Exploring the Tennessee Section of the Appalachian Trail

Love the outdoors and looking for an adventure? Then a hike along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee is just what ...

Love the outdoors and looking for an adventure? Then a hike along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee is just what you need!

From its mountain vistas to its lush forests, there’s something for everyone on this world-famous trail.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best spots to explore and provide tips on how to make your hike as enjoyable as possible.

Intro to the Tennessee Section of the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail (AT) is the longest continuous hiking-only trail in the world, stretching 2,190+ miles from Georgia to Maine.

Tennessee is a highlight on the trail, with 94 miles of the AT directly running through the state. But what makes this part of the AT so special?

Read on to discover the highlights of hiking on the AT in Tennessee and how to make the most of your trekking experience.

The Length of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee

The Appalachian Trail in Tennessee is a section that many hikers look forward to as they leave Georgia and finally feel like thru-hikers.

While there are 94 miles of the A.T. in Tennessee the Trail runs along the Tennessee/North Carolina border for 160 additional miles overall.

Along the way, hikers will get to experience some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes the state has to offer, including dense canopies of the Smoky Mountains and soaring exposures of the Roan Highlands.

With so many access points and summits to enjoy, Tennessee is sure to be a highlight for your first half of trail life.

Trail Highlights Along the AT in Tennessee

Tennessee is home to some of the highest peaks along the Appalachian Trail.

Mount Le Conte is one of the most popular destinations for hikers, offering stunning views of the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Roan Mountain State Park is also a great spot for hikers, with its grassy balds and lush forests providing plenty of opportunities for exploration.

Max Patch Mountain is another highlight of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Charlie’s Bunion is a well-known site along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee, offering sweeping views of the majestic mountains in the area.

Finally, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is an important site along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee, providing a glimpse into the history of the region and its people.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park showing off the amazing forest and land encompassed

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the US and it is an important part of the Appalachian Trail.

It is a hiker’s paradise with breathtaking views, countless trails, and an abundance of wildlife.

The Appalachian Trail enters the park from the south at Fontana Dam, runs north along the Tennessee-North Carolina border for 71.7 miles, and exits near Davenport Gap.

Along this stretch, hikers can experience a variety of landscapes including deep forests, mountaintops, and quiet streams.

Some of the highlights along this section of the trail include Clingman’s Dome, Mount Le Conte, and Charlie’s Bunion. It is a great place for any hiker to explore and enjoy nature.

Roan Mountain State Park

Roan Mountain State Park is a great stop for those looking to enjoy the beauty of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.

The Park has a steep and challenging terrain that is sure to reward hikers with stunning views.

Located in Carter County, the park is also home to Grassy Ridge Bald via the Appalachian Trail, which offers hikers a 5-mile roundtrip journey.

Roan Mountain State Park is also close to Carver’s Gap, which is an access point for the Appalachian Trail.

From Carver’s Gap, hikers can take on the challenge of Roan Mountain’s steep and rugged terrain, or simply enjoy the beautiful views of the balds.

Max Patch Mountain

A beautiful day on Max Patch looking out to the rolling hillside

Max Patch Mountain is a 4,600-ft. bald mountain located near Hot Springs in Madison County, and is a popular area for all those looking to take in the beauty of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.

From the summit of Max Patch, hikers can enjoy great views of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains and even catch a glimpse of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance.

Not only is this an amazing viewpoint, but it’s also an excellent spot to take a break and enjoy the cool mountain air.

For those looking for a more challenging hike, there is also a section of the A.T. at Max Patch that runs along the spine of the mountains.

This section can be quite challenging due to its deep ruts and steep inclines, but the rewards are worth it with views for miles.

Clingman’s Dome

Clingman’s Dome is a must-visit destination along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee. Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is the highest point in Tennessee and the second-highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

The Clingman’s Dome Bypass Trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail, and hikers can take a ridgeline traverse to reach the summit.

From there, they will be rewarded with breathtaking views and horizons, making it an unforgettable experience.

Mount Le Conte

An unforgettable experience awaits at Mount Le Conte, the sixth-highest mountain in the Appalachian chain.

The Bluffs offer panoramic views into both Tennessee and North Carolina, while the ridgetops are blanketed in Spring Beauties.

Trekking to the full loop of the trail will take about 16 miles and a total elevation gain of 3,000 feet.

The Boulevard Trail connects to the Alum Cave trailhead and is 5.4 miles long from there to the LeConte Lodge.

But hikers should start at the Newfound Gap parking lot and hike the Appalachian trail for an additional 8.6 miles before reaching the summit.

