Explore Appalachian Trail: Tennessee: Best Day Hikes - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the #AppalachianTrail, which passes through 14 states from Maine to Georgia. . With so many access points along its approximate 2,190-mile route, this trail is not only an excellent option for thru-hikers and section-hikers, but also day-hikers and those looking to escape into nature for a few hours. . To honor the Appalachian Trail, we have compiled a list state by state of some of our favorite day hikes along the AT. Check out this list for Tennessee and help us celebrate the legacy and natural wonder of this trail!

Appalachian Trail: Tennessee: Best Day Hikes Map
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Overall a nice shady hike along the water with several nice views. Started at the road parking lot of Shook Recreation area. The brush growth in this spot makes the trail very narrow for about 50 yards or so. Unfortunately this area also a fair amount of trash laying about. You come up quickly on a spot that is washed out and have to detour to the left but it is not marked well at all. At this point you will find yourself on a road for just 15-20 yards. Look to your right where you will see a blue blaze with detour sign and you are back in business. From this point on the trail with white blazes and it is very clean and well maintained. However, there is a large tree blocking the path about 1 mile in (May 20). You can get over it but it will look like a dead end when you come up on it. (I’ll add pics). The rest of the trail runs mostly parallel to the lake and offers several scenic views of the mountains and the water. It will weave into the woods several times but remains very pretty. The dam offers some really nice 360 views. The AT continues on but this is where we made a U turn to head back. Round trip my watch clocked 7.2 miles.

The trail was very nice. It was my first time up it, but my girlfriend has hiked it several times. It is a tough trail in some spots, but a easy walk in others. It is also a good trail to view birds. I didn’t bring my camera and I regret that. It was honestly like walking into a Disney film at some times. Birds and squirrels would be within feet of us doing their thing. I would recommend packing a light jacket. Once you get to higher elevations, it can get quite cool. It was a cloudy day for the most part once we got to the top. However, it cleared up once we got to the top. So, I would also recommend hanging around for a while if it is cloudy. It was a bit muddy and there were a few blow downs, but nothing too serious.

Great day hike option. It was a drizzly, foggy day when we did it so we missed out on the views but it was still a good time. It was quite muddy in some areas - I would recommend waterproof hiking boots or trail runners.

This is a good trail for smaller children. It’s paved all the way so I was able to push my daughter in her stroller the whole way. It’s pretty steep in places but overall was on the more moderate end of easy.

Great views!! The Appalachian Trail has Charlie’s Bunion marked ahead of the All Trail app. I suggest to see both.

This was a fun trail to do! We unfortunately went on a foggy morning so we didn’t get to enjoy the view at the top. Charlie’s Bunion was none the less cool to see and the hike was enjoyable! Highly recommend you add this to your Great Smoky Mountain National Park must see list!

hiking
muddy
rocky
washed out
6 days ago

I really enjoyed this hike particularly at this time as it was quiet and easy to maintain social distancing. It took us about 4.5 hours round trip. Great views from the top. I would rate this as difficult. We got quite wet in a huge downpour on the way down. I would recommend a change of socks and shoes at the end.

Little bit muddy but just rained yesterday, most parts are gravel though so only bad in some parts, I recommend bringing an extra pair of socks for the way back

Actually started at the Watauga Lake Shook Branch Picnic Area parking lot on U.S. 321. It was Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. We headed south to Laurel Falls. It was under eight miles. Elevation gain of 1700’ pretty much right away. There was a sign that said the lower trail was closed due to high water but that was NOT the case. The shelter is a steep climb up but has a really cool water source 50 yards away in the form of a waterfall. Laurel Falls was ROARING when we went. Very impressive. But be prepared for a temperature drop and lots of cool mist of the water is high. The “catwalk” around the rocks along the creek is one of my favorite parts of any AT hike. We camped for the night near the water and the intersection of the AT and the Hampton Blueline Trail. Got up in the morning and headed back to the car. The return hike again hits you with a steep ascent of over 1700’ right away with a series of unforgiving switchbacks. I feel like this is a steeper up than the opposite direction. Not much in the way of wildlife, except for a 5-ft long rat snake up on the rocks en route to the shelter. He was friendly and very curious! On the bad side, we had to swat a couple ticks off us so not a bad idea to check yourself at every little break.

great trail - busy one though so if you can, get out early. lots of different settings, but walking along the ridges to see the different vistas of the Smokies was beautiful! definitely take the time to hop off and do the jump off trail and lookout, you'll see wooden signs that indicate where you should go. the bunion is a great place for lunch, but pretty tight up there so be warned.

Watauga was at very high pool - some detours require due to high water and deadfall. A little extra challenge on a moderate trail.

muddy
9 days ago

Great hike, make sure you are wearing waterproof comfortable shoes. It was foggy when we went, so it gave the Smokey’s a mysterious vibe.

Great views from the Bunion. Had the place to myself when I first got there around noon. Was a little cloudy and foggy, especially on the way down, so no good views from the Jump Off but I did it anyway. Trail was basically a creek bed in places due to all the rain but not impassable. Nice hike. Completed in just over 4 hours with a couple pit stops/photo ops and 20ish minutes at the top.

hiking
rocky
12 days ago

Great hike!! Most people mistake this area up top as Charlie’s Bunion but make sure to follow the trail for 5-10 more mins. until you see a steep path on the left. That is the real Charlie’s Bunion and you will most likely have the view all to yourself! Go early as this hike gets very crowded. And definitely don’t skip the jump off - the views are incredible.

Such a fun trail! A lot of steps and a good workout in it self. I did it solo, a bit muddy but it didn’t bother me!!! Do the LOOKOUT JUMPOFF side it’s 0.3 instead of Charlie bunion lookout, better views :)

Great trail! Recommend leaving early to avoid the crowds. There’s not much room at the bunion, but there’s good views at the AT shelter to rest and eat.

Not closed and no bears. Close to the road and a lot of trash/ human alteration for the first half mile or so. But it's a solid hike and the dam is a good view of the mountains and water. Lots of water sources and places to picnic near the lake. Also the starting point is by the public beach so I took the pup for a swim afterwards which was nice.

Wonderful hike. Defiantly go see the jump off.

A bit rocky at the start. Excellent views at the end. Recommend the additional hike to the Jump as it’s a bit less crowded. Lots of other hikers on the trail

INCREDIBLE Waterfall and amazing private campsites just off trail near the river! Win win!

Beautiful views, great sunrise spot. First half of trail pretty rocky and a lot of roots but well cleared and marked. Some wildflowers.

If you don't mind traffic noise from the moment you get out of your vehicle and for the first and last mile or so, this trail is awesome! (maybe I will bring earbuds next time) Cell signal the entire way (for emergencies, it makes me feel safer). The back side of the dam was so beautiful! There's 2 great spots to get fresh MTN spring water and cool off. Passed a few nice people and dogs.

hiking
15 days ago

One of my favorite trails. Wear layers. We left at 8:00 am and it was foggy and cool but warm by the time we were done. Would recommend leaving early to avoid crowds. Definitely take the side trail to Jump Off - amazing views.

This trail is amazing a lot of perfect views throughout the hike plus amazing summit. It’s about 14 miles out and back. You’ll meet a lot of fun AT hikers along the way. The beginning 2 miles and last 1/2 mile are the steepest incline.

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