We recommend these scenic state hikes, organized by difficulty.
Winter is coming — enjoy the fresh air before the cold weather hits! State parks across Tennessee offer gorgeous hikes ranging from “easy enough to bring the whole family” to “strenuous enough you’ll be rewarding yourself” with a pat on the back (and maybe a sweet treat later!). Here are six state parks — and trails in each that we love.
Big Hill Pond has a number of trails within the 4,138 acres of timberland and hardwood bottomland. With its easy, natural surface path, the .75-mile Fox Hollow trail is a great choice for hiking with young kids. Got a fluffy friend? This trail is dog-friendly as long as the pup is on a leash.
1435 John Howell Road, Pocahontas, Tenn., 38061; (731) 645-7967
Located on 14,384 acres of timberland, Chickasaw State Park offers various activities including more than 4 miles of easy-to-moderate hiking trails. Lakeshore Trail (1.5 miles), Fern Creek Trail (0.8 miles), Tent Loop (0.3 miles) and Lake Lajoie Trail (1.3 miles) are all considered easy-hiking options.
20 Cabin Lane, Henderson, Tenn., 38340; 1 (800) 458-1752
The 1.5-mile round-trip River Trail/Service Road Loop is a moderate hike that takes visitors past waterfalls and into the gorge. A steep trail leads to the edge of the falls, and a rustic stairway opens into the gorge. (Editor’s note: Summer rainstorms damaged part of the park, but officials say hikers can still see the cascades, upper falls and middle falls.)
4000 Burgess Falls Drive, Sparta, Tenn., 38583; (931) 432-5312
Choose from nine trails in the massive, 883-acre park. The 2.7-mile Collins River Nature Trail loops along the outer edge of the Collins River peninsula. Hikers will have a chance to see white-tailed deer, woodpeckers, Christmas ferns and wildflowers. The new Connector Trail shortens the trail and takes hikers alongside cemeteries of the first settlers.
82 Beach Road, Rock Island, Tenn., 38581; (931) 686-2471
The Horsepound Falls trail, set in the 15,590-acre Savage Gulf Natural Area, takes visitors on a 5-mile out-and-back hike with lots of views. Hikers will appreciate a waterfall, overlooks and, if arriving in the spring, wildflowers. The Savage Gulf Natural Area is operated by the state parks system but lies in Palmer, about 25 miles from the South Cumberland Visitor Center. Maps for Savage Gulf trails can be found at the visitor center.
South Cumberland Visitor Center: 11745 U.S. 41, Monteagle, Tenn., 37356; (931) 924-2980
Savage Gulf State Natural Area: Route 1, Palmer, Tenn., 37365
The popular gorge and waterfall are not easily accessed, but the trek is worth the work. Two routes go down into the gorge: One is approximately 1 mile, and the other is about 1.5 miles. Both are steep with uneven terrain and have significant elevation drops. The hike is not an improved trail and not advised for small children.
1081 Cummins Mill Road, Cookeville, Tenn., 38501; (931) 261-3471
Need a snack for the hike? Check out our favorite trail mix recipe.