Fiery Gizzard North Trailhead/Grundy Forest
DISTANCE: 2.5 miles total
TIME: 2-3 hour hike time
In Tracy City, the Fiery Gizzard North Trailhead at Grundy Forest State Natural Area provides you with access to the Grundy Forest Day Loop Trail, which, in turn, takes you to the CCC Camp Interpretive Loop; the northern end of the Fiery Gizzard Trail and Dog Hole Trail; along with many beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes and backcountry camping at the Hemlock Grove/Grundy Forest Campground.
The Grundy Forest Day Loop trail leaves from the trailhead kiosk; bear left at the trail split, 50 feet from the kiosk, to follow the description below:
About a quarter mile from the kiosk, the trail descends from the plateau on stone steps, and arrives at the Cave Spring Rockhouse, an early Native American habitation site. The large hemlock tree in front of the rockhouse is at least 375 years old.
About a half mile from the kiosk, the trail crosses a wooden bridge with a staircase on the far side; this is an area known as Blue Hole, and is a popular summertime swimming hole. The concrete foundation you’ll see here is what remains of a pump house, constructed to supply water to the Civilian Conservation Corps camp up the hill, which you’ll encounter later on, if you’re walking the entire Grundy Day Loop Trail.
About 500 feet past Blue Hole, a metal footbridge, to the left, crosses Little Fiery Gizzard Creek and marks the northern terminus of the Fiery Gizzard Trail (see May’s trail adventure for more about the Fiery Gizzard Trail.) This bridge was installed during the summer of 2021, after a very wet winter in 2020 flooded the creek and washed out the prior wooden bridge at this location.
Continuing on the Grundy Forest Day Loop, about 500 feet past the Fiery Gizzard Trail footbridge is the junction of Little and Big Fiery Gizzard Creeks, below the trail and to the left.
Now heading upstream along Big Fiery Gizzard Creek, about 500 feet past the creek junction, the Grundy Forest Day Loop comes to Hanes Hole Falls. The plunge pool below this small but scenic waterfall is less than six feet deep, thus not suitable as a swimming area.
About 500 feet above Hanes Hole Falls, Big Fiery Gizzard Creek does form a large and deep swimming hole, albeit without a waterfall. This is a very popular place to cool off in the summertime.
Just above the swimming hole, the Grundy Forest Day Loop bears to the right and ascends to the plateau, away from Big Fiery Gizzard Creek.
About a quarter mile after leaving Big Fiery Gizzard Creek, the Grundy Forest Day Loop comes to the site of an historic Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. A 1/3-mile loop trail takes you past bathhouse, laundry, watch-tower and icehouse building foundations, as well as recreational courts and other remnants of the camp. A portion of the loop trail utilizes the camp’s original service road. A dozen interpretive sign panels, scattered along the route, tell the fascinating story of CCC Company 1475, which called this site home from 1935 to 1938.
A half mile beyond the CCC Camp entrance, the Grundy Forest Day Loop crosses Schoolhouse Branch on a small wooden bridge; a 20-foot waterfall is just downstream, to the right. At the base of the waterfall are remnants of an old moonshine still.