Best Hikes in Tennessee You Have to Experience
Tennessee is one of my favorite places to go hiking because there’s so much to see in every part of the state. If you plan on doing some hiking in The Volunteer State, you definitely want to make sure you add these 10 best hikes in Tennessee to your to-do list.
1. Fiery Gizzard Trail to Raven’s Point
If you’re making a list of the best hiking trails in Tennessee, you might as well start with one that’s considered one of the top 25 trails in the country. Located in South Cumberland State Park near Tracy City, Fiery Gizzard Trail to Raven’s Point is a difficult trail that has everything from breathtaking waterfalls and colorful wildflowers to rapid climbs for scenic views.
The 11.4 mile loop trail has several steep and technical sections, so it’s recommended for experienced hikers only. You also definitely want to make sure you bring plenty of water and essential supplies on this hike.
Related: The Best Water Filters for Hikers
If you’re up for the challenge, your reward is a hike that takes you through lush forests and offers spectacular views of rocky gorges, cascading streams, waterfalls, rock formations, and panoramic overlooks.
Pro Tip: I recommend doing this trail counter-clockwise. This lets you tackle the boulder fields and some of the more difficult portions of the trail while you still have fresh legs.
2. T.O. Fuller State Park
T.O. Fuller State Park is a 1,138-acre mostly forested park located just south of downtown Memphis. The park has over 8 miles of hiking trails that range from easy to moderate, which makes it an excellent destination if you’re hiking with children.
One of the most popular trails in the park is the 4-mile Discovery Trail. This loop trail takes you under towering trees and past beautiful wildflowers as it leads to numerous scenic areas throughout the park.
It’s also a great trail for wildlife and history lovers alike since it winds through the wetlands and takes you to the Chucalissa Native American Village.
3. Bluff Trail on Lookout Mountain
There’s a reason why Chattanooga is known as the Scenic City. When you take a hike on Bluff Trail on Lookout Mountain, you’ll instantly see why.
Chattanooga has so many amazing hiking trails around it, it’s hard to pick the best one. However, Bluff Trail is one of my favorites because it offers so many phenomenal views the entire way.
Most people tackle the 5-mile trail out to Sunset Rock. As the name suggests, this is one of the best places to catch a stunning sunset in Chattanooga. However, you also have the option of adding even more miles onto your hike by completing an 8-mile or 9-mile loop.
In addition to spectacular views, you’ll also enjoy a variety of unique features on the trail, such as caves and natural bridges. Although the trail is moderately easy, it does have some steep, rocky sections and narrow areas.
4. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
You don’t have to go to Utah to see incredible rock arches and natural bridges. Instead, you just need to head to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Located in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky, Big South Fork preserves a stunningly beautiful part of the Cumberland Plateau and the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.
The preserve also has a large trail system that offers something for hikers of all skill levels. There are so many incredible trails to choose from, it might be hard to pick just one.
Consider starting with an easy hike on the 1.2-mile round trip Twin Arches Trail. Here you’ll see both the North and South Arches, which are considered the largest natural bridge in Tennessee and Kentucky. The North Arch soars 62 feet high and 93 feet across. The South Arch is even more impressive as it towers 103 feet in the air and spans 135 feet.
Another popular option is the 3.2-mile round trip Slave Falls Loop, which offers views of Needle Arch and the 60-foot Slave Falls. Or, for a longer excursion that delivers spectacular views, head out on the 6.4-mile Blue Heron Loop Trail.
5. Alum Trail to Mt. LeConte
When making a list of the best hikes in Tennessee, it would be easy to include every trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, I forced myself to only include one trail, and that is Alum Trail to Mt. LeConte.
Of course, if you’re planning a trip to the Smokies, you’ll definitely want to check out these top 10 hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Th 10-mile out-and-back Alum Trail is certainly challenging, but the panoramic views you’ll discover along the way make all of the effort worth it. To reach the summit of the 6,593-foot Mt. LeConte, which is the third highest peak in the park, you’ll have to climb 2,763 feet.
Along the way, you’ll pass Alum Cave, which isn’t actually a cave but an 80-foot high by 500-foot wide concave bluff that was used to mine Epsom salt and saltpeter.
