Open to the Public
Climbing, hiking, white-water kayaking, bird watching. View All
Why You Should Visit
This 73-acre preserve encompasses some of the most dramatic cliffs in Tennessee. For that reason, the Clear Creek Preserve is one of the most popular destinations for sport climbing in the East. It draws climbers from all over the world who test themselves against its steep sandstone cliffs and its horizontals overhangs (also known as “roofs”). There are more than 100 documented climbing routes on the property. Note that climbers at Clear Creek Preserve assume all risks in any climbing activities, and The Nature Conservancy makes no warranties as to the safety of any climbing activities.
The preserve starts at the waterline of Clear Creek, a major tributary to the Obed River. It then ascends to the cliff tops, an elevation difference of more than 300 feet.
For hikers, the preserve offers a challenging, moderate hike along the cliff wall along with views of Clear Creek before winding to the top of the cliff. There the preserve offers awe-inspiring overlooks of the churning rapids of Clear Creek. Note that the trail is not blazed, and there is no trail directional signage.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Conservancy acquired this preserve in 1986 as a gift from a landowner. It contains a number of eastern red cedar trees that are hundreds of years old—one has been dated to more than 760 years. Rare plants on the property include quill fame flower, hairy leafcup and climbing fumitory. Numerous bird species inhabit the area including barred owls and Eastern screech owls, red-shouldered hawks and broad-winged hawks.
In addition, by preserving the land along Clear Creek, we are protecting the water quality of the creek and habitat for rare and endangered aquatic animals such as the spotfin chub (a fish) and the purple bean (a freshwater mussel).
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Obed Wild and Scenic River was added to the National Park Service by act of Congress in 1976. The National Park Service has a scenic easement on the 73-acre preserve because it is within the boundary of the Park Service lands. The National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy work together to make sure that enjoyment of this remarkable area by rock climbers is compatible with protecting the area’s natural features and wildlife.
The magnificent hemlocks on this preserve are threatened by the hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native insect that feeds on hemlocks freely because of lack of predators. These trees not only provide shade and aesthetics for our visitors, they also are also an important part of the ecosystem on our preserve. We have partnered with the National Park Service, the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition, the Tennessee Division of Forestry and other volunteers to treat hundreds of hemlocks to save them from the adelgid. We also have received donations to assist with this treatment. Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering or donating to help with treatments.
Clear Creek Preserve is a premier sport climbing destination in the Southeast. The waters of Clear Creek also offer excellent white-water kayaking for experienced whitewater enthusiasts. There is also a hiking trail that runs along the base of the cliffs at the preserve, and which also leads up to the top. It is a moderate hike, which can take 2-3 hours.
Note that the parking lot for Clear Creek Preserve is actually on private property. The owner graciously allows climbers and other preserve visitors to park there. Please consider leaving a dollar per person in the donation box at the trailhead.
Directions from Nashville
- From I-40 Nashville take Exit 320 (Genesis Road exit) and go north on Hwy 298 toward Catoosa Wildlife Management Area.
- Continue on Hwy 298 for 23 miles until you meet Hwy TN-62. Turn right onto Hwy TN-62.
- Go 2.2 miles on Hwy TN-62 and turn right on Ridge Road.
- Follow for 2.5 miles and turn left on Doc Howard Road.
- The parking lot is on your right at the bottom of the hill.
Directions from Knoxville
- From I-40 Knoxville take Exit 376A for TN-162N/Pellisippi Pkwy Maryville/Oak Ridge.
- Continue on TN-62 Oak Ridge Highway.
- Turn Right to stay on TN-62.
- Turn Left to stay on TN-62.
- Turn Left onto Ridge Road.
- Turn Left onto Doc Howard Road.