A quick text from my nephew came in the other day to tell me about a park in Lafayette, Tn in Macon county. He asked if I had ever been to this park. Nope. It was a new one to me, but I could not wait to check it out. There was very little online about it, but I did manage to find a few YouTube videos and a couple of news articles talking about the city acquiring the land.
I typed in Winding Stairs Park into google and off I went. As usually happens with new areas google took me past the clearly marked park entrance down a road that dead ended at a family cemetery. I decided to just see where google would take me. I thought maybe it knows better. Obviously, not. So, I backtracked and went back to the sign. If you put in Hearthstone Inn in Lafayette it will take you right to the entrance. It’s next door to the little motel. There is a long gravel road you will go down passing a small fishing pond. Parking for the pond is across from it on the driveway. Keep going and you will see a pavilion with parking.
The park is so new, in fact, that there are no printed maps. I took a picture of the hand drawn map that was stuck at the pavilion.
The area is quite pretty but the falls are a little difficult to see in the summer months. I expect it to be much better viewing in the fall and winter. There are several trails that lead all around this large basin where you can hear water and you know there is a waterfall, but it’s just difficult to see and almost impossible to get a good picture. Some of the trails lead you to the bottom but then are roped off indicating, I guess, that they don’t want you going beyond that point.
There is a short paved trail that is wheelchair accessible that leads to a nice overlook area. But again, because it’s summer, there just isn’t anything to see once you get there.
The easiest trail to the cascades is the Red Oak Trail. Both Jacob’s Ladder and the Cascades Trail are very steep and, if it has rained, very muddy. A lady I ran into showed me how to get down to smaller falls via the Red Oak Trail and said that it was the easiest one. Now, easiest is relative to your own hiking experiences. I would call this trail moderate. Jacobs Ladder is strenuous. I actually came back up from the cascades via JL. I did not do the whole cascades trail. I only went by what the lady told me as to the difficulty of it.
These are some of the trails down towards the falls in the basin. As you can see very steep.
When you are in the parking lot standing at the kiosk. Do not take the trail straight ahead. Instead, take the trail that is to the left of the kiosk. It will take you down to the Red Oak Trail. The sign is across the creek and you have to look for it. Sort of like if it were a snake it would have bit you.
Before heading up the Red Oak Trail stop at the creek and walk down a bit and you can climb down to these. It is VERY SLICK. I had to scoot on my butt to get down there to these. The map is very accurate. If you look at it this spot is right after the blue line crosses over the creek.
There were several little moles running around down there. So, if you have a backpack make sure to keep it on. I had dropped my pack but decided to put it back on. I didn’t want one of the little critters getting in and scaring me later in the car. Here is a little video I took of a suicidal mole.
After that, I went on up the Red Oak Trail and followed the little map to the cascade waterfalls. The trail was very dense and so green. I mean REALLY green. I am certain that in the fall this will be a gorgeous little hike. So, follow the map and go past Jacobs Ladder and follow on up to the cascades. There are two sets. The one on the left looks like it will be really pretty once all the brush is cleared away from it. Right now you can barely see the water peeking through all the blow down that is across it. The one that you can see though is very nice.
On the way back up I took Jacobs Ladder. I wanted to see if it was as hard as the woman made it sound. Well, yes it was. If I had not had my trekking poles there would have been and ‘incident’ no doubt.
(This was at the top of the hill)
This is on the way up and this wasn’t even the steepest part.
Once at the top, you are standing in front of the 100-year-old oak tree and there is the most beautiful bench you will ever see. I was so happy to see it.
After making sure I wasn’t having a stroke I took the trail that is back to the left of the bench. It’s a short walk back to the car from that point. Technically you could more quickly get down to the cascades by going down Jacobs Ladder. Just know that it is incredibly steep and you really do need trekking poles or, at the very least, sturdy sticks.
Now for my soap box.
This was an enjoyable hike. It was very crowded. What I saw were a lot of folks that had absolutely no clue what they were in for on these trails. I saw lots of cute sandals and flip flops, lots of kids being carried by their parents and lots of hands carrying no water. I have hiked a lot. All of these could be issues in the right conditions. Granted, it’s not a long hike as far as hiking goes. It is, however, strenuous and in hot months you can become dehydrated very quickly. Carrying small children up something like Jacobs Ladder is an accident waiting to happen. If I were with the city I would be sure to post something about carrying water and wearing proper footwear. There was a sign giving the usual warnings about not playing on the rocks etc, but nothing about water or footwear.
What to know:
- Good Shoes (no flip flops)
- Trekking Poles or sturdy sticks
- Don’t carry your kids
- Neutral Density Filter for waterfall photography
- Take a photo of the map