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Tennessee Backpacking Trails

Chattanooga, TN: Savage Gulf Loop

Loop through Savage Gulf and you'll be rewarded with 50-foot cascades, swimming holes, see-forever views, and an amazing campsite. BY ERIC HARRISON

Chattanooga: Chickamauga CreekTrail

This 5.6-mile loop climbs the woody spine of Dick’s Ridge, then meanders along a twisting mountain stream in a hilly section of Chattahoochee National Forest.

Chattanooga: Taylor Ridge Trail

Amble 5.2 miles on this easy out-and-back along an ancient weathered ridgeline with views of the broad valley below and the Tennesee border in the distance.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Spence Field Loop

Wander from bubbling cascades to scenic balds to wide ridgelines to old-growth forest on this classic 12.5-mile, 2-day loop in the shadow of several 5,000-foot peaks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Big Creek Loop

Climb Mt. Sterling and hike through history on this 16.4-mile loop through the eastern Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Snake Den Ridge Trail

Rising 2,500-plus feet over 4.6 miles, this strenuous trail zigzags through hemlock and rhododendron to a pair of exposed ridges with long Appalachian views.

Knoxville: Honey Creek Loop

Squeeze through house-sized boulders and pass tranquil waterfalls on this 4.6-miler in the rugged highlands of the Big South Fork River.

Knoxville: Twin Arches Loop

This 4.8-mile loop ranks as one of the best dayhikes on the Cumberland Plateau, thanks to whitewater cascades, giant twin arches, and a rustic lodge.

Chattanooga: West Rim Loop

This easy 4-mile loop plunges you into a deep canyon to view high waterfalls, then skirts up the canyon rim, passing impressive overlooks in Cloudland Canyon State Park.

Memphis: Chickasaw Bluff

Stay found on this scantily marked 7.7-miler into hardwood forests and bird-filled swamps. This one-way trek ends at Poplar Lake in Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Deep Creek Loop Trail

This moderate 5.5-mile loop on the eastern boundary of the Smokies combines stellar woodland hiking with superb waterfall exploration.

Nashville, TN: Radnor Lake Loop

Birds (240 species) far outnumber hikers on this 4.3-mile circuit in the rolling hills of Radnor Lake State Natural Area, a real paradise for ornithology enthusiasts.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Hemphill Bald Loop

This 13.2-mile loop is classic Smokies: free-flowing creeks, wide valley views, and hardwood forests peppered with long-abandoned homesites.

Washington, DC: Maryland Heights Loop

Immerse yourself in history as you explore long-abandoned Civil War batteries on this 6.1-mile hike to a commanding view of Harpers Ferry.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Charlies Bunion Loop

Get away for a night or three on this 12.8-mile lasso loop that delivers you to the high reaches of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Chimney Tops via Newfound Gap

Follow fern-lined trails past rushing waterfalls on this 10.5-mile out-and-back with a scramble up a rocky pinnacle in the central Smokies.

Knoxville: Knobby Rock Loop

This 4.8-mile loop links caves, sandstone towers, waterfalls, and a scenic overlook in the old-growth forests in Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Ramsay Cascades

This 7.3-mile out-and-back has all the highlights you expect from a Smokies outing: trailside streams, old-growth timber stands, and a raging waterfall.

Knoxville: Ridge-to-Waterfall Loop

This 12-miler hits the best of Bays Mountain Park: waterfalls, high ridges with fire-tower views, a lake, and lush forests frequented by deer.

Knoxville: Northwest Greenway Loop

This figure-8 connects two parks on its 3.7-mile course under hardwood canopies and past a mini-wetland teeming with life.

Knoxville, TN: Holston & Tennessee River Canoe Trail

Float under a peregrine falcon nest and paddle past several islands to the Tennessee River on this 4.5-mile trip through the heart of downtown.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Rainbow Falls

Waterfall aficionados: This challenging 5.2-mile route traces a tumbling creek, then passes under an old-growth forest to one of the park’s highest cascades.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Albright Grove Loop

This 7-mile loop is a trailside study of the past: old cabins, ancient forests, and the legacy of a pioneering conservationist.

Knoxville: Will Skelton Greenway

Follow the bends of the great Tennessee River through a wildlife sanctuary on this 8.6-mile trip in the city’s most-scenic green space.

Nashville, TN: Harpeth Woods Loop

Trace an old Native American trail, climb hills, and explore rich stands of cedar and oak on this scenic loop just 15 miles from downtown.

Appalachian Trail: Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap

This 30.3-miler in the Great Smokies leads to picturesque panoramas including Charles Bunion, a popular 5,736-foot bald.

Appalachian Trail: Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap

Multiple peaks, steep climbs, and open meadows highlight this 40.6-mile trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Appalachian Trail: Davenport Gap to Max Patch Road

This 18.7-mile weekend trip starts with a 2,700-foot climb up Snowbird Mountain then descends and climbs again to Max Patch, an old homestead and logging camp.

Appalachian Trail: Devil Fork Gap to Sams Gap

Cross farmlands and woods then climb 1,500 feet to Lick Rock. Bonus: Look closely for an old barbed wire fence that once separated North Carolina and Tennessee.

Appalachian Trail: US 321 to TN 91

This relatively flat 20.2-mile section runs through rhododendron tunnels, quiet woodlands, and past three AT shelters.

Appalachian Trail: Dennis Cove to US 321

Grab a photogenic lunch spot at Laura Creek Falls, or sleep over at a nearby shelter on this 8.2-mile segment.

