Best Backpacking in Tennessee

Sun rays fan out as the sun crests the ridge behind Roan Mountain in Tennessee
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Venture into the heart of the South and immerse yourself in the best backpacking destinations that Tennessee has to offer. Renowned for its stunning landscapes, rich musical heritage, and welcoming southern charm, Tennessee provides a diverse array of trails and terrains suitable for backpackers of all levels. From the rugged beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains to the tranquil paths along the Cumberland Plateau, the state stands as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking both adventure and serenity. This journey will guide you through the top backpacking experiences Tennessee has in store, ensuring an unforgettable fusion of nature, cu



Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In the embrace of the ancient Appalachian Mountains, lies the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A realm of mist-shrouded peaks, pristine forests, and cascading waterfalls. Here, nature weaves its timeless tapestry, inviting adventurers to tread the trails of history and beauty. The park’s wonders unfold through diverse ecosystems, promising an unforgettable journey into the heart of the wild.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

  • Breathtaking Landscapes: Immerse yourself in awe-inspiring vistas of misty mountains, dense forests, and serene valleys that define the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Abundant Wildlife: Encounter a diverse array of wildlife, from white-tailed deer to black bears, as you traverse the park’s varied ecosystems on your backpacking adventure.
  • Historic Charm: Wander the paths once tread by Native Americans and early settlers, connecting with the cultural and historical heritage woven into the park’s trails and landmarks.
  • Waterfall Wonders: Discover hidden and iconic waterfalls like Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls, and Grotto Falls, where the park’s abundant water sources create mesmerizing cascades.
  • Backcountry Solitude: Escape the hustle and bustle of daily life by venturing deep into the park’s backcountry, where the trails lead to tranquil settings that offer a sense of solitude and connection with nature.

Recommended Gear: Tent, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad, Camping Stove, Water Filter, Bear Canister, Trekking Poles


Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Amidst the rugged expanse of the Cumberland Plateau, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area beckons. This untamed realm, characterized by dramatic gorges and sandstone bluffs, invites adventurers to delve into a landscape shaped by time. Within this vast wilderness, the convergence of flowing waters and ancient rock offers a canvas for exploration and discovery like no other.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area:

  • Dramatic Geological Beauty: Explore a landscape adorned with striking sandstone cliffs, towering gorges, and meandering rivers, showcasing the unique geological features of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
  • Varied Trails: Embark on a diverse range of trails catering to all skill levels, from easy strolls along riverbanks to challenging treks through rugged terrain, ensuring a backpacking experience tailored to your preferences.
  • Scenic River Views: Immerse yourself in the picturesque vistas along the river, as you hike alongside its tranquil waters or peer down into the deep gorges that carve through the landscape.
  • Secluded Wilderness: Revel in the sense of solitude as you venture into the less-traveled corners of the park, where the absence of crowds and the embrace of nature provide a true escape from the everyday.
  • Outdoor Recreation: Beyond backpacking, indulge in a plethora of outdoor activities such as rock climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding, enhancing your visit to this versatile recreation area.

Recommended Gear: Tent, Hiking Boots, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, Headlamp, Camping Stove, Insect Repellent


Fiery Gizzard Trail

Cutting through the heart of the Cumberland Plateau, the Fiery Gizzard Trail beckons with its mystique. A trail of contrasts, it winds through lush forests, rocky outcrops, and alongside roaring waterways. The Fiery Gizzard enchants backpackers with the promise of both challenging terrain and breathtaking beauty, making it a trail to stir the soul and ignite the senses.

Reasons To Go Backpacking on the Fiery Gizzard Trail:

  • Diverse Natural Beauty: Immerse yourself in a dynamic tapestry of landscapes, from dense woodlands to rocky bluffs and cascading waterfalls, all along the captivating Fiery Gizzard Trail.
  • Challenging Terrain: Challenge your hiking prowess on this rugged trail, which rewards your efforts with a sense of accomplishment and offers a thrilling adventure through its varied and demanding terrain.
  • Waterfall Wonderland: Experience the magic of Mother Nature’s waterworks as you encounter a series of stunning waterfalls, including the iconic Foster Falls, adding an enchanting element to your backpacking journey.
  • Spectacular Overlooks: Witness panoramic vistas from rocky outcroppings, revealing sweeping views of the surrounding valleys and landscapes that underscore the Fiery Gizzard Trail’s reputation as a visual spectacle.
  • Unspoiled Solitude: Embark on a journey that transcends the ordinary, as the Fiery Gizzard Trail offers pockets of serene solitude, allowing you to connect deeply with nature and find solace amidst the wilderness.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, First Aid Kit, Headlamp


Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Within the rugged embrace of the Cumberland Plateau lies the Savage Gulf State Natural Area. A realm of untamed wilderness and geological wonders, it unfolds in a series of deep gorges, enchanting waterfalls, and panoramic vistas. Savage Gulf invites adventurers to delve into a tapestry of ancient beauty, where the whispers of the past echo amidst the tranquil serenity.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area:

  • Spectacular Gorge Scenery: Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring vistas of Savage Gulf’s deep gorges, where towering cliffs and rugged terrain create a dramatic backdrop for your backpacking journey.
  • Waterfall Exploration: Discover a collection of captivating waterfalls, such as Savage Falls and Greeter Falls, that punctuate the landscape with their cascading beauty, adding an enchanting touch to your adventure.
  • Challenging Trails: Test your hiking skills on a network of challenging trails that wind through diverse ecosystems, rocky terrain, and lush forests, rewarding you with a sense of accomplishment and connection to the land.
  • Unique Rock Formations: Marvel at the intricate rock formations that dot the landscape, such as Stone Door and Alum Gap, offering intriguing geological features that tell the story of millennia of natural processes.
  • Backcountry Escapism: Escape the ordinary and find solace in Savage Gulf’s backcountry, where the absence of urban noise and the embrace of nature create a haven for those seeking a true wilderness experience.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, Insect Repellent, Map/Compass


Virgin Falls State Natural Area

Nestled within Middle Tennessee’s wilderness, the Virgin Falls State Natural Area unfolds as a sanctuary of natural wonders. A symphony of waterfalls, lush forests, and hidden caves, this area captivates with its untamed beauty. Here, time slows as the echoes of cascading water and the whispers of ancient flora weave a tapestry of enchantment and exploration.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in the Virgin Falls State Natural Area:

  • Mesmerizing Waterfalls: Immerse yourself in the magic of nature as you encounter a series of captivating waterfalls, including the breathtaking Virgin Falls, adding an ethereal touch to your backpacking experience.
  • Cave Exploration: Discover hidden treasures as you venture into the area’s hidden caves and rock shelters, unveiling a world of geological wonders that adds a sense of mystery to your journey.
  • Lush Forest Trails: Traverse through dense woodlands adorned with a variety of flora and fauna, creating a serene backdrop for your backpacking adventure in the Virgin Falls State Natural Area.
  • Unspoiled Wilderness: Escape the urban hustle and find serenity in the untouched wilderness, where the absence of modern life allows you to truly disconnect and connect with the primal beauty of the landscape.
  • Scenic Diversity: Encounter a blend of diverse landscapes, from serene riversides to rugged terrain, offering a varied and dynamic backdrop that keeps your senses engaged throughout your backpacking journey.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, Portable Stove, Insect Repellent


Frozen Head State Park

In Tennessee’s rugged landscapes, Frozen Head State Park invites adventurers to delve into untamed terrain. Ancient forests, towering peaks, and hidden valleys set the stage for a journey of challenge and discovery. Here, history’s echoes and nature’s wild allure converge, providing a haven for those who yearn to embrace unfiltered beauty.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Frozen Head State Park:

  • Varied Trail System: Explore an extensive network of trails, ranging from leisurely strolls to demanding hikes, offering options for all levels of backpacking enthusiasts within Frozen Head State Park.
  • Striking Landscapes: Immerse yourself in diverse natural beauty, from ancient forests and serene streams to rugged peaks and rocky outcrops, providing a captivating backdrop for your backpacking adventure.
  • Rigorous Challenges: Embark on demanding trails like the renowned Cumberland Trail and the challenging Panther Branch Trail, satisfying your hunger for thrilling backpacking experiences.
  • Stunning Overlooks: Witness breathtaking vistas from overlooks such as Chimney Top and Lookout Tower, rewarding your efforts with panoramic views that paint the landscape in vivid hues.
  • Primitive Camping: Embrace the simplicity of primitive camping, as the park offers designated backcountry campsites, allowing you to disconnect and immerse yourself in the natural surroundings while backpacking in Frozen Head State Park.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Tent, Insect Repellent, Sleeping Bag, Water/Snacks, Trekking Poles, Portable Stove


Cumberland Trail

The Cumberland Trail stretches like a ribbon of adventure across Tennessee’s landscapes. Winding through diverse ecosystems, it unveils a tapestry of natural beauty. From tranquil riversides to rugged ridges, this trail is a gateway to exploration. As you tread its path, the whispers of history and the allure of untamed wilderness beckon, offering an experience that resonates with every step.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Cumberland Trail:

  • Trail Diversity: Embark on a journey of trail diversity, from tranquil riverbanks to challenging ridges, as the Cumberland Trail offers a range of landscapes and terrains to satisfy every backpacking preference.
  • Scenic Beauty: Immerse yourself in the stunning beauty of Tennessee’s landscapes, with panoramic vistas, serene waterfalls, and lush forests serving as a backdrop for your backpacking adventure.
  • Historic Significance: Traverse through areas steeped in history, connecting with the cultural heritage of the region as you explore sections that once played pivotal roles in the lives of Native Americans and settlers.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Delight in the chance to encounter diverse wildlife, from deer and wild turkey to smaller creatures, enhancing your connection to the natural world as you journey along the Cumberland Trail.
  • Uninterrupted Solitude: Find solace and escape from the bustle of modern life, as the Cumberland Trail offers stretches of remote wilderness where you can immerse yourself in the soothing embrace of nature during your backpacking experience.

