Indian Tomb Hollow Day Hike(s)

This is a combination of two different trips to Indian Tomb Hollow in Bankhead Forest.  I would rate this hike on a scale of 1-5 as a 2.  It is (mostly) very level except towards the end and even the off-trail portion is easy walking.  I will point out a few interesting items and share my very limited knowledge of this area.

So, why is it called Indian Tomb Hollow?  From what I understand, this area was the site of several significant Indian battles and there are numerous areas sacred within this small valley.  During one battle, so many Indians were killed on both sides that the bodies were thrown into some sinks located nearby – so the name Indian Tomb Hollow was given.  This area was also owned and farmed by the Gillespie family – some of which inter-married with the Native Americans from my understanding.  The Gillespie homestead was located atop High House Hill.

As we began our hike, we followed an old forest road with some very minor water crossings.  The trail is easy to follow and fairly level.  After walking around a mile, we turn off to see the Indian Marker Tree.  This tree is believed to be approx 300 years old and fashioned in this shape by Native Americans.  The meaning or symbolic reason isn’t known, but the horizontal portions point nearly due North and South.

Here is a picture from the second trip where I took my dogs:


We continued down the old forest road to the Indian Tomb Hollow Cemetery.  At this small cemetery, both Native Americans and early American settlers are buried.  One of the few marked and readable headstones is this one:


If you noticed the dates, James Gillespie was born before the United States even began the fight for Independence.  Now THAT’S a long time ago….

On the second hike, I just continued to follow the old forest road past the cemetery. The old forest road goes up the ridge and dead-ends into a gravel road where I turned around and retraced my steps. There was not anything significant during this hike. On our initial hike, we traveled to the base of High House Hill where there were some interesting features.  After visiting the Indian Tree and the Cemetery, we backtracked slightly and went “off trail.”  While there wasn’t a well defined trail, the traveling was easy as it was mostly flat and open.  We did have to cross a small creek, but there were plenty of rocks to use when crossing.

Eventually we started uphill to the base of the bluff at High House Hill.  After a short climb, we arrived at our destination.  At the top of this bluff was the old Gillespie homestead before it burned many years ago.  The Gillespie family actually farmed much of this area and from their house could see much of the property they owned.  Along the base of this bluff there were a couple of interesting features.


There was still some ice along the base even though it was above freezing for the past few days.


Here are two arborglyphs (tree carvings) located in this area.  The first one shaped roughly like a capital letter “A” is believed to be Native American, while the second one shows the initials “JB” and the date “1730.”  Arborglyphs are located throughout the Bankhead area, but these are the first ones I have seen.  The arborglyphs most often are located in Beech trees as the bark is smooth and the trees grow “out” instead of “up” at the base.  So although JB carved his/her initials in 1730 (that’s 284 years ago!), they can still be viewed at roughly eye level.

Also along this bluff was an iron oxide formation called “the teacup” that we missed and had a little difficulty finding.  We found it as we retraced our steps.  It DOES look like a teacup with steam rising from the rim of the cup.


From here, we retraced our steps back to the vehicle.  The total trip one the first hike was approx 3.5 miles in length roundtrip from the vehicle to the bluff at High House Hill and back.  The total distance on the forest road on the second trip was about 4.5 miles roundtrip.

I have heard this area is covered in wildflowers later in the spring, so I will be returning and hopefully catching some great pictures then.

About jnunniv

I like outdoor activities including hiking, camping, and scuba diving.
This entry was posted in Backpacking, Hiking, Trip Reports. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Indian Tomb Hollow Day Hike(s)

  1. Thomas Graham says:

    Hey Jim would like for me to help you with some better knowledge on your ITH tread? The Gillespies live down by the spring and the Alexander’s lived on High House Hill. I remember after reading this that the parking lot you asked me about was back when lots of people did field trips to ITH in the 90’s If you don’t that’s cool too

    • jnunniv says:

      I’d love the help

      • Thomas G says:

        The Gillespies lived to the left of the parking area near the spring. I have heard that long ago there was Indian skeletons under the shelf’s in the bluffs which came ITH ?
        I’m pretty sure I can chalk that seven into a nine on your 1730 as I zoomed in on the picture but hey who knows?
        Their is also slaves buried and I think a Alexander at the grave site.
        I can reread my Gillespie book and let you know more later

  2. Katie says:

    I hiked out there the other day. Found the Indian marker tree. We looked and looked for the cemetery but never found it. How did I miss it?

    • jnunniv says:

      Maybe you didn’t go far enough west? It’s not right on the road, either. Look for what appears to be a logging road on your right about 0.2 miles down the trail west of the tree.

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