Best day hikes in Middle Tennessee/Kentucky?
April 5, 2013 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Friends visiting me in Nashville want to spend a day frolicking in nature while they're here. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know much about the parks around my own hometown. Where should I take them?

I usually just go to Radnor Lake or the greenways around town when I need a bit of pretty, but that's not really an all-day outing (also not new to me).

I have heard good things about Fall Creek Falls. Is that a winner? What other OMGbeautiful natural areas should I consider?

Trying to stay within a 2-hour radius of Nashville, more or less--so no Smokies. We're looking to hike, not bike or raft.
posted by elizeh to Travel & Transportation around Middle Township, NJ (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Mammoth Caves. I haven't been there (or to KentuckyTennessee) but I really want to visit those caves when I do.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:35 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're up for something really cool, it's a bit outside your range, but easy to get to, on I-65 and the Daniel Boon Parkway in KY.

Cumberland Falls State Park in KY. It's now the only place in the world where you can see a moonbow.

Have lunch at the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin, KY.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:43 PM on April 5, 2013

Land Between the Lakes (coming from someone who lives 30 minutes from there)
posted by deezil at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2013

Best answer: Fall Creek Falls is indeed lovely, and it has an onsite restaurant. I live in East Tennessee and Fall Creek Falls is the only Middle Tennessee park that people leave the Smoky Mountains for.
posted by workerant at 1:59 PM on April 5, 2013

Mammoth Cave. I grew up there and the hiking tails are great, very easy to get to from Nashville (about 40 minutes depending on where you are coming from), and really nice variants available: spelunking, cave walks, historical hikes, etc.

Cumberland Falls will be pretty far, if you are coming from Nashville -- about 3 hours. It's a nice hiking area, though.

Red River Gorge is also pretty far, but great scenery -- about four hours from Nashville.

Land Between the Lakes might be good -- about 1:30-2 hours.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:19 PM on April 5, 2013

I don't much about specific parks, having only been to Shelby Bottoms, but these websites look useful:
1 2
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:26 PM on April 5, 2013

Best answer: Mammoth Caves is great, but if you want some interesting nature and great views, head east on I-24 and zip on over to Sewanee. The Perimeter Trail (maps of Sewanee trails here) is awesome, and there are several spots where you can dip on-and-off if you'd like a break. The views are amazing, the trails are well-kept and marked, and if you haven't seen the campus of the University of the South, that's worth a walk-through as well.

If you need further convincing, I recommend this video, in HD and full screen. One of the most beautiful places in TN, and that's saying something.

If you want something even more off-the-beaten, Fiery Gizzard trail is maybe one of the best in the Eastern US. The trailhead is in Tracy City, also on Monteagle Mountain near Sewanee, and is one of the few places in this part of the country that you can still find virgin forest. Trail map for Fiery Gizzard is's undoubtedly a better hike, but it's not as good as Sewanee for non-hiking interest.
posted by griffey at 8:42 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @griffey - Fiery Gizzard sounds awesome. If we only want to do part of the trail--12 miles there and back to the car sounds a bit ambitious for a leisurely day hike--do you recommend starting at the Grundy Forest end or Foster Falls?
posted by elizeh at 6:36 AM on April 6, 2013

To piggy back on griffey's recommendation, anywhere in South Cumberland State Park is wonderful. Here is an additional trail map for the Salvage Gulf area. I used to live in the area and loved the Stone Door section, which has shorter hikes.
posted by jilloftrades at 9:26 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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