Recommended Gear: Tent, Hiking Boots, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, Headlamp, Camping Stove, Bug Spray


Piney River Trail

Traversing through untouched wilderness, the Piney River Trail invites adventurers to uncover the pristine beauty of its surroundings. A path less traveled, it winds along the banks of the river, leading to hidden waterfalls and serene vistas. Here, the symphony of nature’s melodies and the rhythm of flowing waters set the tone for an immersive outdoor exploration.

Reasons To Go Backpacking on the Piney River Trail:

  • Riverside Serenity: Embark on a tranquil journey along the Piney River Trail, where the soothing sounds of flowing waters provide a serene backdrop for your backpacking adventure.
  • Hidden Waterfalls: Discover the allure of hidden waterfalls nestled within the landscape, offering enchanting oases of cascading beauty that add a touch of magic to your trek.
  • Unspoiled Wilderness: Immerse yourself in an untouched natural environment, as the Piney River Trail leads you through pristine woodlands and unveils a sense of unspoiled beauty.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Encounter a variety of wildlife, from native birds to deer and other creatures, as you navigate the trail and connect with the diverse ecosystem of the Piney River area.
  • Escape to Tranquility: Find respite from the demands of daily life as you disconnect and escape into the tranquility of nature, experiencing a sense of peace that only the Piney River Trail can provide.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, Insect Repellent, Map/Compass


Big Frog Wilderness

Within the embrace of the Appalachian Mountains, the Big Frog Wilderness beckons with untamed allure. A realm of rugged ridges, dense forests, and rolling streams, it invites adventurers to tread the paths of wilderness. Here, nature reigns supreme, and the echoes of solitude and the wild resonate, offering a canvas for exploration and connection.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in the Big Frog Wilderness:

  • Primal Wilderness: Immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of the Big Frog Wilderness, where rugged ridges, dense forests, and untouched streams create a true wilderness experience.
  • Epic Summit Views: Challenge yourself with climbs to the area’s prominent peaks like Big Frog Mountain, rewarding your efforts with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Backcountry Camping: Embrace the freedom of backcountry camping in designated sites, allowing you to connect with nature on a deeper level and experience the serenity of the wilderness.
  • Diverse Trails: Choose from a variety of trails ranging in difficulty, from easy strolls to strenuous hikes, ensuring a backpacking adventure suitable for all skill levels within the Big Frog Wilderness.
  • Natural Serenity: Escape the noise of modern life and find solace in the quiet serenity of the wilderness, where the Big Frog Wilderness offers a sanctuary for those seeking a true connection with nature.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Tent, Sleeping Bag, Water Filter, Trekking Poles, Portable Stove, Water/Snacks


Pickett State Park

Amidst the rolling hills and tranquil woodlands, Pickett State Park unfolds as a haven of natural beauty. With a tapestry of lush forests, sandstone bluffs, and sparkling lakes, it beckons adventurers to explore its enchanting realm. Here, time seems to pause, inviting all who wander to discover the harmonious melody of nature and its captivating wonders.

Reasons To Go Backpacking in Pickett State Park:

  • Diverse Scenic Beauty: Immerse yourself in the varied landscapes of Pickett State Park, from lush woodlands and wildflower-strewn meadows to rugged bluffs and serene lakes, offering a rich backdrop for your backpacking adventure.
  • Unique Rock Formations: Discover the park’s iconic sandstone arches and natural bridges, adding an element of intrigue and wonder to your journey as you explore these geological marvels.
  • Backcountry Camping: Embrace the opportunity for backcountry camping in designated sites, allowing you to experience the tranquility and natural splendor of Pickett State Park up close.
  • Tranquil Lakes: Enjoy the peaceful presence of serene lakes like Arch Lake and Hidden Lake, where you can unwind, fish, or simply bask in the beauty of these reflective waters.
  • Wildlife Observation: Encounter a variety of wildlife, including deer, turkey, and songbirds, enhancing your connection with nature as you traverse the trails of Pickett State Park.

Recommended Gear: Backpack, Hiking Boots, Water Bottle, Trail Map, Insect Repellent, Camping Stove, First Aid Kit


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