685 acres of land on the South Cumberland Plateau open to rock climbing

By Morgan Simmons of the Knoxville News Sentinel

East Tennessee climbers now have access to 685 acres of terrain on the South Cumberland Plateau just 30 minutes from Chattanooga.

The Denny Cove Rock Climbing Area features approximately 150 rock climbing routes with the potential for additional routes along the nearly three miles of cliff face. The wild, undeveloped area is part of the Fiery Gizzard region, just north of the small town of Jasper on the South Cumberland Plateau.

Local climbers began exploring the Denny Cove area five years ago. The Southeastern Climbers Coalition and Access Fund – organizations that campaign for new climbing areas – got involved and joined forces with South Cumberland State Park, the Land Trust for Tennessee and the Conservation Fund to purchase the land from a private forestry company.

Cody Roney, executive director of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, said the acquisition of Denny Cove is his organization’s biggest project to date.

“It took all of our organizations coming together to protect Denny Cove,” Roney said. “It’s a testament to what climbers can do when we partner with the state and other like-minded conservation groups.”

The agreement was signed on July 27 and the area is now officially open for rock climbing. The Southeastern Climbers Coalition will temporarily hold the property with plans to permanently transfer it to the state of Tennessee later this year.

Denny Cove is located between Foster Falls and Castle Rock, two areas that already attract a large number of climbers.

In addition to rock climbing, the property will eventually include hiking trails to a lookout, a three-mile trail to a 70-foot waterfall, and primitive campsites.

The steep mountain valley has been identified as a “high priority” for protection by the Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan and the 2011 Cumberland Voices Conservation Vision document. At least 20 rare plant and animal species have been documented in the region.

The multicolored sandstone cliffs offer climbing routes of all levels of difficulty.

“We have protected and opened up one of the largest new climbing areas in the Deep South,” said Zachary Lesch-Huie, Southeast Regional Director for Access Fund. “We have forged new partnerships with the state and conservation groups that will strengthen our ability to protect more climbing areas in the future.”

About Morgan Simmons

Morgan Simmons covers the outdoors and the environment for the Knoxville News Sentinel.