Hi Point Trail

By Joe Feeman

Hi Point Trail is the longest trail in the watershed, covering 4.2 miles from the pump house to Upper Clear Creek Road. The old road traversed many farms, but appears to have been a county road on only one section (from Upper Clear Creek Road to the Lakeside Loop Trail). This is a green trail, open to all users. Beginning at the pump house, you cross the bridge across Clear Creek and go straight. It's hard to believe, but the previous bridge washed out in a large flood in the early 90s. The current bridge was paid for by revenue from a timber sale. You will walk along a small stream on the left for several hundred feet before meeting the junction of Ridgecrest Trail to the left. Just past this junction you will see orange paint on some of the trees; this is the boundary between TVA and the watershed. So the first section is on TVA property. Hi Point Trail climbs about 1.9 miles to the top of High Point and gains approximately 560 feet. This is the largest elevation gain in the watershed, but not the steepest climb because it is spread out over such a long distance.

The trail climbs up a large hollow with old field forest (former planted pine stand that is now yellow poplar, red maple, and sugar maple) on the left and an older upland hardwood forest on the right. This section is deceivingly steep, but very noticeable on a mountain bike. The trail surface could be best described as rocky and rockier, but is really not a bad tread to travel on. You will get to a sharp right turn and the trail flattens a little. At this point, the forest is older upland hardwood on both sides, occupied by large black oak, white oak, and chestnut oak, with smaller red maple, sourwood, and blackgum. There are also some large shortleaf pines mixed in the stand.  At 1.0 miles the trail makes a sharp left turn and the intersection with Raccoon Run Trail is to the right (through the gate). Hi Point Trail was called the ‘Mae West' Road in the early years because it had so many curves. As you travel this section you will understand the unofficial name that was used. Be careful when you go around a curve because there could be someone coming down. The trail winds up the hill and flattens, and then climbs again and flattens, until you reach Freeway Trail on the left at 1.6 miles. An informal road cuts to the right but is in the process of being closed to vehicular traffic. You will then climb a short hill before leveling out for a ways. The forest on the right is an old field that is primarily yellow-poplar and is doing well on the northeast-facing aspect. After 0.2 miles Upper White Pine Trail cuts off down the hill to the right and then Longmire Trail turns left down the hill. After a short, steep hill you will reach High Point.

High Point is the highest elevation in the Norris Watershed at 1460 feet (by comparison Observation Point is 1380 feet and Reservoir Hill 1360 feet). At the top, Hi Point Trail turns right, down the slope. The road which goes straight at High Point leads to the park cabins in about 0.6 miles and passes the spur trail to Lakeview Trail (a short distance on the right). The boundary between the Norris Watershed and Norris Dam State Park crosses at high point and parallels Hi Point Trail for most of the way onward, going back and forth between the two interties. You will see park boundary signs, flagging, and orange posts along the trail, as well as yellow safety zone signs (for the watershed). Over the next 0.8 miles, the trail drops 240 feet. Leaving high Point, you will descend down to a level section with older upland hardwood (black oak, white oak, chestnut oak, hickory, and red maple) on the left and the old field with yellow-poplar still on your right. In a short distance the yellow poplar gives way to upland hardwood when the aspect changes and the site becomes drier. The trail starts down again over a long steady slope with lots of broad-based dips for erosion control. At 0.7 miles from High Point you reach Red Hill Trail to the right and then in a very short distance, Eli Nine Sinkhole Trail turns off to the right. The trail continues down a long hill that is gravely toward the bottom. An old road to ‘Scenic Cove' cut off to the left at one time, but has since been closed by the state park. Although it is not maintained, and somewhat difficult to locate, it is a good access to Lakeview Trail. Scenic Cove was a popular place for locals to swim when the road was open. 

From the bottom, you will start to climb again, reaching Mockingbird Trail (at 0.9 miles from High Point) to the right.  The trail continues to climb on a clay surface, moderately at first, and then steeper as you go. An old road turns left part way up the slope and goes to the old E. S. Atkins home place that is now on park property. The trail flattens out and passes a sinkhole on the left and then makes a sharp left turn and climbs a small hill.  The forest along this section is older upland hardwood dominated by oaks, hickory, and yellow poplar. Logging has been limited in the watershed along Hi Point Trail and the state park has not been harvested since the property was acquired in the 30s. Shortly you will come to a flat area with an old parking area on the left; this is the former trail head to Hill Cave. A boy scout had developed this parking area many years ago as an eagle project, but since Hill Cave is now closed, the trail and signage have been abandoned. After another short hill you will come to the entrance to Lakeside Loop Trail on the left (at 1.5 miles from High Point). This is an old road that goes to the lake and was at one time used by some Norrisonians to go swimming and picnicking. When I was a youngster we went down this road with Elmer Snow in his 1955 Chrysler sedan to swim. Elmer was a forester at TVA and was quite revered for his ability to drive a car on any woods road, no matter how bad it was.

The trail goes down another slope, flattens, and then turns right. Another road goes straight in this turn and leads to the other end of Lakeside Loop (0.2 miles from the previous trail head). As you round the curve there will be another road to the left which also goes to Lakeside Loop Trail. This section of road, from the Lakeside Loop junction to Upper Clear Creek Road, was a county road with a 16 foot right of way at the time of purchase. All but the last few hundred feet of the road were on the farm of A. H. Metzger, who owned 354 acres. An old farm road turns down the hill to the right but soon ends. This road is closed to vehicular traffic because of continued abuse. Hi Point Trail follows the ridge down a long slope through upland hardwood forest with a small patch of white pine on the right. Notice the sandstone along this section. The trail makes a long curve to the left on a clay surface and reaches a split in the road; the original road is to the left and was moved years ago because it had become eroded. Lakeview Trail (state park) starts on the left road and there is a kiosk with maps and other information installed by the state park. Lakeview is a new trail which goes from this point to the old cabins in the park, traversing 4.9 miles.

The TVA acquisition map shows a cemetery, with one grave, on the right side of the road in this area. I have never looked for this grave but it is likely marked with stones and would be difficult to locate. The trail crosses a saddle before climbing a short steep hill and then flattens out and passes a sinkhole on the left. Another old road then cuts to the left and goes a short distance to the state park property before ending. Hi Point then descends a small hill and ends at Upper Clear Creek Road, 4.2 miles from the pump house. There is a large sinkhole on the left which is occupied by yellow poplar. 

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