Many fantastic day hikes and day hiking opportunities abound in and around Knoxville, Tennessee, which is located on the Tennessee River in the ridge and valley province in between the Great Smoky Mountains (of the Appalachian Mountain Range) to the east and the Cumberland Plateau to the west. Because of Knoxville's close proximity to the spectacular Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and other state parks and national forest areas, many day hike opportunities are available within a short drive. This article will introduce you to some of the best day hiking opportunities easily accessible in and around metro Knoxville.

Parks and Greenways in Knoxville

Knoxville, Tennessee has a number of parks and bicycle, pedestrian, and greenway paths in various parts of the city. The greenways offer excellent opportunities for very local day hikes in and around Knoxville. House Mountain Park offers many trails up, over, and along House Mountain with great views from both sides of the mountain of the Knoxville area.

Downtown Knoxville and the University of Tennessee

Urban hikers will enjoy exploring downtown Knoxville, the Old City, and the University of Tennessee area. All are easily accessible to each other by walking. There are many interesting things to see in and around downtown Knoxville.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - on clear days, these mountains are visible from downtown Knoxville and Knoxville suburbs. And in the winter they are often snowcapped. Various entrances to the park are within 30 minutes to one hour drive of Knoxville (depending on traffic). The Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains over 800 miles of trails, many of which are easily accessible off the major auto thoroughfares of the park. Trails of all types and difficulty levels abound: trails through deciduous forests in the lower elevations, trails along streams and to waterfalls, trails with magnificent views and vistas and through spruce and fir forests in the higher elevations, and much more. You could spend many days day hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clingman's Dome Sunrise, Great Smoky Mountains (Paul McDaniel)

Cherokee National Forest

Cherokee National Forest - Located along the eastern Tennessee border with North Carolina to the north and to the south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many hiking and day use areas are found throughout the Cherokee National Forest, allowing hikers to take advantage of the beautiful mountain areas of east Tennessee.

Falls Creek Falls State Park

Tennessee State Parks - A number of interesting state parks are to be found in many directions within close driving distance of Knoxville, in the east Tennessee mountains, in the Tennessee River valley, and on the Cumberland Plateau. They each contain their own unique features that are worth exploring, such as lakes, reservoirs, dams, forests, rivers, streams, mountains, waterfalls, and unique plant and animal life. Specific state parks worth visiting near Knoxville include Roan Mountain (elev. 6,285 ft.; famous for Rhododendron blooms), Norris Dam (on Norris Lake), Cumberland Mountain, Falls Creek Falls (on the Cumberland Plateau, and one of the tallest waterfalls in eastern U.S.), Frozen Head, and Fort Loudon.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is a large tract of land in the Cumberland Plateau to the northwest of Knoxville on the Tennessee/Kentucky border. More than 150 miles of hiking trails are found throughout the park.

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park - The Cumberland Gap was the first gateway to the west. Today, it is located in southwest Kentucky on the borders of Tennessee and Virginia. Many miles of trails with a variety of scenic features and vistas are found throughout the park.

Obed Wild and Scenic River

Obed Wild and Scenic River - The Obed River stretches along the Cumberland Plateau, west of Knoxville. A number of trails with different lengths and scenery are available to the day hiker.


  • Try to take time often to enjoy the great outdoors!
  • A good day hike is good for the body, mind, and soul.