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6 hikes in Tennessee you have to see to believe

Check out these six trails to experience the natural beauty of Tennessee.

Sparta bridgestone firestone centennial wilderness welch point overlook
Welch Point Overlook near Virgin Falls State Natural Area, Sparta (Credit: Tennessee Tourism)

Looks like a postcard, feels like a playground. The scenic beauty of Tennessee isn’t just something you see—it’s something you experience. Here are six trails around the state you can try, whether you’re new to hiking or an experienced  adventurer. 

West Tennessee

T.O. Fuller State Park, Memphis

Located just outside of Memphis, this four-mile (6km) trail features towering trees and beautiful wildflowers. The moderate, dog-friendly trail allows hikers to see the Wetlands as well as the Chucalissa Native American Village that was discovered on site. Accessible year-round, this trail is a favorite among runners due to its impressive elevation gain in a relatively short distance. The trail is in T.O. Fuller State Park, which is the first park east of the Mississippi and the second in the nation to be open to African-Americans. It’s named in honor of Dr. Thomas O. Fuller, who came to Memphis as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Memphis, on famous Beale Street, and spent his life empowering and educating African-Americans. The park has sheltered picnic areas, tennis courts, a swimming pool, basketball courts, softball fields and camping facilities.

Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park, Pinson

This state archaeological park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, covers more than 1,200 acres (485 hectares) and has at least 15 Native American mounds. The paved trails are a leisurely hike and ADA accessible. Visitors can explore the mounds that were created for both burial and ceremonial purposes, according to archaeological evidence, via stairs. Pinson Mounds Museum, which features a replica of a Native American mound, is a must-stop when you’re in the area. The building houses exhibit space, a library, a theater and a discovery area with multiple activities to learn more about the culture behind this unique site. Picnic facilities are also available for an outdoor lunch or dinner, and the group camp has four cabins if you’d like to stay a night or two.

Middle Tennessee

Virgin Falls State Natural Area, Sparta

More than eight miles (13km) out and back, this trail is recommended for more experienced adventurers and is accessible year-round. The trail features multiple waterfalls as well as elevation and scenery changes for a truly diverse hike; hikers regularly report sightings of beautiful flowers and birds. Dogs are welcome, as long as they’re on a leash. The trail is in the Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness Area—a 1,157-acre (468 hectares) natural area in the Upper Cumberland region of the state. Virgin Falls was formed by an underground stream that emerges from a cave and drops over a 110-foot (33m) cliff before disappearing into another cave at the bottom of the sink. The area is noted for its unique geological features and several other can’t-miss waterfalls.

Fiery Gizzard Trail in South Cumberland State Park, Tracy City

Located in South Cumberland State Park, the Fiery Gizzard Trail to Raven’s Point is a 9.1-mile (16.4km) loop located near Tracy City, Tennessee. Considered one of the top 25 hiking trails in the United States and rated as difficult, this trail features a breathtaking waterfall and is best traveled from April to October. Hikers can view unique rock formations, lush woodlands and panoramic overlooks. Composed of more than 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares), South Cumberland State Park offers several activities including picnic areas, lakes for swimming, and backcountry campsites. Grundy Forest is one of the park’s crown jewels with beautiful hemlocks and streams. The park’s visitors center is a social hub for residents as well as an informative place for visitors.

East Tennessee

Alum Trail to Mt. LeConte

This  10-mile (16km) out-and-back trail offers beautiful vistas and scenery changes. Rated as difficult, this quintessential Great Smoky Mountains National Park hike might be challenging, but at the end, you’re rewarded with panoramic views. LeConte Lodge is the highest-elevation inn in the eastern United States. Accessible only by hike, it was established in 1925 as a tent and has now evolved into a series of quaint cabins that can accommodate about 50 guests a night. Because the lodge is only accessible on foot, a llama train delivers supplies to the lodge three times a week.

Point Trail at Lilly Bluff in Obed Wild & Scenic River, Wartburg

Considered a trail of moderate difficulty, this 4.2-mile (6.8km) round-trip trail leads past a hidden natural arch, guiding you along the bluff to a secluded view overlooking the Obed river gorge. The breathtaking panoramic views are must-snap photo opportunities, and the varying terrain provides beauty at every turn. Thinking about bringing your canine companion? Just be sure to keep them on a leash. Lilly Bluff also offers a climbing wall for intermediate to expert climbers in the heart of Obed Wild and Scenic River. You can also enjoy kayaking, camping, canoeing, and swimming . While it’s gorgeous during the day, the Obed has also been designated by the International Dark-Sky Association as an International Dark Sky Park, meaning its starry skies are hard to beat on a clear night.

Tennessee has so many outdoor activities. Thinking about taking a road trip? The state also has 16 self-guided motor routes known as the Tennessee Trails and Byways. Each trail features hikes like these, attractions, restaurants and other places worth a stop as you’re driving across the state.