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Looking for a fun, family-friendly outing? With tree covered forests, great national parks, breathtaking waterfalls, and cool swimming holes to dip in, Tennessee is full of trails and parks perfect for everyone. Whether you’re a novice hiker or an expert, alone or with the whole fam and the dog, you’ll find something for you in this charming Southern state. Here are the best routes for hiking in Tennessee — and for an even bigger adventure, be sure to turn it into a camping or glamping trip, to really connect with nature.
Laurel Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg
This easy, two-and-a-half mile trek showcases some of the most beautiful pieces of Tennessee. The hike takes you up into the Great Smoky Mountains through the towering pine trees, ending at the beautiful rushing waters of the Laurel Falls themselves. The waterfall is 80-feet high, surrounded by glistening brown rocks and the green laurel plants for which it’s named. The trail is popular, so you’ll likely see fellow hikers along the way. The hike’s easy nature and two-hour-long trek make it ideal for family outings or the style-conscious traveler alike.
Cotton Field & Boundary Trail, Stones River National Battlefield, Murfreesboro
This beautiful Tennessee site is not just full of rich history, but also full of great trails. The Stones River National Battlefield marks the site of an 1862 battle during the American Civil War, though nowadays is better known as a vibrantly green park. The Cotton Field & Boundary Trail is lined by monuments, markers, and signs to teach hikers about the battle that took place in the park and commemorate the fallen soldiers. The path is bike, dog, jogging, and family-friendly, so bring out the whole fam for a day in the park.
Gorge Overlook Trail and Woodland Trail, Fall Creek Falls State Park, Spencer
For stunning views of the Fall Creek Falls, check out the Gorge Overlook Trail and the Woodland Trail. The trails combined are just under three miles, featuring paths that are not too easy, but not too difficult either, making it a fun, moderately challenging workout. The trail loops around the park’s best features — including the 260-foot Fall Creek Falls — and offers what many consider to be the best views of the park’s scenery.
Trillium Gap Grotto Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg
This trail takes you through the Great Smoky Mountains to a paradise-like grotto hidden in the forests of the Tennessee mountains. Trillium Gap Trail is three miles round-trip, taking about two hours to complete. The trail is lined by towering, green canopies from the Hemlock tree forest. The trail goes behind the waterfall and all around the stunning grotto. If you’re up for something more strenuous, follow the Trillium Gap trail onto the trail toward Mt. Leconte, at 6,500 feet tall.
Rutledge Falls Trail, Tullahoma
This popular hiking spot is technically private property, but it’s just such a great spot for amazing views and great outdoor adventure, that the trail is open to the public. Rutledge Falls Trail sits in Tullahoma, Tennessee, just south of Nashville. The route is small, and not particularly difficult, making it a great option for families with young children. While on the trails, stop for a picnic, a swim, or to just enjoy the calm, cool water of the Rutledge Falls themselves.
Benton Falls Trail, Cherokee National Forest, Elizabethton
The Benton Falls Trail in Cherokee National Forest takes hikers of all levels through the dense forests on popular trails. The trek goes for a little over three miles, rising about 318 feet to the Benton Falls and Lake McCamy. The spot is a favorite amongst families, and is dog-friendly, as long as the dog is on a leash while on the trail. The path is relatively easy, without getting too steep, until you get to the end toward the waterfalls. The area around the Benton Falls Trail is also home to many campsites, so pack up the tent and spend a night under the stars.
Twin Arches Trail, Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, Oneida
Twin Arches Trail is a short journey, at just one and a half miles total. The hike goes through the North and South Arches — natural rock arch formations right in the middle of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. The massive arches, measuring 62 feet high and 103 feet high, are impressive structures, but not the only sights on the trail. Twin Arches Trail also takes you to various structures to remind you of civilizations and populations of the past.