Hiking in Tennessee is unique because the state is split into three distinct sections: West, Middle, and East. Each of those areas has different geographical features. The flatlands of the Mississippi River of West Tennessee morph into the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, which grow into the Smokey Mountains of East Tennessee.
Whether you’re looking for a flat stroll around a beautiful lake or a strenuous hike up the side of a mountain, there’s a hiking trail in Tennessee that you’ll love.
Read on to learn more about hiking in Tennessee!
Best Easy Hiking Trails in Tennessee
Radner Lake Trail, Nashville, Tennessee
Mere miles away from the hustle and bustle of Music City, Radner Lake Trail is a favorite among Nashvillians to “get away from it all.”
This 1.35-mile hike is accessible to nearly anyone and provides a leisurely stroll around gorgeous Lake Radner.
There are several places to step off the gravel and mulch trail to observe the serenity of the lake. Keep your eyes open for a large variety of birds–this is a hotspot for birdwatching for a reason!
Enclosure Trail, Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park
If you want a little history education during your Tennessee hike, check out Enclosure Trail.
Twelve signs along the 1.4-mile trail will explain what you’re seeing as you explore the perimeter of an old fort.
One of the most exciting things you’ll encounter during your hike is the wall that is believed to be at least 1,000 years old, built by ancient Native Americans.
Blue Blazes Trail, Chattanooga, Tennessee
If you’re in the Chattanooga area and want a quick, easy hike to get fresh air, try Blue Blazes Trail. The trail is a relatively flat loop through the woods.
Since this area was part of the widening of the Tennessee River during the building of the interstate, it can still turn muddy pretty quickly.
Gatlinburg Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Gatlinburg Trail is full of things to see and experience.
This Tennessee hiking trail is easy, flat, and runs along some of the Pigeon River. You’ll also be able to see what life was like for early settlers by exploring historical structures. Signs nearby will help you understand what you’re seeing.
If you don’t want to deal with the traffic during busy times, there’s a trolly stop near the trailhead.
Clingmon’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Clingmon’s Dome is the highest point in Tennessee, 6,643 feet tall. It’s on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. On a clear day, you can see for a hundred miles!
The hike up to the lookout point is steep, but it’s paved the whole way and only 0.5 miles long.
Bring a light jacket because temperatures can be 10-20 degrees cooler at the summit than at lower elevations.
Benton Falls Trail, Cherokee National Forest
Benton Falls Trail is a three-mile Tennessee hiking trail that gives you a lot of beauty for relatively little effort.
The 1.5-mile (one-way) hike will take you to 65-foot-tall Benton Falls. The trail is tight, so visiting early in the mornings on weekends or taking your trip on a weekday are excellent ideas. Visit after a good rain for a powerful experience!
The trailhead is inside the Chilhowee Recreation Area, which has a small day-use fee for parking.
Best Moderate Hiking Trails in Tennessee
Grassy Ridge Bald, Roan Mountain, Tennessee
While many Tennessee hiking trails take you to a mountain peak, Grassy Ridge Bald takes you to a massive meadow with 360° views of mountains.
This hike is around five miles long and doesn’t gain much elevation, but it is considered moderate in difficulty because of the rocky terrain. Wear a supportive pair of hiking boots to be safe.
While the views on the bald are always beautiful, they’re breathtaking in the spring and early summer, full of wildflowers.
Grotto Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Grotto Falls Trail is on the easy side of moderate and will take you to one of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s most beautiful waterfalls.
Grotto Falls is a 25-foot waterfall in the middle of the forest, but its unique part is the opportunity to walk behind the waterfall. This is especially enjoyable on a hot summer day. The shade combined with the mist of the falls is like a natural air conditioner.
Stay away from the rocks surrounding the waterfall. They’re slick from the falls’ mist and the algae growing on them.
Lookout Mountain Bluff Trail, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Sometimes, hiking in Tennessee means you’re also hiking into the state of Georgia. If you want to tell people you walked from one state to another, the Lookout Mountain Bluff Trail is the trail for you!
This trail is a little over nine miles long, right on the Tennessee and Georgia border in Chattanooga, and typically takes several hours. Along the way, there will be many gorgeous views of the river and the rolling hills of Tennessee.
Several spots on this trail have a very steep, dangerous incline. It’s not an ideal hike for young children or pets.
Day Loop Trail, Hermitage, Tennessee
The Day Loop Trail is another trail within a 30-minute drive of downtown Nashville. This four-mile loop gains hardly any elevation but is filled with rocks and tree roots, making it more difficult for beginners or small kids to navigate.
There are several beautiful lookout spots to enjoy Percy Priest Lake’s scenery. Due to its proximity to the lake, the summer months can bring loud boat parties and loads of bugs to this hike. Avoiding it entirely is unnecessary, but know what you’re getting into before heading that way.
