Piney River segment of the Cumberland Trail for a scouting hike. We wanted to check it out before leading a trip there with the hiking club; the descriptions I had seen made it sound like a lovely hike without being terribly difficult.
The trail itself is about ten miles, so it's best done one-way with a car shuttle. The route we took was slightly different from the one I think I will use when leading the trip, and I can't decide which direction is best to hike it in. The way we hiked it, the most beautiful stuff was in the first half of the hike. This made the second half somewhat anticlimactic. On the other hand, if we do it in reverse, perhaps folks will be too tired to fully appreciate the scenery.
Because there was a lot of scenery to appreciate. The trail follows the Piney River, and there's something comforting about hearing the roar of a river while hiking. The eastern third of the trail stays high above the river, but the western portion follows close by, with five bridges crossing the river or its tributaries. Along the way there are many good river views, ranging from deep turquoise waters to shallow rapids and foamy white waterfalls. We were told that you can tube the river, suggesting to us an intriguing hike/tube combination trip.
The trail is at a high enough elevation that there are good number of evergreens. There is also a good bit of mountain laurel, which suggests it would be a good spring hike, when the laurel is blooming and there is still enough water to keep the river moving. Winter offers the advantage of even more scenic views where the leaves are off the trees, although there are enough vantage points that the summer hiker would not notice their absence.
I should mention that the weather on our hike was gray and misty, with occasional rain showers. Mist is attractive but eventually becomes tiresome, and this hike was still spectacular when we were damp.
All in all, the hike lived up to my expectations for it, and I'm excited about returning with the group to see it again.