Top Secret Trail in Tennessee
See where secrets of the past meet the present in the scenic wilds of the Cumberland Plateau.
Get a sense of east Tennessee’s significance in the nation’s early history at Historic Homes of Knoxville, which provides access to the home of the city’s founder and friend to the Cherokee, James White and Blount Mansion, the residence of Tennessee’s first territorial governor. Also visit Bleak House, Longstreet’s headquarters during the Battle of Knoxville. Look for the perfect souvenir at antiques galleries along Kingston Pike and then head to pedestrian-friendly Market Square for excellent eateries at La Costa on Market Square and, just a few blocks off the square, Nama Sushi Bar.
From Knoxville, travel on to the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge to see the historic former Manhattan Project Facility at the East Tennessee Technology Park Overlook and the original town site at Historic Jackson Square/Greenwich Village. Be sure to visit the American Museum of Science and Energy while in Oak Ridge.
Travel north on Highway 27 to Wartburg’s Frozen Head State Park to see an impressive collection of wildflowers and more than a dozen high-elevation peaks. Plan to stop in Rugby, the “Victorian England in the Tennessee Cumberlands.” Founded by British social reformer Thomas Hughes in an effort to create a utopia, Rugby hosts the Festival of British and Appalachian Culture each May.
Nearby, explore trails through timbered gorges and along standstone bluffs and natural stone bridges at Pickett State Park in Jamestown, and learn about the backwoods marksman who became the most decorated soldier of World War I at Sgt. Alvin C. York Historic State Park in Pall Mall. More opportunities for recreation abound in Byrdstown, Monroe, Alpine and Livinston, home of several pick-your-own berry farms. Spend time at Dale Hollow Lake, one of the nation’s cleanest lakes and current world record holder for smallmouth bass.
Travel across Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on Highway 297 and get ready to paddle along sandstone bluffs through scenic mountain gorges on whitewater up to Class IV levels. While you’re there, check out some of the most impressive natural stone arches in the eastern United States. Then on to Huntsville, where a ride on the New River Scenic Railway twists and turns through the remote wilds of the New River valley.
Three state parks are nearby on Highways 9 and 116, inviting you to stretch your legs, unpack your fishing pole or make yourself at home on a houseboat. Pull over at Norris Dam State Park in Lake City or Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park and Cove Lake State Park in Caryville. Drive on to Clinton to see working artists at the Appalachian Arts Craft Center, living history at the expansive Museum of Appalachia or visit 72,000 acres of ATV trails at Coal Creek OHV Area, before coming full-circle back to Knoxville.