Middle Tennessee is full of trails, waterfalls and beautiful viewpoints. It is also filled with people new to the area or visiting. When I moved to Tennessee, I was an avid hiker in my home country. We didn’t have to worry about big mountains or elevation changes, but it wasn’t uncommon for me to hike through the woods 15 miles a day. I figured when I moved to Tennessee and called it home that I could easily adapt to the trails here. However, the trails of Tennessee are a whole different ball game and if you’re not prepared, even the most avid hiker can find themselves in trouble.
These are just a few tips I took away when I started hitting the Tennessee trails as a single woman new to the state:
- Start small; explore an easier, well traveled trail with lots of people. It will give you an idea of what it’s like to hike in Tennessee and it will be crowded around for safety until you meet a hiking buddy. Some good choices for your first trip: Burgess Falls State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park (the main trails), Ozone Falls, Rock Island State Park. Many parks also have guided hikes and are a great way to meet people.
- Before going on a hike, I always texted someone in my family to let them know where I was going and what time to expect a text that I would be back. I also found that on many trails in Tennessee my phone didn’t work. I made sure I had directions ahead of time with the trail layout and round trip just in case. I always made sure my phone was also charged.
- Look where you are hiking, it is very important! Is the trail an out and back or a loop trail…is it 2 miles or 10 miles? Are there river crossings? What kind of wildlife are in the area (bears, bobcats, poisonous snakes?) How difficult is the trail? What’s the weather like in the area I’m hiking? Is the car park secure? (These are all important questions to answer before you even start your vehicle)
- Always pack food and water, I tend to get really hungry, snack all day and burn energy fast. If I got lost on a trail, it wouldn’t take long for me to have a really bad day. Having extra food and water is a safety net in case something happens. So even on a short trip I have something with me.
- Appropriate clothing is also very important! I always assume I’m going to be cold or wet. The weather in Tennessee can go from sunny to pouring rain in an instant and without warning. I always dress or bring clothes for the rain/cold. Lightweight, quick-drying or waterproof clothing is preferred.
- Finally, the shoes…you go…those trendy flip flops and hiking boots aren’t for Tennessee trails. Hiking shoes or tennis shoes with excellent grip are the only way to go. There are SO MUCH foot hazards on Central Tennessee trails and anything open toe should not be worn.
- Also be sure to pack a first aid kit, flashlight (the sun goes down quicker than you think on some days!) and sunscreen or a hat. The sun is intense in Tennessee!
These are my top tips for hiking in central Tennessee. The key here is to be prepared, don’t just get out of the house for a quick hike and get in trouble. Also, know who gives you advice, it is best to inquire directly with the park itself. Looking online you can get a whole range of information and in my experience a lot of it is incorrect. Know before you go for a day full of happy memories and great photos! Live a fantastic adventure and remember to leave no trace. Above all, thank you for visiting Middle Tennessee!!
Follow me on my blog for paddling/hiking ideas through Middle Tennessee! https://burgessandbeyond.blogspot.com/