ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Sports and Recreation»
  • Hiking & Camping

Backbone Rock

Updated on February 4, 2017

A local attraction just off the Appalachian Trail...

A very small strip of sheer rock that connects two ridges in the Southern Appalachian Mountains in extreme northeastern Tennessee just south of the Virginia state line and Damascus VA, known as ‘the friendliest town on the Appalachian Trail.’ This area of the Cherokee National Forest that is often overlooked because of its isolation is popular to hikers, fishermen, hunters, rock climbers, bikers, campers, and kayakers, as well as birdwatchers.

1901 photo
1901 photo

‘World’s Shortest Tunnel'

“Pay attention son, if you sneeze you might miss it…” I remember my dad saying that the first time I viewed the ‘World’s Shortest Tunnel’ also known locally as ‘Backbone Rock’ as we drove right through it on TN Hwy 133 just north of Shady Valley TN. “It used to be a railroad tunnel”, he said. Seems like around the turn of the twentieth century the railroad blasted a hole in this narrow ridge and placed a spur line through so that the timber in the mountainous area of Johnson County TN could be harvested and transported north to connect with the Virginia-Carolina Rail Line (known now as the Virginia Creeper Trail).

The timber was all harvested within ten or twelve years so the saw mill at Sutherland community was closed and eventually the railroad was replaced by a road bed, so Shady Valley and northeast Tennessee became easily accessible from Damascus VA.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built stairs and a trail around the tunnel so visitors could climb and walk cross the ridge of rock in the 1930’s. They also built shelters and a picnic area just north of the attraction.  Today visitors can actually walk across the rock and see the highway directly below them.

Any local attractions near your home?

See results
looking north
looking north

Backbone Rock Recreation Area

The Backbone Rock Recreation Area today features the rock itself, the Backbone Rock Falls, fishing and/or swimming at Beaver Dam Creek (a small river flowing past and around the rock itself), camping and hiking trails (with facilities) are also available.

Backbone Rock Falls
Backbone Rock Falls

you may have to stop and ask...

You can find this wilderness area, but you have to look for it. Even though it’s within fifteen miles of Interstate 81, there are no large billboards or flashing lights to get your attention pointing the way. Like many other beautiful sites in America, one has to search out and maybe even ask a question or two, but the search is well worth it. I think one reason these pristine areas are not displayed any more than they are is for a good reason. That nature and its beauty can thrive without so much interruption of the public and that the habits and mannerisms of those that do visit appreciate and clean-up after themselves more than the average American tourist of today.

on top Backbone Rock
on top Backbone Rock

Don’t sneeze or you’ll miss it...

Many of those that find this small unobstructed area stumble upon it as they come down off the Appalachian Trail for a rest stop or maybe to get their mail and a few supplies needed for their journey. Sometimes local families may gather for a day of hiking or a family picnic or reunion but other than that, unless you were looking or knew in advance you could pass right through it and never be the wiser. Remember, don’t sneeze or you’ll miss it…

© 2011 SamSonS


Submit a Comment

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

    From the photos you included in this hub, Backbone Rock and those falls would definitely be worth seeking out. Thanks!

  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    thanks crystolite for your visit and for your gracious comments...

  • crystolite profile image

    Emma 7 years ago from Houston TX

    Interesting hub with nice photos.thanks for sharing.

  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    *thanks Dave you're right...

    *and thank you Pamela for your nice comments. Backbone Rock is certainly off the beaten path...

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    I love that area of the country, it's so beautiful. I don't think I've seen the be careful don't sneeze tunnel but I have traveled quite a bit in that area several years ago. I enjoyed your hub very much.

  • Dave Mathews profile image

    Dave Mathews 7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

    Be careful you don't sneeze when nearing that tunnel, you might miss the adventure of travelling through it.

  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    thanks Will for the insight...

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    It's also a rock formation but not as spectacular, as memory serves.

  • samsons1 profile image

    Sam 7 years ago from Tennessee

    thanks Will for your rapid reply. I saw that but don't know anything about it, any comparison?

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Good Hub!

    There's a Devil's Backbone state park in Iowa.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)