Trails & Byways
The Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways driving tours are your ticket to fun off the beaten path, recognized for their archaeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. Several of our trail routes incorporate these byways, with many unspoiled, magnificent and seldom-seen portions of our state.
To see all of the stops along each of the trails, please visit tntrailsandbyways.com. And enjoy the journey!
Great River Road National Scenic Byway & Trail
The Great River Road sprawls from Minnesota to Arkansas along what was once the western boundary of America: the Mississippi River. The 185.5-mile Tennessee Corridor is a tapestry of unique sites with intrinsic value and sense of place, some of the most scenic stretches of the Lower Mississippi Valley.
The 25,000 gorgeous acres at Reelfoot Lake State Park are home to almost every kind of shore and wading bird as well as majestic golden and American bald eagles. See the remains of a Confederate Civil War fort at Fort Pillow State Historic Park, where the Chickasaw Bluffs provided a strategic vantage point over the river. History is everywhere along the Great River Road. Visit the Henning boyhood home of Roots author Alex Haley; feel the spirit of blues legends like B.B. King on Beale Street in Memphis, and take a stroll through Elvis Presley’s Graceland®.
• The Memphis Queen
• Alex Haley Museum
• Elvis Presley’s Graceland®
• Fort Pillow State Historic Park
• Mud island
• Reelfoot Lake State Park
Cotton Junction Trail: Teapots to Sweet Spots
The Cotton Junction Trail is a drive through the cotton fields and quaint small towns of West Tennessee. Visit Casey Jones Village in Jackson, named for the legendary train conductor who gave his life to save his passengers in the early 1900s. While you’re there, stop by the Old Country Store for some famous down-home cookin’.
In cotton country, the fields are especially breathtaking in late summer. The Cotton Museum in Bells shows how this crop shaped the area’s culture and economy. Stop by Nutbush, the humble hometown of the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina Turner, and visit a museum dedicated to her life in Brownsville. Immerse yourself in blues culture at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center. The kettle’s always on at the Teapot Museum in Trenton, the “teapot capital of the world.” The food, friendly people and unique slice of life on Cotton Junction Trail are sure to leave a great impression.
• Gibson County Courthouse
• The Old Country Store at Casey Jones Village
• Trenton Teapot Museum
• West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center
Walking Tall: Rockabilly, Rails & Legendary Tales Trail
The Walking Tall Trail is the story of West Tennessee, told through music, legends and hundreds of quirky small-town gems. it’s built around larger-than-life folks: W.C. Handy, B.B. King and the blues legends of Beale Street; rockabilly pioneer Carl Perkins; and international icon Elvis Presley. Connect with powerful figures like Martin Luther King, Jr.; visit the home of railroad legend Casey Jones. Uncover stories like the Queen of the Confederacy, the sharp shooter and the 1,000-pound man. Learn about the trail’s fascinating namesake: Buford Pusser, the legendary McNairy County Sheriff and crime fighter.
Come hungry! This trail is a BBQ lover’s dream, with stops perfect for sampling all the famous “secret recipes” of West Tennessee. Visit Civil War sites along the Memphis-Charleston Railroad and stop at Shiloh National Military Park, where one of the war’s bloodiest battles raged on the banks of the Tennessee River. Travel even further back in time at Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park to see prehistoric mounds of Woodland indians.
Get your toes tapping, hike at a state park and appreciate the beauty of a small-town square—all on the Walking Tall trail.
• Selmer’s Rockabilly Highway Mural
• Casey Jones Railroad Museum
• Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
• Shiloh National Military Park
• Natchez Trace State Park
• Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park
• Buford Pusser Home & Museum
Tennessee River Trail
Discover the good life on the Tennessee River Trail, peppered with quaint historic towns like Waverly, Linden and Paris, and river overlooks that are the perfect backdrop.
Canoe the Buffalo River or capture your own game in one of the many wildlife management areas like Big Sandy in Benton County or Eagle Creek near Waynesboro. Rent a boat at Paris Landing State Park, and keep an eye out for deer and wild turkey in the Land Between the Lakes.
Learn about country music superstar Loretta Lynn at her sprawling ranch and museum. Visit Fort Donelson National Battlefield near Dover and Shiloh National Military Park near Savannah, sites of two important Civil War battles. From prehistoric river life to the Golden Age of Steamboats, experience the Tennessee River’s history at its namesake museum in Savannah. Visit Pickwick Landing, the 1800s riverboat stop that’s now a state park with forested hiking trails, fishing, boating and camping.
