6 Great Trails to Hike in Middle Tennessee

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The Walls of Jericho
If you’re looking for a full-day adventure, try the Walls of Jericho trail in Belvidere, Tenn., a two-hour drive from Nashville. The trail is a historic natural site with nearly 9,000 acres of land in Tennessee and 12,000 acres in Alabama.

The 7-mile hike down to the basin starts at the Tennessee trail head and is not for the faint of heart. But if you’ve got the right shoes and it’s a dry, cool day then the workout is worth it.

Climb your way down the trails, and once you reach the final descent, enjoy the sights and sounds of the trail’s natural amphitheater, a huge open space with running creeks, rocks and caves. Be sure to pack a sturdy waterproof camera so you can snap a photo at the bottom.

Burgess Falls State Park, located on the Falling Water River, is a day use park, noted for its natural beauty and four waterfalls that cascade down from over 250 feet in elevation. The last of these falls is the most spectacular, plunging more than 130 feet into the gorge. The area was originally populated by Native Americans of the Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw tribes. These tribes used the land as a hunting ground until the late 19th century when a gristmill and sawmill began operating on the river. The Falling Water River was used to generate hydroelectric power for the city of Cookeville from 1928-1944. In 1973, the territory became a designated Tennessee State Natural Area, protecting the diverse forest and aquatic habitats.

The park offers several activities for family and friends to enjoy year-round. Fishing is popular below the dam and the main waterfall along the bank and at the fishing pier. There are no public boat ramps or canoe/kayak access areas in the park. A large covered pavilion equipped with grills and tables can be reserved for large groups and has a scenic view of the river. Additional picnic areas, most with grills, are conveniently located to restrooms and a playground is nearby. None of the picnic tables are equipped with water spigots and all are available on a first come, first serve basis.

The 1.5-mile round-trip River Trail/Service Road Loop is a moderately strenuous hike taking visitors past the waterfalls and into the gorge. The waterfalls are 20’ cascades, 30’ upper falls, 80’ middle falls, and 136’ lower falls in height. A steep trail leads to the edge of the falls, and a rustic stairway leads into the gorge. This is not an easy hike; the trail from the main overlook to the bottom of the main falls is very strenuous. Most people prefer to hike back to the parking lot along the service road. The half-mile Ridge Top Trail is very scenic with views down the main canyon of Falling Water River. All trails are foot trails.

Radnor Lake
Even closer to Nashville is Radnor Lake, a hot spot for locals seeking a bit of outdoor adventure. The 20-minute drive from downtown Nashville through the beautiful Belle Meade neighborhood on the way to the park is scenic, and once you arrive, you’ll feel like you’re in another world.

Biking and running are not permitted on the trails around the lake so it’s peaceful and quiet. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the unpaved, shaded path.

The popular trail is busy on the weekends with bird-watchers and walkers, but the walkway is wide enough to give everyone space. One loop around the lake measures just under 3 miles.

Long Hunter State Park
Located just 30 minutes outside the city, Long Hunter State Park is the perfect daytime getaway. The park is in Hermitage and borders the beautiful J. Percy Priest Lake.

Choose one of many hiking trails, which range from less than a mile long to 11 miles in length. My favorite is the 4-mile day loop trail, which has one of the best views in Nashville overlooking the lake.

The beginner-friendly route is easy to knock out in two to three hours, and the paths are wide and clear for walking. The first two miles are mostly flat and downhill, but the last two uphill miles will get your heart rate up.

Cummins Falls State Park is an idyllic, but rugged, 211-acre day-use park located nine miles north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River on the Eastern Highland Rim. Located in the Cordell Hull Watershed, the area has been a scenic spot and swimming hole for local residents of Jackson and Putnam counties for more than 100 years. Cummins Falls is Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall in volume of water and is 75 feet high.

The gorge area of the park is a natural feature unaltered by man, as is most of the park. While very beautiful, this is a rugged area and there are inherent hazards.

The gorge and waterfall are not easily accessed and can only be reached by foot.

  • There are two routes that descend into the gorge.
  • One is approximately one mile and the other is approximately 1.5 miles.
  • Both routes are steep with uneven terrain and have significant elevation drops.
  • Natural trail surfaces are varied and include water crossings, boulders and other obstacles.

Trails and rocks at the waterfall and gorge area are often slippery, so wear sturdy shoes and remember safety first. Keep in mind the weather when planning your visit. Sudden heavy rainfalls can result in flash floods and streams can become very dangerous.

Fall Creek Falls State Park is Tennessee’s largest and most visited state park. The park encompasses more than 26,000 acres sprawled across the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. Laced with cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams and lush stands of virgin hardwood timber, the park beckons those who enjoy nature at her finest. Fall Creek Falls, at 256 feet, is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States. Other waterfalls within the park include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades.

The park is located in Bledsoe and Van Buren counties, 11 miles east of Spencer and 18 miles west of Pikeville. It may be entered from Highway 111 or Highway 30.

In 1937, the federal government began purchasing the badly eroded land around Fall Creek Falls. The following year, the Works Project Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began restoring the forest and constructing park facilities. A few years later in 1944, the National Park Service transferred ownership of the park to the State of Tennessee.

The park is home to a variety of activities suitable for visitors of all ages and abilities. Hikers can opt for short or long walks around the lake and to the base of Fall Creek Falls. There are two long distance overnight trails for adventure-seeking visitors while the day-use trails are designed to accommodate recreational and educational activities for all ages. More than 34 miles of trails can be explored.

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