Best Hiking in Tennessee: Our Top 8 Trails

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Where is the Best Hiking in Tennessee? Check out these 8 Can’t Miss Trails!

Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty that Tennessee has to offer. It gets you immersed in nature and away from the major metropolitan hustle and bustle while also offering an opportunity to get some excellent exercise. There are thousands of miles of hiking trails throughout Tennessee, so where do you begin?

Fear not! If you’re new to hiking or need some fresh ideas to add to your hiking bucket list, you’ll definitely find this guide helpful. Below is a list of the 8 best hiking trails in Tennessee. The list is organized in order from easiest to hardest, so there’s a little something for everyone. We hope this list helps you find the perfect spot to go hiking in Tennessee!

Twin Falls and Down River Trail

Twin Falls and Down River Trail
Photo via Flickr/Anthony Jones

Location: Rock Island State Park

Difficulty: Easy

Dogs: Yes, must be leashed

Best Features at Twin Falls and Down River Trail : Waterfalls and views of Collins River

If you are short on time or you’re looking to take the family out on a nice easy hike, head over to Rock Island State Park! Twin Falls and Down River Trail is an easy hike that takes you on a beautiful loop that is dotted with waterfalls and wildflowers.  

Due to its length (a reasonable and respectable 1.6 miles_ and its plentiful waterfalls, Twin Falls and Down River is a heavily trafficked trail. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, be sure to arrive early to get that beautiful scenery to yourself!

Laurel Falls Trail

Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

Difficulty: Easy

Dogs: No

Best Feature at Laurel Falls Trail: Laurel Falls itself – who doesn’t love a waterfall!

Laurel Falls Trail is an excellent way to add miles to your hiking shoes without over-extering yourself. At 2.6 miles round trip, you’ll gain about 400 feet of elevation, making this out-and-back hike pretty easy! Keep an eye out for deer while you walk!

If you’d like to extend your hike, you’ll easily be able to continue by hopping on the Little Greenbrier Trail and Cove Mountain Trail. If you decided to do that, you’d extend your hike from 2.6 miles to 8 miles round trip, so be sure to bring plenty of water!

Savage Day Loop

Savage Day Loop
Photo via Flickr/Michael Hicks

Location: South Cumberland State Park

Difficulty: Easy

Dogs: Yes, must be leashed

Best Feature on the Savage Day Loop: Savage Falls Overlook

If you are looking for a reasonable hiking challenge without tacking on the intensity, check out the Savage Day Loop! At just under 5 miles round trip, Savage Day Loop will give your legs (and your hiking boots) a proper workout without adding too much elevation.

This hike also features a bit of history from the prohibition days. On the trail, there is a sign that marks the site of an old moonshine still. With access to running water and incredible, natural beauty, it’s no wonder why they set up the still here!

Mossy Ridge Trail

Location: Percy Warner Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Dogs: Yes, must be leashed

Best Feature at Mossy Ridge Trail: The wildflowers

This 5-mile loop will offer a greater challenge for the intermediate hiker. With almost 900 feet of elevation gain, Mossy Ridge Trail could be challenging for pure beginners.

Don’t let that intimidate you from giving this excellent trail a try, through! The wildflowers are gorgeous, and you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for owls, too! There’s a ton of great shade along this trail, making it a great hike to take when the sun is high in the sky.

Appalachian Trail to Icewater Spring Shelter

Appalachian Trail to Icewater Spring Shelter
Photo via Flickr/Matthew Otwell

Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Dogs: No

Best Feature on Appalachian Trail to Icewater Spring Shelter: The scenery – all of it!

This hike shares tread with the world-famous Appalachian Trail as it winds through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you felt that Laurel Falls was a bit too easy, give this 6-mile out-and-back a shot! Your legs will definitely be burning after climbing over 1,400 feet!

That said, the views at the top of the hike are well worth the pain it took to get here.

Don’t forget your camera and your water!

And be sure to stretch – we’re starting to enter into serious hiking territory here.

Volunteer Trail

Location: Long Hunter State Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Dogs: Yes, must be leashed

Best Feature on Volunteer Trail: J. Percy Priest Reservoir

If you’re up for an all-day Tennessee hike, the Volunteer Trail is for you. At over 10 miles of length, be prepared to spend a solid 5 hours out on the trail. You’ll climb a minimal amount of elevation while this out-and-back hike skirts the beautiful J. Percy Priest Reservoir.

Be sure to bring plenty of water and take several breaks to get full enjoyment out of this hike. There’s no sense rushing your hike on Volunteer.

Virgin Falls Trail

Location: Virgin Falls State Natural Area

Difficulty: Hard

Dogs: Yes, must be leashed

Best Feature at Virgin Falls Trail: Virgin Falls itself – again, it’s hard to go wrong with a waterfall!

This hike is not for the faint of heart!

Or beginners…

At just under 9 miles, you’ll climb over 1,300 feet. Be sure-footed and bring plenty of water as you’ll be scrambling over rocks in a few spots along this trail. Be sure to leave early for this hike if you’re planning to complete it in one day, as trying to finish this hike in the dark can be dangerous.

If you’d like to take your time, bring a tent and a sleeping bag along. There’s nothing quite like taking in a sunrise while drinking a fresh cup of camp coffee next to Virgin Falls!

As always, we recommend stocking up on other essentials like water, canned foods or meal replacements, batteries, bug spray, and a good first-aid kit.

Fiery Gizzard Trail

Fiery Gizzard Trail
Photo via Flickr/Anthony Jones

Location: South Cumberland State Park

Difficulty: Hardest

Dogs: Yes, must be leashed

Best Feature at Fiery Gizzard Trail: Waterfalls, wildflowers, the view – take your pick!

Saving the hardest (and best) hiking trail in Tennessee for last, Fiery Gizzard Trail is the destination for the most extreme and experienced hikers.

This trail literally has it all!

Wildflowers dot the forest floor as you hike this 11.4 mile out-and-back trail. The climb can get a bit steep in places, but the 1,400 feet of elevation gain will be well worth the views you’ll take in from the top!

Again, it repeating: make sure to be well-equipped before tackling an intense trail like Fiery Gizzard. Even if you are a top-notch athlete, avid outdoors enthusiast, or tougher than nails, there are always some risks associated with intense hikes. Stay hydrated, keep your skin protected, and have some essential supplies on you.

Final Thoughts

Tennessee is a beautiful state to explore. There is something here to suit just about anyone with plentiful waterfalls, wildflowers, and dog-friendly trails. Now that you have learned about a few of the best hikes in Tennessee, it’s time to hit the trails!

Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have hiked any of Tennessee’s best trails!

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