Appalachian Trail: US 19E to Dennis Cove

This 23.3-mile stretch of the AT passes beneath waterfalls and young hardwoods in Cherokee National Forest. Don’t miss the short hike to Jones Falls.

Appalachian Trail: TN 91 to Damascus, VA

Get lost in a mixed forest of evergreens and hardwoods on this fairly flat 20.3-mile hike with multiple camping spots and a steep final descent into Damascus.

Oneida, TN: Laurel Creek/John Muir Trail Loop

Sample the highlights of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Noland Divide to Newton Bald

This 16-miler packs big vertical change and diverse landscapes (from grassy campsites to mountain summits) into a two-night trip.

Tellico Plains, TN: Crowder Branch/Mill Branch

Climb to a cool oasis in the Citico Creek Wilderness on this 7-mile loop.

Chattanooga, TN: Beech Bottoms Trail

This 9-miler follows an old logging path through hemlock forest en route to Jacks River Falls, the crown jewel of the Cohutta Wilderness.

Atlanta, GA: Conasauga River Trail

You’ll cross the Conasauga River 38 times on this challenging, 12.1-mile shuttle hike past wooded beaver ponds, trout pools, and countless waterfalls.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Clingmans Dome via Appalachian Trail

Ascend to the second highest point east of the Mississippi on this 8-mile point-to-point that begins at Newfound Gap and winds through misty coniferous forest.

Cohutta Wilderness Area: Jacks River Trail

This 16.3-mile shuttle hike splashes through the Jacks River region (read: 40-plus creek crossings) in the Cohutta Wilderness Area.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Balsam Mountain Trail

Trek deep into the Smokies on this 24.3-mile weekend trip that traces the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, passing two trail shelters and forests of mossy hardwoods.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Mount Le Conte

Bag one of the Smokies’ most thrilling peaks on this 12.6-mile shuttle hike that takes in ridgetop views before tackling a rocky, high exposure descent.

Knoxville, TN: Middle Creek to Twin Arches

Hike underneath massive rock overhangs and trailside waterfalls on a 7.8-mile shuttle hike to photo-worthy Twin Arches in Big South Fork National Recreation Area.

Chattanooga, TN: Walls of Jericho

Straddling the Tennessee-Alabama state line, this strenuous 7-mile shuttle explores the headwaters of the Paint Rock River, delving deep into a natural ravine amphitheater.

Nashville, TN: Jones Mill Trail

Perfect for a trail run, a mountain bike ride, or short dayhike, this 3.5-mile figure-eight in Long Hunter State Park roams reservoir bluffs outside Nashville.

Chattanooga, TN: Collins Gulf

Combine the Collins Gulf and Stagecoach Road Historic trails for a 12.2-mile loop that takes in bluff overlooks and several trailside waterfalls.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Alum Cave to Greenbrier Cove

Trek into the past on this 6-day route linking a rock arch, 5,000-foot balds, old settler homesites, and 100-year-old cemeteries.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Tricorner Loop

A peakbagger’s dream, this 31-mile Smokies backpack loops across forested ridgelines, offering the opportunity to tag eight 6,000-foot summits along the way.

Chattanooga, TN: Cloudland Canyon via West Rim Trail

Scale switchbacks to scope spectacular views of Cloudland Canyon from the West Rim Trail on this 4.6-mile dayhike near the Georgia/Tennessee/Alabama border.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Porters Creek Trail

Find wildflower nirvana on this 7.4-mile hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that runs past vibrant blooms, visits an historic farm site, and passes a waterfall.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald via Appalachian Trail

Bag four scenic peaks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Chattanooga, TN: Signal Mountain

This 7.8-mile point-to-point, just minutes from Chattanooga, follows the Cumberland Trail to a viewpoint high above the Tennessee River Gorge.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Thunderhead Loop

Hike from forest floor to a rocky ridge linking twin summits.

Great Smoky Mountains NP: Gregory Bald via Twentymile and Wolf Ridge Trails

For guaranteed solitude in Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s southwest reaches, explore this quiet, 15.7-mile loop during the off-season.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Shuckstack Lookout Tower via Appalachian Trail

This 7.2-mile out-and-back on the Appalachian Trail visits the Shuckstack Mountain lookout tower for unrivaled views.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Chimney Tops via Road Prong Trail

Climb two steep miles up Chimney Tops Trail, 10 miles south of Gatlinburg, to rocky outcrops overlooking Mt. Le Conte, Mt. Mingus, and Sugarland Mountain.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Clingmans Dome

This paved, half-mile (one-way) trail leads to the highest point on the Appalachian Trail and 100-mile views of seven states.

Chattanooga, TN: North Chickamauga segment of Cumberland Trail

A perfect summer hike, this 7.5 mile in-and-back features a cool swimming hole at the halfway point in North Chickamauga Creek. Indian rock houses, wild blackberries, and remnants of the coal industry can be found along this trek.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Appalachian Trail from Fontana Dam to Davenport Gap

Multiple peaks, steep climbs, and open meadows highlight this weeklong trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Appalachian Trail.

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.

Best Weekends in the Smokies

Spend a weekend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park trekking through mossy hardwoods and scrambling up high peaks for quintessential views and supreme solitude.

Best Dayhikes in the Smokies

On three classic dayhikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, follow fern-lined trails past rushing waterfalls and crest high peaks.

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Featured Videos

Explore homesteads and winding ridgelines on this classic 50-mile trek.

  • 3D Flyover: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • 3D Flyover: Smoky Mountains National Park