Tennessee’s Trails of Wonder: Discover the Best Hiking Spots!

Distant view of a waterfall with surrounding greenery.

Ah, Tennessee! With its lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and majestic mountains, it’s a hiker’s paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned trekker looking for a new challenge or a novice keen to immerse yourself in nature, Tennessee has a trail for you. In this article, we will explore the best places to hike in Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, situated in Eastern Tennessee, is widely recognized for its remarkable natural sceneries, abundant wildlife, and extensive network of hiking trails. Encompassing an expansive area of 800 square miles, the park provides a wide array of outdoor activities and expeditions suitable for individuals of various ages and proficiency levels. In this educational guide, we will delve into the top trails within the park, highlighting their unique features and experiences.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, in addition to its highly regarded route system. A diverse range of flora and fauna can be observed by visitors, encompassing notable examples such as black bears, white-tailed deer, and an impressive assemblage of over 19,000 identified kinds of organisms.

Top Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

TrailDistanceDifficultyElevation GainDescription
Alum Cave Bluffs4.6 miles (round trip)Moderate1,125 feetThe Alum Cave Bluffs trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park. It meanders through a lush forest and eventually leads hikers to the striking Alum Cave Bluffs. Along the way, you’ll encounter notable landmarks like Arch Rock and Inspiration Point. The cave itself is a massive concave rock formation offering stunning views, especially during fall when the foliage is ablaze with color.
Abrams Falls5.2 miles (round trip)ModerateMinimalAbrams Falls is renowned for its picturesque waterfall. The trail follows Abrams Creek and leads to a 20-foot cascade plunging into a large pool. It’s an excellent option for those seeking a refreshing hike without excessive elevation gain. The lush greenery and serene atmosphere make it a favorite among visitors.
Chimney Tops3.2 miles (round trip)Strenuous1,400 feetThe Chimney Tops trail offers a more challenging experience, rewarding hikers with breathtaking panoramic views from the summit. The final section of the hike involves a steep climb up rock outcrops, resembling chimney stacks, which gives the trail its name. Be prepared for a strenuous ascent and exercise caution on the rocky terrain.
Mount LeConteVaries (several trails)StrenuousVariesMount LeConte, the third-highest peak in the park, offers a range of hiking options, each varying in length and difficulty. Popular trails to the summit include Alum Cave Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, and Trillium Gap Trail. The summit provides spectacular views and is home to the historic LeConte Lodge, where overnight accommodations are available.

Exploring the Diversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrated not only for its top trails but also for its remarkable biodiversity. Visitors can encounter a wide variety of plant and animal species, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and over 19,000 documented species of organisms.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

Fall Creek Falls State Park is a pristine natural wonder located in Spencer, Tennessee, renowned for its breathtaking waterfalls and extensive network of hiking trails. This educational guide provides detailed insights into the park’s top trails, enabling visitors to make the most of their hiking experiences in this captivating wilderness.

Top Trails in Fall Creek Falls State Park

TrailDistanceDifficultyElevation GainDescription
Fall Creek Falls TrailApproximately 1.5 miles (round trip)Moderate400 feetThe Fall Creek Falls Trail is the park’s signature hike, leading to the awe-inspiring Fall Creek Falls, the highest waterfall in the eastern United States, standing at an impressive 256 feet tall. This moderately challenging trail takes you through a lush forest filled with diverse flora and fauna. The payoff is the breathtaking view of the falls and the opportunity to relax by the plunge pool below.
Piney Falls TrailApproximately 2 miles (round trip)Easy to Moderate180 feetPiney Falls Trail is an excellent choice for those seeking a more relaxed hike while still experiencing the park’s natural beauty. The trail meanders through a hardwood forest and leads to the picturesque Piney Falls, a 40-foot cascade that plunges into a tranquil pool. This family-friendly trail offers a perfect blend of scenery and accessibility.
Cane Creek GorgeApproximately 1.5 miles (round trip)Moderate to Strenuous200 feetThe Cane Creek Gorge Trail offers a unique perspective of the park’s topography. This moderately challenging trail takes you along the rim of the Cane Creek Gorge, offering stunning vistas of the rocky terrain and lush vegetation. It’s a great option for those who appreciate geological formations and dramatic landscapes.

