A remarkable conception in 1921, completed in 1937, the 2,175-mile-long Appalachian Trail was created by private citizens. This incredible hiking trail, traversing the Appalachian Mountains--from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine--provides a unique perspective into the mountains' geologic history.
Approximately 890 miles of the Appalachian Trail passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and through East Tennessee. Almost all of the Appalachian Trail in northeastern Tennessee lies within the Cherokee National Forest, with a small portion occurring on Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) land near Watauga Lake. Tennessee has 93 miles (472 km) of the trail, not including more than 200 miles along or near the North Carolina border.
The portion of the trail through Tennessee sees a wide variance of elevation--from 1,000 feet to 6,643 feet at Clingman's Dome. Here, you will find the greatest number of plant species and the broadest tree diversity along the trail. Common vegetation types that you will encounter in the Tennessee trail region are oak, red spruce, Fraser fir, hemlock and hickory forests, Southern Appalachian bogs, heath and grassy balds. The red spruce, the Fraser fir forest and the grassy balds are among the rarest plant community types along the entire Appalachian Trail. Some of the trail's most rare, threatened and endangered species are those found in Tennessee. The most significant natural heritage site on the Appalachian Trail resides in Tennessee, north of Roan Mountain, Doll Flats Spring in Cherokee National Forest. The site is home to several globally rare species.
You will also find rare or threatened animals along Tennessee's part of the trail: the raven (Corvus corax), Swainson's warbler (Limnothlypsis swainsonii), the Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) and the vesper sparrow (Neotoma magister). The American black bear is the largest omivore that may be encountered on the trail. Bear sightings on the trail are rare, and confrontations rarer still. Other large fauna include the elk, reintroduced in the Smoky Mountains.
Some noteworthy information for those dedicated to traversing the entire trail: Along the trail are resources to facilitate hikers, some unique to the Appalachian Trail. The trail is most frequently hiked south to north (Georgia to Maine). Hikers typically begin in March or April, finishing in the late summer or early to late fall. Many hikers divide the mileage into halves or thirds, so that they will encounter the best weather. Throughout its length, the trail is marked by 2-by-6-inch white paint blazes. Side trails to shelters, viewpoints and parking areas use similarly shaped blue blazes. In the past, some sections of the trail also used metal diamond markers with the Appalachian Trail logo, few of which remain. More than 250 shelters and campsites exist for hikers. The trail crosses many roads, providing ample opportunity for hikers to obtain food and other supplies. Erwin, Tennessee, is a key stop.
As you plan your trip, remember to pack your camera. You will want to revisit the vistas you find along the trail in picturesque Tennessee.
Travel Tennessee trails that follow victory and valor, heritage and historic communities. Over water and land, these routes tell a story--through the Trail of Tears, the Natchez Trace, the Overmountain Victory Trail and more. Come experience the significant cultural background woven into the colorful tapestry of Tennessee.
Promised Land Trail
The Promised Land Trail is waiting for you: discover the fertile land that beckoned Tennessee’s first settlers from Northeast Tennessee, over the Cumberland Plateau, into Nashville and beyond. Along the first road into Tennessee, the Avery Trace, as well as the historic Walton Road that ran parallel to Highway 70, many believed they would reach a “promised land” at the end of the journey, as many were seeking lands they were granted from service to the new country. ...more
City: , TN
Ring of Fire Trail
The Ring of Fire Trail is waiting for you: a trail of music, history and landscape that will capture your soul like a heart-wrenching country ballad. You can almost hear the music as you drive through the lush Tennessee landscape dotted with wineries, small towns, farms and villages. ...more
Tennessee River Gorge
The only large river canyon bordering a mid-sized city, the Tennessee River Gorge is a unique carving of the river through the Cumberland Plateau, encompassing 27,000 acres. Habitats for more than a thousand varieties of plants, trees, grasses and flowers as well as a diversified wildlife population exist in this scenic terrain. ...more
Tennessee River Trails
The Tennessee River Trail is waiting for you: a winding trail through Tennessee’s diverse river country featuring some of Tennessee’s most unique activities. Stop in Waverly, a historic railroad town featuring a museum and Civil War Fort. ...more
Top Secret Trail
Top Secret is waiting for you: a trail of secrets hidden among the scenic wilds of the Upper Cumberland Plateau. Immerse yourself in early Knoxville history by touring Blount Mansion, James White Fort and Bleak House, General Longstreet’s 1863 Battle of Knoxville headquarters. ...more
City: , TN
Warriors' Path State Park
Warriors' Path State Park was named for the park's proximity to the ancient war and trading path used by the Cherokee. Since that time, the park land has known a long history of travelers, and is still a pathway for modern-day outdoor enthusiasts. ...more
Woodlands Trace Byway
Running along a ridge of land between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, Woodlands Trace is a beautiful, easy drive in rolling terrain with opportunities to pull off and explore seasonal splendors of nature on your own or at developed interpretive facilities such as the 1850 Homeplace and the Bison range overlook. This 43-mile passageway blossoms with trees and flowers in the spring, a green canopy in the summer, brilliant foliage in the fall, and a clear view of the hardwood forest in the winter. ...more