8 Secret Places in Crossville and Cumberland County

For the purpose of this blog post, secret is somewhat subjective. All the below places have been visited and documented well before my time. For one reason or another, they all remain less than well known. In the near future, I suspect that this may change. My publication of photos here is not an invitation to trespass either. Get permission before you go onto private property. In the meantime, here are some places that perhaps you didn't know about...

Black Mountain

Black Mountain is a state natural area managed by TDEC. It is a classic "rock town" formed of Rockcastle conglomerate, a sandstone with quartzite pebbles of up to 1cm in size locally. The overlooks are south to south-east facing and are a great place to catch a sunrise in the Winter. If you're lucky, fog will be sitting in the coves below like milk in a bowl. Little Cove is immediately south, and Grassy Cove is south-west. Both are sinkholes, and there is more about Grassy Cove below.

Google Map

South overlook, Black Mountain, Cumberland Trail, Cumberland County, Tennessee
Fog on Dug Hill Ridge, Black Mountain, Cumberland County, Tennessee

Roosevelt Overlook

Located at the end of Mt Roosevelt State Forest Road, this small wildlife management area sports a largely decayed fire tower, and a nice overlook facing the town of Kingston.

Google Map

Kingston as seen from Mount Roosevelt, Cumberland County, Tennessee
Firetower, Mt. Roosevelt WMA, Roane County, Tennessee 2

Grassy Cove

The largest sinkhole in North America volumetrically, this feature is largely privately owned. It makes for a nice drive pretty much any time of the year. Stop in at the Kemmer store and buy a cold drink. Tell them I sent you.

Overlook, Grassy Cove, Cumberland County, Tennessee 1
Grassy Cove Community Center, Cumberland County, Tennessee


"Here's a pretty place, let's cover it in trash and spraypaint" - Half of the people that go there.

Clifty is at the head of Scotts Gulf. It is a region that lies just around the Clifty bridge, and it is presumably named for the nearby Clifty Creek, which I suspect is named for its sandstone cliffs. If you visit, please don't make a mess of it for everyone. Also, avoid going at night, rumors say there is rampant drug use and crime there.

Pilot Falls, Caney Fork River, Cumberland County, Tennessee 2
Pilot Falls, Caney Fork River, Cumberland County, Tennessee 6

Waldensia Coke Ovens

In Waldensia there are dozens of coke ovens in various stages of decay. These ovens were used from 1901 to 1929 closing at the onset of the Great Depression. There are remnants of other nearby buildings and structures. This is an interesting place to put your hands on the history of the Cumberland Plateau and see what urban decay looks like after 100 years.

Coke oven, Waldensia Coal and Coke Company, Cumberland County, Tennessee 1

Devilstep Hollow

Devilstep Hollow is public land, but is only open one day a month for public visitation. The cave has some of the most spectacular glyphs and pictographs in the southeast, but the cave is gated to protect those and other cultural resources there.

The cave also represents the resurgence of waters from the nearby sinkhole Grassy Cove. Stories say that the old farmers in the area knew this to be the case by corn husks floating out of the cave when they knew folks in Grassy Cove were harvesting. Modern science used dye tracing to show the connection. From where it sinks in Grassy Cove to Devilstep Hollow is a strait line distance of 6.18 miles.

The cave entrance can be visited, and the milky blue waters coming from the earth rise and sink there only to resurface a short distance later at the head of the Sequatchie River.

Devilstep Hollow Cave, Head of Sequatchie Unit, Cumberland Trail State Park, Cumberland County, Tennessee 2
Sequatchie River, Devilstep Hollow, Cumberland County, Tennessee

Upper Obed Falls

Hiding in plain sight east of Holiday road below the spillway of Lake Holiday there is a 20' cascade. There is little to no soil in the area and a steep gradient, so be careful if you want to get a closer look.

Upper Obed Falls, Obed River, Cumberland County, Tennessee

The Minister's Tree House

The Minister's Tree House is the ultimate place that you can't go. I hate to throw it out there, but you can look at it longingly from behind a fence. It's eleven stories of monstrosity, majesty, and maze. In 2012 the Tennessee state fire marshals shut it down citing 17 violations of building code. Was it safe? Almost certainly not. Was it right to be shut down? I don't know. The owner, Horace Burgess has been working to bring it to code ever since.

*Update 12/28/2021: In October of 2019 the Minister's Tree House burned. Source: News Channel 5 - Minister's Treehouse, once dubbed world’s largest treehouse, destroyed in fire

Minister's Tree House, Crossville, Cumberland County, Tennessee 1
Minister's Tree House, Cumberland County, Tennessee 19

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