Exploring the Wonders of Fall Creek Falls State Park

Beyond its top trails, Fall Creek Falls State Park boasts a rich array of natural attractions and recreational activities. Visitors can enjoy:

  • Camping: The park offers a range of camping options, from primitive sites to cabins, allowing you to immerse yourself in the park’s beauty overnight.
  • Birdwatching: Bird enthusiasts will find the park’s diverse habitats a haven for spotting a variety of avian species.
  • Swimming: Take a refreshing dip in the plunge pool beneath the falls or enjoy a leisurely swim at the park’s designated swimming areas.
  • Picnicking: Multiple picnic areas are scattered throughout the park, offering a perfect setting for a meal amidst nature.

Radnor Lake State Park

Nestled just a short distance from the bustling city of Nashville, Radnor Lake State Park serves as a serene escape for both residents and visitors. This educational guide provides comprehensive insights into the park’s top trails, allowing hikers to fully appreciate the natural beauty and tranquility that this oasis in the heart of Tennessee has to offer.

Top Trails in Radnor Lake State Park

TrailDistanceDifficultyElevation GainDescription
Lake TrailApproximately 1.4 miles (round trip)EasyMinimalThe Lake Trail is a picturesque, easy hike that encircles Radnor Lake, providing a peaceful and leisurely stroll through a lush environment. This trail is ideal for all skill levels and offers ample opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife observation. Radnor Lake itself is a popular spot for waterfowl, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Ganier RidgeApproximately 2.5 miles (round trip)Moderate300 feetFor those seeking a more challenging hike with rewarding panoramic views, the Ganier Ridge trail is an excellent choice. This moderate hike takes you through a forested area, gradually ascending to the ridge’s peak. Once at the top, hikers are treated to stunning vistas of the surrounding hills, making it a favorite among photography enthusiasts.

Exploring Radnor Lake State Park

Beyond the top trails, Radnor Lake State Park offers a host of additional activities and natural wonders:

  • Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to various wildlife species, including deer, owls, turtles, and numerous songbirds. Observing these creatures in their natural habitat is a highlight for many visitors.
  • Educational Programs: The park offers educational programs and guided hikes led by knowledgeable rangers, providing insight into the park’s ecology, history, and conservation efforts.
  • Visitor Center: Stop by the park’s visitor center to gather trail maps, learn about the park’s natural history, and get helpful tips from friendly staff.
  • Photography: The picturesque landscapes and diverse wildlife make Radnor Lake State Park a photographer’s dream. Capture the beauty of the park’s flora and fauna.

Roan Mountain State Park

Scenic spot with a lake and trees.

Roan Mountain State Park, nestled in the picturesque Roan Mountain region of Tennessee, is a beloved destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers. This comprehensive guide provides detailed insights into the park’s top trails, allowing you to fully appreciate the natural beauty and breathtaking views that this Appalachian gem has to offer.

Top Trails in Roan Mountain State Park

TrailDistanceDifficultyElevation GainDescription
Roan High Bluff TrailApproximately 0.6 miles (round trip)Moderate243 feetThe Roan High Bluff Trail is a short yet rewarding hike that leads you to one of the most captivating overlooks in the region. As you ascend through a lush forest, you’ll find yourself atop Roan High Bluff, offering awe-inspiring panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s especially popular during the rhododendron bloom season when the landscape is adorned with vibrant colors.
Roan High KnobApproximately 2.4 miles (round trip)Moderate to Strenuous707 feetRoan High Knob is an iconic destination for hikers, providing a more challenging but rewarding journey. The trail takes you through dense woodlands and eventually leads to the summit of Roan High Knob, which stands as one of the highest peaks in the region. From the top, hikers are treated to breathtaking 360-degree views of the Appalachian Mountains, making it a must-visit for those seeking an unforgettable vista.