• Fishing on the Tennessee River
• Loretta Lynn Ranch
• Buffalo River
• Pickwick Landing
• Paris Landing State Park
Old Tennessee: Settlers to Soldiers
The Old Tennessee Trail is a drive as rich in history as in fresh air, gently rolling hills and down-home charm. This trail begins in historic Franklin, a short drive from Nashville and a worthy day trip or dinner excursion. Get behind the wheel for a different mindset, a new attitude, a fresh kind of adventure, as you wind through gorgeous countryside and favorite small towns.
Glimpse the original Tennessee, when Native Americans hunted the land and later found themselves face to face with the settlers arriving to shape homesteads and farmlands. Touch Civil War bullet holes that mark magnificent antebellum homes, and trace the steps of Confederate General Hood’s 1864 campaign. Stretch your legs and get a cold drink in the historic markets which help anchor our communities. Wander deeper into Tennessee to discover a new kind of life and adventure.
• Rippavilla Plantation
• Leiper’s Fork
• Carton Plantation
• Lawnchair Theatre
• Thompson’s Station
Nashville’s Trace: Backstage to Backroads
Nashville’s Trace takes you from backstage Music City to its most famous backroad, the Natchez Trace. Today, it stretches from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, and is maintained by the National Park Service. The Tennessee portion is a favorite day trip for cyclists, motorcyclists, photographers, horseback riders and regular folks out for a scenic cruise. With a maximum speed of 50 mph and not a single billboard along the way, the Trace is a breath of fresh air for travelers.
Explore the communities just beyond the trees. Six loop options take you to small towns like Grinder’s Switch, home of Minnie Pearl, Amish farms, antebellum homes, musical landmarks like the birthplace of Southern gospel music, and charming gems like Puckett’s Grocery and Nett’s Country Store. The Trace tells the story of the American Southeast, where down-home cookin’ was born and front-porch music made its way to the Nashville stage.
• Meriwether Lewis Cabin
• Double Arch Bridge in Birdsong Hollow
• Natchez Trace Parkway
• Nashville Honky Tonk
Screaming Eagle: Lady Legends to Heroes
Get your fill of Nashville’s big-city energy, then hit the Screaming Eagle Trail for outdoor adventure, Tennessee’s famous BBQ, military lore and country music must-sees.
Start at Fort Campbell in Clarksville, home of the famed 101st Airborne’s Screaming Eagles. Visit the base’s Pratt Museum to learn about air combat history and view the notorious XM- 29 Davy Crockett atomic mortar. Tour country music legend Loretta Lynn’s home and museum in Hurricane Mills. For hiking, camping, and outdoor fun, nature lovers won’t want to miss Montgomery Bell State Park.
Shop in one-of-a-kind storefronts, admire historic buildings, and catch a live music show, like the blues jam at Kingston Springs Fillin’ Station. Take the trail in March to find your inner irish at Erin’s annual arts festival. You won’t go hungry; stop at Carl’s Perfect Pig in White Bluff for a rack of some of Tennessee’s best ribs (and the banana pudding). Take a break on the Screaming Eagle Trail for a new picture of Middle Tennessee.
• Harpeth River State Park
• Bluebird Cafe
• Customs House Museum
• Loretta Lynn’s Plantation Home
• Carl’s Perfect Pig
• Fort Campbell
• David Crockett State Park
• Grinder’s Switch
Ring of Fire: Ghost Stories and Music Legends
The Ring of Fire Trail stretches from Nashville across the gorgeous Cumberland Plateau and back again. Discover some of Middle Tennessee’s most beautiful scenery in the hills and farms in the heart of the region. Fall in love with Dale Hollow, one of America’s favorite lakes; gaze out from high above the breathtaking Cordell Hull Dam; encounter the quiet power of the Cumberland River.
Along the way, stop in unique communities. Stay in the hotels where Victorian-era vacationers once came to “take a cure” at Red Boiling Springs; taste the best of summer at Portland’s Strawberry Festival; visit charming Cross Plains, where the local drug store is still the best place to get a cheeseburger. This route explores territory where early settlers arrived on Avery’s Trace and Walton Road, with forts and homes from the 1700s. it’s also home to country music royalty; enjoy a mansion tour just outside Music City.