Before taking on this challenge, be sure to know that Mt LeConte peak is a pile of rocks!

Cherokee National Forest

The Cherokee National Forest is an incredible experience for hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.

It’s the only national forest in the state, aside from the Land Between the Lakes, and it offers views of some of the most diverse and stunning ecosystems.

This national forest is crossed by the Appalachian Trail, as it meanders along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

The A.T. follows segments of mountain ranges here, ascending to the high country of the state line. AllTrails has 123 great trails for hiking, birding, and walking, with hand-curated trail maps, reviews, and photos.

The Cherokee National Forest provides a unique experience for those looking to explore the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.

Charlie’s Bunion

One of the most iconic spots along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee is Charlie’s Bunion, located 8 miles from Newfound Gap.

This out-and-back hike is considered moderately challenging and has a packed dirt, rocks, and roots surface.

The route tunnels through the highest closed-forest zone in the Great Smokies, with Fraser fir and red spruce tracing the ridges and valleys.

The views from the top are incredible so don’t skip out on this one!

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park marks the end of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee. Located at the state’s tri-point border with Kentucky and Virginia, visitors here can stand in three states at once.

This park is also home to 94 miles of the A.T., as well as 85 miles of trails and 14,000 acres of wilderness to explore.

The 21-mile Ridge Trail is one of the highlights of this park, running its entire length.

Wildlife sightings are common here, and hikers can explore limestone formations and scenic vistas of the Appalachian Mountains.

This area was once a small Appalachian community and is now a great way to end your journey through Tennessee on the A.T.

Take on the Deep Ruts of the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail in Tennessee offers a unique challenge to hikers. It is home to some of the deeper ruts on the trail that can be quite daunting for those who are new to hiking.

However, those who take on these deep ruts will be rewarded with some of the best views and summits the trail has to offer.

With its winding paths, long ridges, and deep valleys, Tennessee’s portion of the A.T. is an adventure like no other.

From climbing up mountains such as Roan Mountain or Mount Le Conte to enjoying the views from Charlie’s Bunion and Clingman’s Dome, hikers will find something to enjoy in every footstep.

Enjoy Summits and Views Along the Appalachian Trail

Tennessee is home to some of the most spectacular summits and views along the Appalachian Trail.

From Clingman’s Dome, the highest AT viewpoint from Georgia to Maine, to Cherokee National Forest, hikers can enjoy an incredible experience while taking in the breathtaking views.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to start your journey, with plenty of trails offering both short and long hikes with outstanding views.

Roan Mountain State Park and Max Patch Mountain are also great spots for awe-inspiring views, while Mount Le Conte and Charlie’s Bunion offer excellent panoramic vistas.

Lastly, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a great spot for a peaceful stroll along the trail and to take in the beauty of the surrounding area.

With so many incredible summits and views, Tennessee has something for everyone!

Hiking Tips for the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee

If you’re embarking on your Appalachian Trail journey in Tennessee, there are a few key tips to help make your experience safe and enjoyable.

Pack plenty of water, snacks, and layers for the varying temperatures you may experience. Be prepared for changing weather conditions as some sections of the trail can be unpredictable.

Make sure to have FarOut installed on your phone with the map downloaded as well as a paper map of the trail as well as a plan for where you’re going and how long you’ll be out on the trail.

Lastly, make sure to wear proper trail runners or hiking boots with good traction to avoid slips or falls on the various terrains of the A.T. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to have a safe and fun hiking experience on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.

Why Tennessee Will Be a Highlight For Your First Half of Trail Life

The Appalachian Trail in Tennessee is a beautiful stretch of the A.T., with its sun-dappled forests, broad unobstructed balds, and high-elevation summits carpeted in native grasses.

With an elevation of up to 6,625 feet (2 kilometers), the Tennessee part of the Appalachian Trail will have you traversing incredibly high vistas, such as those found at Roan Mountain State Park, Max Patch Mountain, Clingman’s Dome, Mount Le Conte, and Charlie’s Bunion.

You can also take in the views from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest.

Not only will you get to experience breathtaking views, but you’ll also get to take on the deep ruts of the A.T., learn the value of dedication, and gain a sense of forward motion as you make your way through this section.

Tennessee will definitely be a highlight for your first half of trail life.

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Author
Josh
I turned 40 and realized I needed to change my life from being a desk-bound IT worker slowly dying in a cubicle. I have been working on ways to build my knowledge and skills, along with gear. I have plans to do a thru-hike on the Lone Star Hiking Trail, Ouachita Trail, and Pinhoti Trail in the next year.

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