At the top of Mt. LeConte is LeConte Lodge. This highest elevation inn in the eastern U.S. is only accessible by hiking. The inn includes a series of charming cabins that can accommodate about 50 guests.
Although you can spend the night in the cabins, they’re incredibly popular, so you have to make your reservations well in advance. The lodge also has a gift shop that sells drinks, snacks, baked goods, and souvenirs to day hikers.
6. Fall Creek Falls State Park
If you love waterfalls, you definitely want to plan some time at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Located about an hour north of Chattanooga, Fall Creek Falls State Park is home to the impressive Fall Creek Falls. At 256 feet high, this is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern U.S.
One of the best ways to see the falls is on the 1.2-mile Gorge Overlook Trail. Although some sections of this trail are a little challenging, it’s still good for the entire family. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also take one of the side trails down to the base of the falls.
The park also has several longer trails that are perfect for overnight backpacking trips, including the 14-mile Upper Loop Cane Creek Overnight Trail and 13.2-mile Lower Loop Cane Creek Overnight Trail.
7. Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park
Although Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park is best known for its incredible whitewater rafting, the park also offers plenty of scenic views for hikers to enjoy.
One option to consider is the 2.1-mile round trip trail to Starr Mountain. However, don’t let the short distance fool you into thinking this is an easy trail. It literally goes straight up the mountain with no switchbacks to provide any type of relief.
About a third of the way up the trail is a charming waterfall. Although it’s small, it flows pretty much all year long, which makes it a good spot to stop and catch your breath.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a view that will take your breath away — and not just because you finished climbing straight up a mountain! In addition to the view, the other great thing about this trail is that it isn’t very popular, which makes it ideal for times when you’re looking for some peace and quiet.
8. Frozen Head State Park
Located about an hour northwest of Knoxville, Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area is 24,000 acres of wilderness that includes waterfalls, bluff views, and unspoiled mountains. The park is named for the 3,324-foot Frozen Head peak, which is often covered in snow and ice in the winter months.
All of the trails in this park are beautiful, and you won’t be disappointed no matter which ones you choose to hike.
If you have the energy to tackle a full day of hiking, the 6.6-mile Chimney Top Trail will take you to a lookout tower for wonderful views of the surrounding area. If you’re looking for something a little easier, consider the 1.2-mile Judge Branch Trail or 0.1-mile Old Prison Mine Trail.
9. Virgin Falls State Natural Area
Virgin Falls State Natural Area is another top place to visit in Tennessee for incredible waterfalls. In addition to the 110-foot namesake Virgin Falls, the natural area is also home to numerous other waterfalls, including Big Branch Falls, Big Laurel, and Sheep Cave Falls.
The best trail in the natural area to see the waterfalls is the 9-mile out-and-back Virgin Falls Trail. Just keep in mind that this is a difficult hike that’s not recommended for beginners.
You’ll climb over 1,300 feet as you hike to each of the four spectacular waterfalls. If you want to take your time, bring your tent and sleeping bag with you. You’ll find camping spots next to Virgin Falls and right before Big Laurel Falls.
In addition to the waterfalls, you’ll also enjoy incredible views of Caney River and Scott’s Gulf at Martha’s Pretty Point overlook.
10. Long Hunter State Park
Long Hunter State Park is located on the shores of J. Percy Priest Lake about 30 minutes east of Nashville. The 2,600-acre park has four sections: Couchville, Baker’s Grove, Bryant Grove, and Sellars Farm.
If you’re interested in an all-day hike, head out on the 11-mile round trip Volunteer Trail. This is the longest trail in the park, and it follows the shoreline of the lake before leading to a pair of primitive campsites. While the majority of the trails in the park are mostly flat, the Volunteer Trail has a slight elevation increase as it leaves the shore and climbs the bluffs overlooking the lake.
Those hiking with kids and looking for something a little shorter and easier should consider the 1-mile Cedar Glade Trail loop, 0.75-mile Inland Trail loop, or 1.5-mile Sellars Farm Trail loop.
Top 10 Best Hikes in Tennessee
If you’re planning on doing some hiking in Tennessee, you have plenty of beautiful trails to discover. To make sure you see the most scenic parts of the state, be sure to check out these best hikes in Tennessee.
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