Located in southeastern Tennessee, Cherokee National Forest is home to over 600 miles of hiking trails, as well as dozens of lakes, streams, and waterfalls. Raft or kayak the Ocoee River, backpack a section of the Appalachian Trail, or pick a dayhike through the delicate pink blooms of rhododendron bushes in summertime.
If you have more time, stage a full-value day trip to Roan Mountain along the Appalachian Trail. The route wanders through mossy forests, crosses open balds with 360-degree views of the surrounding hillcountry, and passes the historic Overmountain Shelter (a.k.a The Big Red Barn), one of the largest and most iconic shelters on the AT.
More ambitious backpackers can cross the forest from end to end on the Benton MacKaye Trail or the Appalachian Trail, 150 miles of which lie within the borders of Cherokee National Forest.
When to Go
Cherokee National Forest is most popular between April and October, though intrepid snowshoers and cross-country skiers can find trails available to them in winter. Check for seasonal road closures here.
Consider planning your trip to coincide with summer wildflowers (rhododendron bloom in June) or the fall color change for even more memorable scenery.
Frequent visitors should consider getting a forest service-issued Annual Pass or an America the Beautiful Pass. For information on other acceptable passes, visit the USFS passes web page.