Down in the Tennessee Hills
"Wish that I was on ol' Rocky Top
Down in the Tennessee hills
Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top
Ain't no telephone bills..."
- Rocky Top, Osborne Brothers
We visited Tennessee a month ago yet, not many days go by without thinking about the serene Appalachian mountains that dominate the eastern side of the state. The Blue Ridge area consists of Smoky Mountain National Park, Cherokee National Forest and several other protected wilderness areas leaving it in the perfect condition: unpopulated, smog free and with no phone bills (also known as limited cell service). There are three urban areas in Eastern Tennessee: Chattanooga, Knoxville and the Tri-Cities which includes Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport.
Our journey across the country was inspired by our mission to find the next place to call home and Chat was one of our favorites. Nicknamed "The Scenic City" for its passion for the outdoors, the city sits along the Tennessee River and among the foothills of the southern Appalachians.
- Pros: Proximity to the outdoors, revitalized downtown, affordable, mountain views, river activities, super fast internet, only two hours from Atlanta, Knoxville and Nashville, the Chattanooga Lookouts (minor league baseball team downtown ;)
- Cons: No international airport, humidity, poison ivy...
- View Moccasin Bend From Point Park - you can take a 5mi hike to Point Park or drive, either way make it up there for an afternoon. If you want a bit more, check out Sunset Rock by continuing on the Bluff Trail.
- Eat lunch at Snoopers Rock - work up an appetite by hiking there or drive up the mountain for gorgeous sunset views.
- Catch a Chattanooga Football Club Soccer game downtown.
- Walk/bike across the Walnut Street Bridge.
- Listen to live music at Nightfall, a free downtown concert series in Miller Park from May through August.
- Brewery hop from Hutton & Smith to Odd Story Brew Company. Hutton is smaller, named after the fathers of modern geology and has $3 pint nights on Wednesdays. Odd Story is newer, larger, has outdoor seating and food (including a HUGE hand kneaded german style pretzel).
- Dinner at the Flying Squirrel - they are 21+ almost every day of the week so there are plenty of young professionals enjoying hh or their seasonal menu nightly. If you enjoy wine, head there on a Tuesday night for 1/2 off wines!
The capital city, home of Vanderbilt University and the historic country music stage of the Grand Ole Opry was not a place for us to call home. It was a great city to visit! Apparently bachelor/ette parties also think it is a great spot to visit so the main drags are almost New Orleans like with bachelor/ette's overflowing from bars at any time of the day. We stayed off of the main streets and explored the University, a few parks and the quaint 12 South neighborhood.
- The Fairgrounds Nashville - not sure we would stay here again but very close to town.
- Hike The Mossy Ridge Trail - Less than 30 minutes from Nashville, this 4.5 mi RT hike is a perfect way to spend an afternoon outside of the city. There are miles of trail options in Percy Warner Park if you have multiple days.
- Visit one of the 132 acres in Centennial Park - explore the recreation of the Pantheon or join a game of frisbee in the Nashville's premier park.
- Walk/bike around Vanderbilt University.
- Dinner at Edley's BBQ - delicious bbq with fun atmosphere or Frothy Monkey - a funky, casual, yummy restaurant that is open all day.
- Yoga at 12South Yoga (focus on Iyengar Yoga) or Liberation Yoga (simple, good teachers) or Inner Light Yoga (upbeat, newer).
- Live music at The Bluebird Cafe - small listening room (holds 50 ppl) with an open mic night every monday... you might have heard of it from the show, Nashville.
- Any show at the Grand Ole Opry or Ryman Auditorium.
Knoxville (the original capital of Tennessee) is home to the University of Tennessee and known as a major gateway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park (SMNP)! When visiting SMNP expect crowds, it is the most visited National Park in the country. The city is very University focused and has a beautiful, historic downtown.
- Southlake RV Park - close to town and Smokies.
- Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluff - this is a tough 11mi RT hike that will gain over 3,000' of elevation but Mt. LeConte is one of the highest recommended hikes in the Smokies. Some folks will make this an overnighter by staying at LeConte Lodge (the highest guest lodge in the eastern US). Unfortunately we hiked this on a rainy, overcast day and our views were non existent... so plan accordingly.
- Hike to Charlies Bunion - we liked this hike almost better than Mt. LeConte. You will gain over 8,000' in 8.5mi RT and be rewarded with great views. Make sure to take the detour to "The Jump Off" for even better views including Charlie's Bunion.
- Walk the Market Square Farmers Market on Wednesday or Saturdays.
- Jazz Tuesdays in the Market Square for free live music.
- Beer + glass blowing demos at Pretentious Brewco.
- Bowling at Maple Hall in the historic JC Penney building in downtown.
I had to visit Johnson City because of song Wagon Wheel, which is actually co-written by Old Crow Medicine Show and... Bob Dylan. Dylan recorded the chorus in the 70s and OCMS added verses 20+ years later. Johnson City is an even smaller town AND even closer to the mountains! It might be too small for us but with good beer and great hikes, we were happy to stay a few days.
- Woodsmoke Campground - the owners run a tight ship and it shows, this place was amazing... highly recommend this place.
- We hiked this 8 miler but I wouldn't recommend it to many. If you like bushwhacking and minimal views this is a solid day hike but we found the payoff for 2,000'+ of elevation climb a bit underwhelming (unless you hike with a drone ;).
- Hike to the Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower - 3 miles and views are great.
- If you are in town and want a quick view point, hike 1.5miles to White Rock or go for a walk/run on Tweetsie Trail, a local favorite.
- We loved camping at Wood Smoke and only made it out for one night but... if you want to venture into town, go to Yeehaw Brewing Company on a Tuesday night, try their Dunkle or Pale and enjoy free game night until close (games include arcade b-ball, skee-ball, bubble hockey + bocce and cornhole. Or head there on a Wednesday night, participate in Barefoot in the Park (free yoga) and grab a few tacos from White Duck Taco Shop next door.