The stories are as rich as the sweet smoke billowing from the tobacco-curing barns in the early fall. From settlers and Civil War soldiers to the Bell Witch and underwater ghost towns, the Ring of Fire Trail will deliver an unforgettable Tennessee experience.
• Dale Hollow Farm
• Mansker’s Station
• Armour’s Hotel
• Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
• Bell Witch Cave
• Portland’s Strawberry Festival
Promised Land: Pilgrimage to President
Take the Promised Land Trail and discover what inspired Tennessee’s first settlers to venture west, over the Cumberland Plateau into Nashville and beyond. Travel the early paths of settlers on Avery’s Trace and Walton Road, arriving to claim land grants for Revolutionary War service. Visit The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson.
On the Promised Land Trail, travelers will find quaint small towns, mom-and-pop restaurants, antique shopping and a flavor you just can’t find in the city. During growing seasons, pick apples and peaches or take home freshly made pies. Discover a new winery, take a hike,or enjoy a one-of-a-kind event like the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival in the fall. Stroll a town square, catch a music performance and sample homemade ice cream. Take your time and soak it all in on the Promised Land Trail.
• The Hermitage
• Bee Rock
• Downtown Lebanon
• Cumberland Mountain State Park
• Avery’s Trace
• Center Hill Lake
The Jack Trail: Sippin’ To Saddles
Saddle up and hit the Jack Trail to explore Tennessee’s worldwide reputation for history, music, horses and distilleries, starting and ending in downtown Nashville.
Fall in love with the good food, charming shops and classic town squares along the Jack Trail. Explore the craft community of Cannon County and the quirky artists’ retreats of Bell Buckle. Pass the historic site of the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, and learn how the walking horse got its name.
Learn the Civil War stories, from the intrigue of Confederate spies to the drama of the Battle of Stones River. Visit famous distilleries and local wineries, and sit down to a plate of heavenly BBQ or an old-fashioned Southern meal. Make time to get outside for waterfalls and paddle wheels, 200-foot-tall rock walls and an incredible variety of wildflowers. Middle Tennessee has a beautiful landscape all its own.
• Stones River National Battlefield
• Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park
• R.C. & MoonPie Festival
• Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration
• Jack’s BBQ
• Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Pie in the Sky: Moonpies to Mountain Highs
Chattanooga is the jumping-off point for your Pie in the Sky adventure through the peaks and valleys of beautiful Southeast Tennessee. Start at the world-renowned Tennessee Aquarium or Bluff View Arts District; spend time at the iconic Lookout Mountain attractions that have attracted tourists for over a century. Visit the home of Lodge Cast Iron and the National Cornbread Festival; tour historic Falcon Rest Mansion, and explore the site of the 1925 Scopes Trial that inspired the classic film Inherit the Wind. Sample pastries from Tennessee’s oldest family bakery and fill up on comfort food at a working farm.
This trail is packed with outdoor adventure at popular Fall Creek Falls and four other state parks. Both the seasoned hiker and the strolling nature-lover will thrill to the views on this mountain trail. Get a dose of history at Civil War sites, check out county museums and stroll the European-inspired University of the South, Sewanee. Find farm stands overflowing with fresh produce. Catch some live bluegrass along the way. Top off the trip with the one-of-a-kind taste of a Chattanooga original: the MoonPie.
• Dutch Maid Bakery
• Falcon Rest
• All Saint’s Chapel
• Lookout Mountain
• Fall Creek Falls
• Tennessee Aquarium
Tanasi: Rapids to Railroads
The Tanasi Trail is a journey named for the Cherokee word meaning “Little River;” it evolved into the word “Tennessee” over time. Ride through the mountains on a historical steam engine at the Tennessee Valley Railroad; stop at Cleveland’s Bald Headed Bistro for a wood-roasted prime rib dinner. This trail is loaded with history: Etowah’s L&N Depot Museum; the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum; and the original wagon ruts that the Cherokee left on the Trail of Tears at the old Unicoi Turnpike.
For outdoor adventures, see the Lost Sea, America’s largest underground lake, in Sweetwater. Stop at Booker T. Washington and Harrison Bay State Parks for recreational boating and year-round fishing on Lake Chickamauga. Back in Chattanooga, stay aboard a fully restored Victorian train car at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the only Historic Hotels of America resort in Chattanooga.
From whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River to high elevation hikes through rocky gorges, to the unforgettable views of the Cherohala Skyway, you’ll get lost in the natural beauty, bounty and history of the Tanasi Trail.
• Ocoee River
• The Lost Sea
• Sequoyah Birthplace Museum
• Fort Loudon State Historic Park
• Etowah’s L&N Depot Museum
• Chattanooga Choo Choo
KNOXVILLE AND GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
Top Secret: Proton Beams to Utopian Dreams
Secrets are hidden among scenic wilds of the Upper Cumberland Plateau. Start out with a tour of Knoxville’s historic sites, from early forts to the Civil War Battle of Knoxville. From Knoxville, travel to the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge, historic site of the Manhattan Project. Visit the largest collection of energy-related exhibits in the United States at the American Museum of Science and Energy.
Visit historic Rugby, founded as a utopian community in the late 1800s; tour a unique museum in Harriman and experience Civil Rights history in Clinton. in Pall Mall, step back in time at an authentic general store and home of Sergeant Alvin C. York, one of the most decorated heroes of World War I.
For adventure, paddle among breathtaking sandstone bluffs at Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area; spend a day on the water at Dale Hollow Lake. Enjoy the great outdoors at two state parks, a natural area, and several marinas. Finish your Top Secret adventure at the Appalachian Arts Craft Center to observe working artists and inspired crafts. The Top Secret Trail is loaded with rare features and unique stories.
• American Museum of Science and Energy
• Highland Manor Winery
• World’s Fair Park
• Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area
• Appalachian Arts Craft Center
• Obed River
White Lightning: Thunder Road to Rebels
The White Lightning Trail is a picturesque drive through the fertile valleys and rustic charm of the Tennessee hills. Outside Knoxville, pass through the Great Smoky Mountains into small towns that produced country music greats like Chet Atkins and Roy Acuff. Heading north, imagine the thrill of the bootleggers’ chase, careening through the mountains of the Upper Cumberland, out-maneuvering the long arm of the law.
Winding through ranges, roads and highways, you’ll come to Norris, where you’ll find thousands of quilts, instruments, artifacts and furnishings at the Museum of Appalachia. Follow the steps of Daniel Boone; breathe the same pure air the area’s first settlers did at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Follow the wagon trail of the original Appalachian settlers. Sense their excitement, coming to a new land seeking freedom, opportunity and happiness.
White Lightning is peppered with moonshine exhibits, Victorian homes, Civil War sites, civil rights landmarks, scenic overlooks, famous factories and post-prohibition stock car speedways—something worth seeing at every turn.
• Tennessee Theatre
• Museum of Appalachia
• Pinnacle Gap
• Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
• Clinch River
Rocky Top: Smoky Peaks to Crafts & Creeks
Cozy up in an authentic log cabin, hike through curvy creeks, see the sun over mountain peaks. Music lovers can visit the Gatlinburg inn where the iconic song “Rocky Top” was written, learn about Dolly Parton’s homegrown musical heritage in Sevierville, or experience a live bluegrass performance broadcast every weekday at noon at the downtown Knoxville Visitor Center.
In the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community in Gatlinburg is the largest group of independent artisans in North America, with potters, painters, woodworkers and sculptors influenced by the surrounding beauty. Explore the culture of the mountains’ early residents at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in the preserved mountain village of Cades Cove. Spend a day exploring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on picturesque Tellico Lake; for a taste of underground adventure, don’t miss the Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville or Townsend’s Tuckaleechee Caverns. Try whitewater rafting—the rapids of the Pigeon River are a perfect place to start.
Find underwater adventure at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg; catch the thrills in Pigeon Forge at Dollywood, with award-winning rides and entertainment. When you’ve finished the trail, shop, dine, and unwind in the historic Market Square District or Knoxville’s Old City.
• Cades Cove
• Tuckaleechee Caverns
• Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Commmunity
• Market Square
Sunnyside: Early Country Trail
Sunnyside is a trip through Smoky Mountain backroads and lush Appalachian countryside. Start your journey in Sevierville, hometown of iconic Dolly Parton. See heritage crafters like blacksmiths, carriage makers, potters and glassblowers at Gatlinburg’s Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Stop at the Newport/Cocke County Museum for Appalachian and Native American artifact exhibits. Visit Johnson City, the former railroad town of Johnson’s Depot, which became a major Southeastern rail hub.
