The Bald River Gorge, located in the southeastern part of Tennessee is a short, but spectacular canyon filled with lush forests of pine, hemlocks, and hardwoods. The gorge is home to an established wilderness area that makes up a little over 3,700 acres. Since the area was logged to the bare ground at the turn of the century, there are no groves of virgin forest. However, the woods have recovered nicely and the entire area is clothed in dense forests of various types, depending on the varied terrain and proximity to flowing water.
Bald River itself is a medium-sized tributary, but free-flowing and very clean. It descends through the gorge along flats and down cascades and over some impressive falls, including Bald River Falls, which is arguably the most beautiful and impressive waterfall in the state of Tennessee.
Fishing is very popular in this region, and many anglers head into the Bald River Gorge to try their luck. With ample campsites along the trail that runs the length of the wilderness, it can be difficult to find solitude sometimes. In addition, Forest Service Road 210 runs along the northern boundary of the wilderness, allowing roadside access to the major falls, so it can be very crowded at that trailhead. Two FS roads allow access along both the northern and southern boundaries of the gorge: Road 210, which runs in to TN 165 (The Cherohala Skyway), and the harder to negotiate Bald River Road which runs circuitously to the outskirts of Tellico Plains.
There are a lot of campgrounds in this part of the National Forest, including many along the Tellico River Road (210), and Holly Flats just south of the Wilderness boundary on Bald River Road. Most of these campgrounds are rustic, with only a few offering even vault toilets and potable water.
The major activities in the gorge would be hiking and fishing. There are some walls along the gorge above the river, many of which look like tempting areas for rock climbers.
The best access is via TN 165, also known as the Cherohala Skyway. This road bisects what would otherwise have been an enormous roadless area south of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness and Citico Creek Wilderness. The Skyway is sometimes a pleasure to drive, if you can pick a day when it's not crammed with rabid cyclists on their motorbikes. In such times, be prepared for delays for the inevitable bike wrecks and ensuing carnage.
All wilderness rules apply. No open fires. No groups over ten. Pack it in pack it out. Bear habitat, so be aware.
There are about a dozen good public tent/rv campgrounds in the vicinity of Bald River Gorge. The best of these is probably Indian Boundary Recreation Area, which has well over 100 campsites, a large lake, bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, and even electric hookups for trailers and motorhomes.
There are also many National Forest campgrounds on the Tellico River Road (210) which runs along the northern boundary of the gorge. Some of these have flush toilets and potable water sources, but none have showers or hookups for RVs. The best of these campgrounds is probably North River. At times, all of these National Forest campgrounds can be crowded with four-wheel enthusiasts who are allowed to tear up a vast otherwise roadless area at the NC/TN state line. Be aware of these crazy mudders.
External LinksBald River Gorge Wilderness
Tellico River District Cherokee National Forest