Nashville is known the world over for its country music, and for many people that’s as far as it goes. I like the music too. But it’s the hills and smooth two-lane roads in the surrounding countryside that recently drew me there. The four loops of this Shamrock, based out of nearby Chapel Hill, TN, encompass much of this beautiful terrain, featuring recommended visits to Savage Gulf, The Narrows of the Harpeth, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, and Leiper’s Fork.
A part of South Cumberland State Park, the Savage Gulf Wilderness Area is huge, at 15,590 acres, and, with its multiple waterfalls and 50 miles of trails, it takes at least a week to see it all. Before setting out on our V-Stroms, Cam, Alexis, and I decided we were going to take the short .9-mile walk to the park’s Great Stone Door once we got there. But that was a long way off in the morning. Leaving the hotel in a leisurely fashion, we skipped breakfast and headed for an early lunch in the town of Bell Buckle, which pops up in the middle of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. One side of Main Street (Hwy 268) in Bell Buckle (population 500) is a compact set of connected single-story commercial storefronts, including a general store, an antique shop, a restaurant, and a few other places. The other side of the street is just emptiness beyond the road, with no buildings or shops to show. I’ve never really seen anything like it before. But still, it was very charming, and we stopped in at the Bell Buckle Cafe for lunch. A meat and three for me. Quick service, Southern charm, and good food. What more do you want?
Back on the road, we rolled by the Hidden Valley Nursery, surrounded by the pleasant, recently budding presence of spring. From the valley, we gained about 600 feet in elevation as we climbed twisty 108 toward Altamont on top of the Cumberland Plateau. The parking lot for Stone Door has all the conveniences needed before striking out on the short hike in: bathrooms, a drinking fountain, and free WiFi. The trail is flat and well maintained, making the stroll quick and easy. At its end, you’re rewarded with one of my favorite overlooks in Eastern Tennessee. Off to the side is an undercut rock that leaves you wondering how it doesn’t break off and fall 50 feet onto the rocks and trees below. The adventurous can sit on the edge, which makes for a great photo along with putting butterflies in their stomachs. The actual Stone Door is a 10-foot-wide crack in the cliff with rock steps leading to the miles of trails wandering through Savage Gulf.