Knoxville, TN: House Mountain Loop

Score cliff-top views just 10 miles from Knoxville on a 4.3-mile loop linking the West Overlook, Crest, and Mountain Trails.
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Score cliff-top views just 10 miles from Knoxville on a 4.3-mile loop linking the West Overlook, Crest, and Mountain Trails.

A favorite of hikers of all ages and abilities, House Mountain features the best attributes of hiking in East Tennessee—high ridgelines, interesting geologic formations, and cliff-top vistas. Even better: It’s just ten miles from downtown Knoxville. Officially named House Mountain State Natural Area, this trail system is maintained by a local outfitter and is co-owned by the State of Tennessee and private landowners who have generously allowed public access.

From the trailhead, follow the Connector Trail past two short loop trails (perfect for small children) and continue across a clear-cut area beneath a set of power lines. Re-entering the forest, look for the intersection of the Connector with West Overlook Trail and Mountain Trail, and turn left onto West Overlook Trail.

Meander through the second-growth forest, tackling two sets of fairly steep switchbacks as you gain approximately 1,000 feet in the course of 0.8 mile. The path runs along several rock walls as you pick your way around boulders along the sometimes-faint path.

Arriving at the west overlook, climb atop the large boulder and take in the dramatic views to the southeast along Sharp's Ridge. On clear, sunny days, look for the sun glinting off the Knoxville Sunsphere and other downtown buildings and take in views of the Smoky Mountains to the east. Continue northeast along the spine of House Mountain on the Crest Trail, stopping along the way at several overlooks with vistas of rural Tennessee.

At mile 1.6, continue past the junction with Mountain Trail and go another quarter mile to the obvious 4WD trail on the left. Hike another 200 yards to a dramatic cliff with gaping views that stretch 30 miles across the Cumberland Valley to the Cumberland Range. Next, walk 100 yards farther along the 4WD trail to "USA Cliffs," where locals have planted a large US flag on a tall flagpole at the edge of the cliff.

At mile 2.3, stop at the east overlook for picturesque views of the small but noticeable Clinch Range to the north and the northern end of the Smoky Mountains to the east. Backtrack to the junction with Mountain Trail and turn left for the mile-long descent back to the trailhead.

Local Knowledge: The cliffs along the 4WD trail are oh-so-perfect for taking in the colorful skies as the sun sets beyond the Cumberland Range. Stay quiet and try to spot House Mountain's resident bobcat who has been spotted near the cliffs around dusk. Pack a headlamp for the dark descent.

-Mapped by Jason Stanley

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.6

Waypoints

HSE001

Location: 36.104776, -83.762947

Hike northwest from the trailhead toward House Mountain.

HSE002

Location: 36.105497, -83.764457

Bear left at the Y-junction on West Overlook Trail; hike northwest.

HSE003

Location: 36.107643, -83.770088

Rocky outcrops border the trail.

HSE004

Location: 36.106989, -83.772646

Stop at the west overlook on House Mountain's ridgetop for far-reaching views to the southwest. Look for Knoxville's skyline in the distance. Next, follow the ridgetop to the northeast.

HSE005

Location: 36.110797, -83.76815

Crest Trail Overlook showcases views across Tennessee River farmlands.

HSE006

Location: 36.112122, -83.765678

Look in the trees for a boulder that resembles a flying saucer.

HSE007

Location: 36.114182, -83.762932

Continue straight along the ridgetop at the Crest Trail - Mountain Trail intersection.

HSE008

Location: 36.117469, -83.760493

Take the 4WD trail on the left to quickly reach two sets of cliffs.

HSE009

Location: 36.118503, -83.760184

This dramatic cliff-top vista overlooks the Tennessee and Cumberland Valleys with the Cumberland Range in the distance (perfect place to watch the sunset).

HSE010

Location: 36.119257, -83.759611

A flag marks the U.S.A Cliff.

HSE011

Location: 36.121971, -83.756302

Take in more views at the east overlook, then backtrack to HSE007 and turn left.

HSE012

Location: 36.105523, -83.764468

Turn left and retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Sunset Views

Location: 36.11875, -83.76057

Trailhead

Location: 36.10478, -83.762898

Rock Wall on West Overlook Trail

Location: 36.107668, -83.769979

Winter Views

Location: 36.106997, -83.772565

Views of Knoxville

Location: 36.106953, -83.772533

West Overlook

Location: 36.106906, -83.77257

Crest Trail Overlook

Location: 36.110819, -83.768059

Flying Saucer Rock

Location: 36.112145, -83.765575

This boulder looks like a flying saucer that crash landed and camouflaged itself as a rock.

Cliff Tops at Sunset

Location: 36.118724, -83.76013

Winter Cliffs

Location: 36.11816, -83.760602

Cliffs at Sunset

Location: 36.118438, -83.759873

Sunset over the Cumberlands

Location: 36.11849, -83.760688

USA Cliffs

Location: 36.119304, -83.760055

USA Cliffs

Location: 36.119322, -83.759229

USA Cliffs

Location: 36.119434, -83.759637

East Overlook

Location: 36.121982, -83.756161