Top Ten Campsites near Nashville and Memphis

Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Directions: From Nashville, take I-24 south to exit 127. Head east on TN 50 for 16 miles to Altamont. From Altamont, take TN 56 five miles to Beersheba Springs. At Beersheba Springs, look for the large sign and right turn to the Great Stone Door Ranger Station.

Fees and Permits: Camping permits are required and can be obtained at either the Great Stone Door or Savage Gulf ranger stations. There is no fee for backpacking at Savage Gulf.

Information: Call (931) 779-3532 or visit

My first trip to Savage Gulf was in the winter. The late day sun glimmered on Savage Creek as I crossed a suspension bridge. Savage Falls was just ahead. Recent rains had made the cascade a frothy roar of air and water descending into a gulf, as these canyons are locally known. This is one of three gulfs that merge to form a giant crows foot. After a crystalline chilly night under the stars I kept along the rim of Savage Gulf, taking in the views from numerous outcrops, spending the second night in the Hobbs Cabin. After this, I descended to the bottom of the gorge, stopping by the Cator Savage Historic Site, a pioneer cabin (no camping allowed), then ascended along Big Creek, reaching the rim of the Big Creek Gulf via the Great Stone Door, a giant crevasse passageway used by Indians and settlers alike.

I continued my loop, stopping by Greeter and Ranger Creek falls before heading up the Collins River gulf. In places, Collins River simply flows into the ground, into a sink, to emerge from the ground downstream and flow onward. I climbed to the rim once again, camping very near Suter Falls at a campsite that allowed me to look far as far as the eye could see down the Collins River canyon. After having explored many of the 50 miles of trails and staying at 4 of the 10 backcountry campsites, I hadn't seen a soul.

Part of the greater South Cumberland Recreation Area, Savage Gulf is a backpacking-only destination that is accessible year-round. It has a true wilderness feel.


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