Hiking in Tennessee

A new year has begun – time to start planning our travel for the year. Travel in the winter and early spring either involves winter sports or warmer climates.  I’ve found that early spring is a great time to go hiking in Tennessee. My daughter lives in Nashville, so the city is a great home base for several hiking trips.

Nashville Parks
Cumberland River from the Shelby Bottoms Greenway,
Nashville, Tennessee

Within Nashville itself are several parks and greenways which offer hikes up to twelve miles long. There are paved bike trails and horse trails in addition to the hiking trails.  Here are some of our favorites:

  • Percy and Edwin Warner Parks – 12 miles of hiking and biking trails, 10 miles of equestrian trails, 2808 acres.  The parks are separated by Old Hickory Boulevard. Both have picnic areas, Percy Warner has two golf courses, and Edwin Warner has the Warner Parks Nature Center.
  • Radnor Lake State Natural Area – 6 miles of walking and hiking trails, over 1200 acres.  Originally a water reservoir for steam engines, the artificial lake is now home to a large variety of wildlife including birds, reptiles and mammals.
  • Shelby Bottoms/ Shelby Park – 5 miles of paved trails and 5 miles of primitive trails, 1200 acres.  One of the highlights of this park is that it is part of the Music City Bikeway and a location for the GreenBikes free bike share program.  The trails run along the beautiful Cumberland River.  There are ball fields, a dog park, a boat ramp and two golf courses within the park.
  • Ellington Agricultural Center – .5 mile of paved trails and 2 miles of hiking trails, 207 acres.  Although small, this pleasant park is popular for birding.  However, my favorite part is the iris garden, showcasing Tennessee’s state flower.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Swimming Area in Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

Located eleven miles east of Spencer, Tennessee, Fall Creek Falls State Park is about two and a quarter hours drive from Nashville – definitely worth the drive.  The park is spectacular in the spring when the most water is cascading over the falls, but many people also enjoy it in the summer when swimming is available.

Approaching Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls State Park is Tennessee’s largest state park covering more than 26,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau. The 256 foot high Fall Creek Falls is the park’s namesake – others include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades.

Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee

The federal government began purchasing land around the falls in 1937.  The Civilian Conservation Corps helped restore the area and in 1944 it was turned over to the State of Tennessee.

Cable Trail in Fall Creek Falls State Park

There are over 34 miles of hiking trails around the park, including several options to arrive at the base of Fall Creek Falls. Hikers can choose short or long trails.  For experienced or daring hikers, there is a cable trail – hikers are instructed to hold on to the cable at all times for their own safety and in order not to damage the trail.

 

South Cumberland State Park
South Cumberland State Park, Tennessee

Located about two hours drive from Nashville, the South Cumberland State Park offers three popular hiking areas –  Fiery Gizzard Trail, Savage Gulf Trail and Stone Door Trail. The park is over 25,500 acres in size and has some of the best hiking in the state.

Scenic Overlook, South Cumberland State Park

 

 

The Fiery Gizzard Trail connects the Grundy Forest and Foster Falls. It is 12.5 miles one way – and then 12.5 miles back. At this length, it is a great trail for backpack camping.

The Stone Door, South Cumberland State Park

The Savage Gulf and Stone Door areas have about 55 miles of hiking trails leading to amazing overlooks and waterfalls. The Great Stone Door is a large cliff area. It gets its name from a large crack in the cliff which looks like an open door.  Going through the “door” is one of the ways to access the canyon below.

 

Walls of Jericho
Walls of Jericho, on the Border of Alabama and Tennessee

Walls of Jericho is a natural site located on the border of Alabama and Tennessee. There are trail heads in each state, the Tennessee trail head is a little over two hours drive from Nashville. Alabama’s portion of the area includes about 12,500 acres, while Tennessee’s is about 8,900 acres.

Walking Along the Creek

The canyon trail winds through the forest, crossing creeks, and skirting an old cemetery.

Clark Cemetery at Walls of Jericho

Although there are several smaller waterfalls along the trail, the Walls of Jericho is a larger amphitheater-shaped waterfall.

The trail in toward the falls is mostly downhill, meaning the trail out is mostly uphill.  The Alabama trail is 3.5 miles in length and is shorter than the Tennessee trail.

Crossing a Creek

The trail can be especially muddy after a rainfall. Wear waterproof shoes to manage the mud and for crossing the creeks. For a great experience pack a lunch, then hike in, eat lunch, and hike back out.

Weather

Hiking in Tennessee is great in the spring and fall.  It is often too warm to hike in the summer.  If you expect warm weather on the day you plan to hike, be sure to bring along enough water and plan for breaks in your hike.  You may want to start early in the morning  or later in the afternoon to avoid the middle-of-the-day heat.

Summing It Up

Tennessee has several state parks and other areas where you can hike for a day or longer.  This is just a sample.  Have you done any hiking in Tennessee? Which hike is your favorite?

If you haven’t hiked in Tennessee, where do you hike?  Leave a comment below.

3 comments:

  1. We like hiking in TN in the Smoky Mt. We enjoy hiking to waterfalls. Rainbow Falls is a long, but nice hike along streams from what I recall. We also liked Abrams Falls. There are many other waterfalls in that area that we have enjoyed hiking to, some easier to get to than others.

    1. Glad you enjoy hiking in the Smoky Mountains! We planned to go there this year over the 4th of July, but with the recent fires, I’m not sure what will be available. Some of the trails appear to be closed. We would like to support tourism in the area, but don’t want to be gawking tourists, either. We will continue to monitor the situation and hope to be able to visit soon.

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