shorts, kneepads, and mountain climbing boots.

These 4 recommendations are only the start of the out of doors adventures obtainable close to Sparta. Mountaineering, biking, birding, and tenting alternatives are plentiful within the space, as are fishing and bouldering alternatives. In the event you need assistance discovering your excellent journey, go to the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association!

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