The United States Congress designated the Bald River Gorge Wilderness (map
) in 1984 and it now has a total of 3,721 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Tennessee
and is managed by the Forest Service.
Bald River is a small wild trout stream flowing cold and clear northward through the middle of the steep-sided Bald River Gorge and hence down the middle of this Wilderness. The Wilderness ends just before the river plunges dramatically over what is arguably the loveliest waterfall in the state, Bald River Falls. Southern Appalachian hardwoods, pine, dog hobble, and other flora cloak the mountain slopes above the river, home to black bears, deer, wild turkeys, and wild hogs. Fall turns the area into a quilt of color. Summer wildflowers are plentiful.
The Bald River Trail climbs steeply from a parking lot on the northern edge of the Wilderness at the Bald River Falls Picnic Area, descends past a series of waterfalls and along an old logging railway bed, then rises to follow the side of the gorge. Alternating between riverbank and gorge rim, the trail eventually passes through thick stands of laurel and rhododendron before climbing briefly to the Cantrell Parking Area on the southern boundary. The distance is less than six miles, the hiking fairly easy, and campsites exist in several sheltered spots. Two additional trails provide shorter hikes. Human use is heavy. Anglers are limited to fly-fishing and must have a special fishing permit.