The Great Stone Door is located in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area which is a part of South Cumberland State Park. The Natural Area is comprised of 18,000 acres in Grundy County that include 55 miles of trails with spectacular views and rock formations. The land was purchased by the State in 1973 in an effort to protect one of the last known strands of virgin timber in the Eastern United States.
The Great Stone Door itself is a 10-foot-wide, over 100-feet-deep crack in the sandstone bluff that rims Big Creek Gulf along with Savage Gulf and Collins Gulf. These Gulf’s form a crow’s foot shape and drain into the Collins River. The Great Stone Door has been used by people (including Cherokee) and animals (it’s rumored that bison used it when they inhabited the Cumberland Plateau before the mid-18th century) for centuries since it provides a natural passageway for them during seasonal migrations from the valley to the highlands of the Cumberland Plateau.
The Stone Door Ranger Station is located off of State Highway 56 near Beersheba springs. The trail to the Great Stone Door is less than a mile each way and is exceptionally easy in that it is paved for the first 0.2 miles to the Laurel Gulf Overlook and then becomes a smooth dirt trail with minimal roots and rocks to navigate over.
The overlook provides a spectacular view and has a binocular setup that kids will enjoy using to take in the sites.
Once you arrive at the overlook area, use caution (primarily with young children) as there are high drop offs. The views are absolutely stunning and some of the best that I have seen in Tennessee!
Slightly further on is the actual Great Stone Door with it’s trademark hemlock tree that appears like the door handle. The steps make the descent relatively easy, but prepare for the trip back up as it’ll have you sucking wind!