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Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

If you drive about two and a half hours from Nashville to the very northeast corner of Middle Tennessee, you’ll arrive at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park. (1) It’s an International Dark Sky Park giving astronomy enthusiasts a place to enjoy the stars with less light pollution. (2) Pickett also honors the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a group of young men who helped to build public works during the 1930s and early 1940s. (3) This endeavor was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. (4) The CCC worked in Pickett and 16 other Tennessee State Parks. (5)


On my recent trip to Pickett, I visited its CCC Museum housed in a stone building built by the park’s CCC companies in 1935. (6) It’s small without many artifacts, but it does have several informational panels explaining the CCC’s work and purpose. It’s kept locked; get the key from the park office if you’d like to see it.



There is also a statue of a CCC worker next to the museum, and a monument nearby in front of the park office; both honor the organization’s accomplishments.



I had a great day for hiking. It was sunny but not hot, and I first hiked the Natural Bridge Trail, a one-mile loop. (7) The trailhead is right on Highway 154 with a pull-off for parking and a picnic table. (8) If you start the loop to the right, you’ll find yourself on top of Natural Bridge; the park says this bridge is made of sandstone and is 86 feet long and 35 feet high. (9)


I chose to start the loop to the left where the trail rings a steep drop.

A dirt trail on the left of the photo rings a steep drop-off in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park in Tennessee

I passed a rock wall and a small cave.



I loved hiking among the mountain laurel blooms. The buds of the flowers were really interesting; they are ridged, and the open flowers still have these ridges on their backs.


If you look at the trail on the park map, you’ll notice there are a few connector trails that shoot off of the left half of the Natural Bridge Trail and connect to the Hazard Cave Trail.


You’ll also find a connector trail that leads you underneath Natural Bridge. I took this connector trail marked by this sign:

A wooden sign with arrows points to trails to go over or under the bridge in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park in Tennessee.

At the end of the trail, I was underneath the Natural Bridge.


If you climb on top of the bridge from here, you’ll be back at the trailhead. I decided to turn around and hike back to the main trail. After I returned to the trail, I saw Fire Pink wildflowers growing on the trail’s edge. (10)


The trail connects with a road in front of the Recreation Lodge. I turned right and followed the road past a small beach until I found the trail opening and re-entered the woods.


The trail took me to Natural Bridge again, but this time, I was on top of the Bridge.

A natural stone bridge extends through the middle of the photo surrounded by trees in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park in Tennessee

After crossing the Bridge, I had to climb up a rock slope to get to stairs leading to the trailhead.

A rock slope underneath stone stairs in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park in Tennessee.

Next, I hiked the Island Trail, a .30 mile loop, surrounded by what looks like a river. (11) The park calls it Arch Lake, but Google Maps calls it Pickett Lake. (12)


I drove to the back of the RV campground and found the trail's sign. I wasn’t sure where the trail started at first. Go past the sign along a faint dirt trail, and find the start of a gravel path.



Further on, the Lake Trail crosses the gravel path. (13) This is a lollipop trail where the gravel path eventually becomes solid rock and splits into a loop.

A solid rock trail extends to the right and left surrounded by trees and vegetation in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park.
This is where the Island Trail splits into a loop.

I went to the right and saw even more mountain laurel blooming along this trail. There is also a shelter with a bench built by the CCC. (14)


I completed the loop by crossing the sandstone bridge and returning to the gravel path.

A sandstone bridge surrounded by trees in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park.
Sandstone bridge on the Island Trail

A paper sign informs people how to protect themselves from bears in Pickett CCC Memorial State Park.

If you’re hiking or camping in the park, be careful because there are bears in the area. I didn’t know that until this trip when I was driving near the park at dusk and was surprised to see a bear crossing the road in front of me!


I hope you visit Pickett. Maybe I’ll see you out there!











 
  1. Tennessee Blue Book, 2021 - 2022, pg. 754

  2. Plaque and information panels in CCC Museum.

  3. CCC Museum information panel

  4. CCC Museum information panel

  5. Information panel outside of CCC Museum

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