It may be best to visit in spring or fall when there are wildflowers or colorful foliage.
Twin Arches Loop Trail, Oneida, Tennessee
When you think of massive arches made of stone, you’re likely thinking of Western states and rock formations in the desert.
How excited would you be to find out you can see two colossal stone arches east of the Mississippi while hiking in Tennessee?
You can! Twin Arches Loop Trail, outside of Oneida, is a 4.8-mile loop trail that will take you through two stone arches.
Several steep stone staircases along the path add to the challenge. Pets aren’t allowed on the trail, but it would be a good trail for families with teenagers to experience together.
Cub Creek Lake Trail, Natchez Trace State Park
While West Tennessee isn’t known for its beautiful views like East Tennessee, Cub Creek Lake Trail proves there are still beautiful things to see there.
This 5.5-mile loop trail covers the entire circumference of Cub Creek Lake. Set aside at least two hours to complete the trail.
You’ll get picturesque lake views and walk through some swampy areas. There are wooden “bridges,” but some are broken after years of use, so be ready to get a little wet or muddy. It’s best to wait a few days from a significant rain to visit this trail to avoid excessive mud.
Laurel Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Created nearly 100 years ago for firemen’s access to the Cove Mountain area, Laurel Falls Trail has become a favorite Tennessee hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains.
Roundtrip, the hike is 2.6 miles long. You’ll not only see 80-foot-tall Laurel Falls but you’ll also be surrounded by laurel bushes that flower all month long in May.
Parking is limited at the trailhead, and when it’s full, it’s full. No parking on the road nearby is allowed. Visit early in the morning or on weekdays to beat the crowd.
Best Difficult Hiking Trails in Tennessee
Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you could only hike one trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Alum Cave Trail should top your list.
While there are several ways to reach Mt. LeConte, this trail is the most accessible, well-kept, and beautiful. It gains over 1,000 feet of elevation and passes several stunning geologic features like arches, bluffs, caves, and more.
Trillium Gap Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Trillium Gap Trail is another hiking trail in Tennessee that will get you to the top of Mt. LeConte.
This trail is unique because it’s how llamas transport gear, food, and more to LeConte Lodge three times a week!
Trillium Gap takes a slow and steady approach to climbing the mountain, making it less strenuous than its counterparts. It’s a 14-mile hike round-trip, so you’ll need an entire day to complete it.
Rainbow Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Rainbow Falls Trail is yet another Tennessee hiking trail that will eventually lead to the top of Mt. LeCante. However, this trail’s namesake is four miles before the top of the mountain, so you can hike the 5.4 miles to Rainbow Falls and turn back around for a shorter trip.
Rainbow Falls get their name from the rainbow that seems to shine from the sun hitting the mist of the 80-foot tall falls on bright days. This trail is considered moderate by some, but the steep inclines and amount of rocks on the trail bump it up to difficult for many hikers.
Chimney Tops Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Due to its popularity, Chimney Tops Trail is one of the best-maintained hiking trails in Tennessee! Massive stone rocks have been brought in to create over 350 stone steps, and a brand-new observation deck was built and opened in 2017 after wildfires ravaged the area in 2016.
This trail is popular due to its short length. It’s less than four miles roundtrip, but it’s a challenge. On the two-mile hike up, you’ll gain an average of 901 feet of elevation in each mile. That’s some steep hiking!
Virgin Falls Trail, Sparta, Tennessee
Hiking the Virgin Falls Trail will allow you to see three different waterfalls, with the option to take a spur trail up to a fourth!
The trail’s namesake, Virgin Falls, is created by water that flows out of a cave, under a natural land bridge, off the side of a cliff, and finally into another cave. While you can’t explore the caves, plenty of nature is still nearby.
Give yourself five to eight hours to hike this trail, starting early so you have plenty of daylight hours.
Gregory Bald Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Gregory Bald Trail is among the most challenging Tennessee hiking trails in the Smokies. Still, it’s worth the 3,000 feet of elevation gained when you reach the top and have breathtaking 360° views of the mountains around you.
The trail is open all year long but is most beautiful during the spring and summer because of the wide variety of blooming flowers.
Rocky Top Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Does any hiking trail in Tennessee scream “TENNESSEE” quite like a hike up to the good ole’ Rocky Top?!
Give yourself a full day to enjoy the 12.5-mile Rocky Top Trail. You’ll need the time because you’ll gain a whopping 3,5000 feet of elevation!
Once at the top, the awe-inspiring views will make it easy to understand why “Rocky Top” writers were inspired to write Tennessee’s unofficial state song.
Wrapping Up the Best Hiking Trails in Tennessee
Hiking in Tennessee can be as relaxing or adventurous as you want. There’s a little bit of something for everyone to be discovered. Get out there and get hiking!
Looking for more Tennessee adventures? Check out the best camping in Tennessee!