Fish the Nolichucky River just like the early settlers at the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park. Catch a performance at the international Storytelling Center in historic downtown Jonesborough. Experience Southern Appalachia’s biodiversity at Roan Mountain State Park or the Cherokee National Forest. From Dutchman’s breeches to bee balm, you’ll find the rich hardwood forests truly fascinating.
Make a pit stop in Bristol, birthplace of country music and launch of the Carter Family’s career, also home to the fast and furious Bristol Motor Speedway. In Bulls Gap, visit the Archie Campbell Museum and Tourist Center dedicated to the late star. End your journey with an old-fashioned milkshake from Dandridge’s charming Tinsley-Bible Drugstore. From hiking wildflower trails to watching local artisans craft their wares, the Sunnyside Trail has something for everyone.
• Historic Bristol Sign
• Great Smoky Mountain National Park
• Shady Valley Country Store
• Downtown Jonesborough
• Douglas Lake
Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway
On the lush ridge of Land Between the Lakes, Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive through rolling landscapes with opportunities to explore. Enjoy seasonal splendors of blossoming trees and flowers, a green canopy, brilliant fall foliage, and the open view of winter forests.
Start in historic Dover at Fort Donelson National Battlefield, the site of the Union’s first major victory in the Civil War. Don’t miss gorgeous views of Kentucky Lake, one of the world’s largest manmade lakes, with 2,300 miles of shoreline. Get close to majestic wildlife at the South Bison Range, where bison live as they did before settlers came. Learn what life was like for those settlers at The Homeplace, a 1850s-era farm.
The Woodlands Trace showcases the outdoor recreation, historical significance and scenic views of the area and paints a lovely picture of Northwest Tennessee.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway stretches 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, connecting ancient trails used by mammal herds searching for salt licks and later by people traveling from the Mississippi to central Tennessee. With time, the paths became an important trade and military route, known for “Kaintuck” flatboat operators who walked the length of the Trace home after selling goods in Natchez and New Orleans.
The hiking trails along the route are good examples of travel on the Old Trace. Now maintained by the National Park Service, the Trace draws bicyclists, motorcyclists, horseback riders, campers, hikers, and Sunday drivers of all ages, eager for its unspoiled beauty. The Natchez Trace is both a National Scenic Byway and an All American Road, one of the very best byways, a destination all its own.
Though the Trace is beautiful year round, autumn is the best time for the brilliant foliage of the hardwood forests along the road. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to get out of the car for a closer experience with the history and beauty of the Parkway.
Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway
From Southwest North Carolina to Southeast Tennessee, the Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, thus the name “Chero-hala.” Drive above the clouds at 5,400-foot elevations for a glimpse of the unspoiled views along the Tellico River, where the Cherokee and early pioneers settled in the Appalachian Mountains.
Don’t miss the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center in Tellico Plains for Skyway information and the gift shop. The Skyway is known in motorcycling circles for its long, sweeping corners, but everyone can enjoy its mile-high vistas and brilliant foliage. See the 100-foot Bald River Falls from your car, or venture out for hiking opportunities and picnic spots in these magnificent and seldom-seen portions of Tennessee.
East Tennessee Crossing National Scenic Byway
The well traveled East Tennessee Crossing (Hwy 25E) has been used since prehistoric times by pioneer travelers, hunters and tourists alike. it’s been called the Cherokee Warriors Path, cut by bison and used by Native American tribes, and the Wilderness Road, an important route for settlers from the eastern colonies. In the early 1900s, it was known as the Dixie Highway, the first paved auto route connecting North and South. Later, it was known as Thunder Road for wild moonshiners’ rides under cover of darkness, transporting liquor during Prohibition.
Find breathtaking views from Pinnacle Rock in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, walking trails, historic buildings and visitors center. The views of lakes, the valley and the Great Smoky Mountains from the Clinch Mountain Overlook are unsurpassed. Pass through charming small towns like Tazewell and Morristown, and visit general stores, restaurants and wineries you won’t find anywhere else. Rankin Bottoms, named an important birding area by the Audubon Society, is the premier site in East Tennessee for warm-season water birds.
Today, the scenic beauty, rich history, and unique communities of East Tennessee Crossing National Scenic Byway are yours to explore.
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