Exploring Roan Mountain State Park

Beyond the top trails, Roan Mountain State Park offers a wide range of activities and natural wonders to explore:

  • Rhododendron Gardens: The park is renowned for its stunning rhododendron gardens, which burst into a riot of color during the blooming season (typically June). The annual Rhododendron Festival celebrates this natural spectacle.
  • Camping: Campers can choose from a variety of campgrounds, including tent sites, RV sites, and cabins, to enjoy an extended stay in this scenic environment.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to diverse wildlife, including deer, turkey, and a variety of bird species. Birdwatchers will find ample opportunities to observe and photograph these creatures.
  • Picnicking: Numerous picnic areas are scattered throughout the park, making it easy to enjoy a meal while surrounded by nature.

Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Savage Gulf State Natural Area, situated in the scenic town of Palmer, Tennessee, is a lesser-known but enchanting hiking destination. This comprehensive guide provides in-depth information about the park’s top trails, allowing you to fully appreciate the natural wonders and diverse landscapes that this hidden gem offers.

Top Trails in Savage Gulf State Natural Area

TrailDistanceDifficultyElevation GainDescription
Stone Door TrailApproximately 1.7 miles (round trip)Moderate360 feetThe Stone Door Trail is a captivating hike that introduces you to one of the park’s most iconic features—the Stone Door. This massive rock opening provides a dramatic entrance to the rugged canyons below. As you traverse the trail, you’ll encounter rocky outcrops, dense woodlands, and scenic overlooks. The trail culminates at the Stone Door, offering breathtaking vistas of the Savage Gulf below.
Greeter Falls LoopApproximately 1.5 miles (loop)Easy to Moderate200 feetThe Greeter Falls Loop is a serene hike that guides you through lush woodlands to the tranquil Greeter Falls. This picturesque waterfall cascades into a pristine pool, making it an ideal spot for a peaceful escape. The trail loops around, allowing you to enjoy both the upper and lower sections of the falls, with opportunities for picnicking and wildlife observation.

Exploring Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Beyond its top trails, Savage Gulf State Natural Area offers a range of attractions and activities:

  • Canyons and Gorges: The park is renowned for its rugged canyons, which provide opportunities for exploration and scenic vistas. The dramatic landscape is a draw for photographers and adventure seekers.
  • Waterfalls: Savage Gulf boasts several enchanting waterfalls, each with its unique charm. In addition to Greeter Falls, the park features Savage Falls and Boardtree Falls, offering refreshing respites along your hikes.
  • Backpacking: With over 50 miles of trails, Savage Gulf is a backpacker’s paradise. Multi-day backpacking trips allow you to fully immerse yourself in the park’s pristine wilderness.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The park’s diverse habitats support a wide range of wildlife, including deer, turkey, and various bird species. Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts will find plenty to observe.


From serene lakeside trails to challenging mountain ascents, Tennessee offers some of the most diverse hiking experiences in the U.S. So, lace up those hiking boots and discover the best places to hike in Tennessee for yourself!


Q: Do I need a permit to hike in these locations?

A: Most state parks in Tennessee don’t require permits for day hikes. However, some trails, especially in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, might require permits for overnight backcountry camping.

Q: Which trails are best for beginners?

A: The Lake Trail in Radnor Lake State Park and Fall Creek Falls Trail in Fall Creek Falls State Park are relatively flat and short, making them ideal for beginners.

Q: Are pets allowed on these trails?

A: Policies differ across parks. While many state parks allow pets on leashes, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has stricter regulations. Always check the park’s guidelines before bringing your furry friend.

Q: When is the best time of year to hike in Tennessee?

A: Spring (April to June) offers blooming wildflowers and pleasant temperatures. Fall (September to November) brings colorful foliage. However, these are also the busiest seasons. To avoid crowds, consider hiking during weekdays or in the shoulder seasons.

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