With more than 100 miles of hiking trails in southern Middle Tennessee, the state’s abundant wildlife and scenic landscapes is on full display in the green space inhabiting and surrounding Manchester. With trails made for day hikes and overnight hikes, strenuous journeys and easy strolls, there is a definitely a hike for all skill levels within an hour or so of Manchester.
Check out one of these trails or hiking spots next time you’re ready to spend some one-on-one time with Mother Nature.
Buggytop Trail | Franklin County
A trail in the Carter State Natural Area, a “unique 18,000-acre enclosed-valley sinkhole,” Buggytop is a 2-mile, one-way hiking trail that leads to the impressive mouth of the Lost Cove Cave. The cave, which is adorned by a river flowing directly from its mouth, is about 100-feet wide and 80-feet tall, sitting in the side of a 150-foot high bluff— making Lost Cove one of the largest cave openings in the state. The Buggytop Trail follows a lengthy ridge before bringing hikers to the tall bluff that holds the cave, requiring a steep descent to cave’s entrance. Once at the cave’s mouth, hikers can relax after their 2-mile hike or continue their adventure into the cave, exploring the spacious but dark interior. The grandeur of the cave and the surrounding streams and forest make the trail perfect for scenic photographs. The hike itself is a moderate journey, only made difficult by the steep descent to the cave. After your hike, drive over to the Sewanee Natural Bridge, a large sandstone arch that is easily accessible from its parking area, and another impressive feat of nature to fit into one day.
Buggytop Trail can be reached by a small parking area off of Highway 56, between Sewanee and Sherwood.
South Cumberland State Park | Grundy, Franklin, Marion and Sequatchie counties
A gargantuan state park with 25,539 acres of Tennessee scenery spreading across four different counties, the South Cumberland State Park offers over 90 miles of hiking trails in nine areas of the park, including trails for day hikes and trails for longer, multiday expeditions. Among these is the Fiery Gizzard Trail, a 12.5 mile, one-way trail with “intimidating” rocks and beautiful views. The trail, which leads from the Grundy Forest to Foster Falls, is said to be by some in the area as good training for the Appalachian Trail, as it mimics the landscape of the AT. It was rated by Backpacker magazine as one of the top 25 trails in the country. Elsewhere in the state park, hikers can enjoy the Savage Gulf and Stone Door areas where visitors can see Greeter Falls, the remarkable bluff and cliff views of the Cumberland Plateau, and the Great Stone Door, “a crack in the cliff that runs from the top to the bottom that looks like a door left slightly ajar.” Quick day hikes can be completed at Grundy Forest, Foster Falls, Savage Gulf, Stone Door and Greeter Falls. Camping options are available at Foster Falls and over 100 backcountry campsites along the trails at South Cumberland, for those who want to spend a night under the Tennessee stars.
Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park | 732 Stone Fort Drive, Manchester
The Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park is an 844-acre historic area built around a 2,000-year-old Native American ceremonial site and the Duck and Little Duck rivers. Visitors can hike the 1.25-mile trail around the original Old Stone Fort, stopping to see informative and interpretative panels about the area along the way. Pausing at the fort’s original entrance, they can even see how the fort was designed to face the “exact spot on the horizon where the sun rises during the summer solstice.” Elsewhere in the park, hikers can enjoy a few more miles of foot trails with views of three prominent waterfalls, both rivers and the 50-acre hilltop enclosure of the fort, which is often abundant with wildlife and native fauna. The views of the Big Falls on the white trail (Old Stone Fort Enclosure Trail, 1.3 miles) and the views of the park from the high bluffs on the red trail (Little Duck Loop Trail, 1.5 miles) are particularly stunning. Most of the hiking at Old Stone Fort is relatively moderate in difficulty, with avoidable elevation changes and plenty of flat areas to stop and take in your surroundings. This makes the park perfect for a jog or hike with small children or pets. After your hike, you can cool down in the gift shop and museum near the parking area, which offer interesting information about the park and its previous native residents.
Sewanee | Franklin County
Situated idyllically on the top of the Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee, Tennessee is a quaint and picturesque town, home to the University of the South and countless hiking options. Sewanee offers over 50 miles of hiking trails, including the Perimeter Trail, a 20-mile loop around the mountain, with impressive views of the land below and various day hikes located along the trail. Starting at the Sewanee Memorial Cross, a tall, white cross sitting on a bluff near campus, hikers can hike one mile on the Perimeter to the grand views at Morgan’s Steep, passing through a rock tunnel, with names inscribed over 100 years ago, along the way. Continuing an extra mile in the same direction, hikers can see more sandstone overhangs, huge boulders and Bridal Veil Falls. Other striking views and moderate hiking trails can be found at other points around the Perimeter Trail and off of Breakfield Road; a breakdown of these day hikes can be found here. After your Sewanee day hike, take a walk around Sewanee’s beautiful campus and have lunch and a cold beer at Shenanigans, a lively dining spot offering pub grub and draft beers near campus.
Short Springs State Natural Area | 2250 Short Springs Road, Tullahoma
Called “one of the very best spring wildflower locations in the state,” the Short Springs Natural Area is a 420-acre natural area in Tullahoma with about five miles of hiking on six different trails. The Machine Falls Loop Trail, indicated by white blazes on the trees, takes hikers on a steep descent to a bridge and small creek— the perfect place for a picnic. If hikers take a short walk away from this trail they will be able to see the impressive 60-foot tall Machine Falls. From this point, visitors can take the Adams Fall Trail to see a wet-weather spring that runs down a steep slope, or the short Wildflower Trail. Elsewhere in the natural area, hikers can follow the Bobo Creek Trail or the Laurel Bluff Trail to see the picturesque Busby Falls or the views from a high bluff above the land. Much of the hiking at Short Springs involve short distances but reoccurring elevation changes— ideal for a challenging trail run or a walk with your canine companion. Plentiful parking and a map of the area can be found beneath the large white water tower on Short Springs Road.
Tims Ford State Park | 570 Tims Ford Dr., Winchester
Surrounding the 10,700-acre Tims Ford Lake, which is considered one of the most picturesque lakes in Tennessee, the Tims Ford State Park is known for its “scenic views, natural surroundings and biologically significant wildlife habitats.” The park offers over 27 miles of trails, including about 6 miles of paved trails. Parking at the visitor center, hikers can take the hilly Lost Creek Overlook Trail to a beautiful overlook of Tims Ford Lake. The trail offers fantastic views of the lake and two swinging bridges to cross. Once at the overlook, hikers can either continue hiking on the shaded paths, or return to the visitor center by a short, paved trail, creating a 2.4-mile loop. Also starting from the visitor center, hikers can instead hike the Old Spann House Trail, a 4-mile, roundtrip journey that also offers great views from a peninsula in the lake. The trail possesses some of Tennessee’s famous hills, but is not considered to be strenuous. In addition to these two routes from the visitor center, the state park offers countless other possible hiking trips on other natural and paved paths in the park. The men and women at the visitor center are always happy to help you plan your hiking expedition. After your hike, reward yourself with an ice cream cone at the Hard Dock Café, or a cooling swim in the park’s recreational pool, both a short drive or walk from the visitor center.
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