5 Bucket List Hikes in Unicoi County

The Appalachian Mountains have been one of the most visited and travelled mountain ranges for hikers and backpackers in the United States for centuries. The vistas and trails available throughout these mountains hold history and beauty as rich and lush as you can find anywhere on the planet. For those seeking the greatest hikes available in the Appalachian Mountains, you should put Unicoi County, Tennessee on your list of destinations. Our region hosts some of the most unique and spectacular hiking trails you will find in one area. You could spend a week visiting famous local trails and still not see everything we have to offer.

We invite you to come enjoy this list of incredible Unicoi County hikes . These are just a few of the many we hope you’ll consider when planning your visit. These 5 hikes give you a great cross-section of terrain diversity and difficulty to illustrate how Unicoi County is quickly becoming a hotspot for hikers of any skill level.

Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower Trail

Location: Cherokee National Forest
Distance: 9.1 mile out-and-back hike
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1,863 feet

The Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower Trail is a very popular day hike that rewards adventurers with a breathtaking view of the mountains. This relatively new hike is well-maintained, and offers a great opportunity to experience local wildlife and vegetation native to the Appalachian Mountains. This trail is used by hikers, runners, walkers, and mountain bikers, and is open to dogs provided leash guidelines are followed.

The trail is right off Interstate 26 exit 32, and offers parking right at the trailhead.

View Trail on Alltrails.com →

Location: Unaka Mountain Recreation Area
Distance: 4.8 mile out-and-back hike
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1,154 feet

If you’re planning a trip to Unicoi County, you’ve got to set a day aside to step onto the legendary Appalachian Trail. This ribbon of trail navigates the entire Appalachian range, from Maine to Georgia. The sections you will find in and around Unicoi County are some of the most beautiful and popular hikes on the AT.

What makes this section so special is how it emerges out of the infamous “green tunnel”—the name given to the Appalachian Trail for its dense tree cover that blocks the views on most mountaintops—onto a naturally occurring “bald” known as Beauty Spot. This bald is one of a few areas on the AT that allows hikers to really enjoy the altitude and beauty of the eastern mountains of the United States.

View Trail on Alltrails.com →

Red Fork Falls Trail

Location: Unaka Mountain Recreation Area
Distance: .6 miles out-and-back hike
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Elevation Gain: 164 feet

Looking for a great hike when the weather is warmer? Plan a trip to Red Fork Falls and enjoy a well-maintained trail to a beautiful waterfall that is sure to please. This hike is great for bird watching and enjoying the sounds and views of the Clear Fork and Red Fork creeks. Be sure to pack your water shoes, as there are several opportunities to wade into the water and cool down.

This is a great hike for photographers as well. The trail and rocks can become slippery, so we don’t recommend it for small children and dogs. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the views and relax, as this trail is relatively short.

View Trail on Alltrails.com →

Rattlesnake Ridge Trail

Location: Unaka Mountain Recreation Area
Distance: 8.8 mile out-and-back hike
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,582 feet

If you’re looking for a day hike with a little more challenge, we recommend the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail. This trail is a continuous climb along Rock Creek, up to the top of Rattlesnake Ridge. Beautiful old growth forest and rock formations will hold your attention during your hike, and the pay-off at the top is simply spectacular. There, you’ll find the peak opens up to give great views of the Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachian Mountains.

This moderately trafficked trail is more secluded than others in the region. As a result, you can expect to have a quieter hike than on other trails in the area. Parking is available in Rock Creek Park for a $2 charge, which goes to preserve the trail resources.

View Trail on Alltrails.com →

Limestone Cove Trail

Location: Limestone Cove Recreation Area
Distance: 6.9 mile out-and-back hike
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2,309 feet

For those that are looking for a harder hike with lots to see, you should consider a trip to the Limestone Cove Trail. This trail is a steep and lightly trafficked trail that is used primarily by hikers and horseback riders. The trail, which winds through the Cherokee National Forest along creeks and thick foliage, is more challenging and recommended for experienced hikers. Luckily, it’s worth the challenge as this trail offers more seclusion to enjoy nature without needing to compete with other hikers.

This hike is mainly about the journey, rather than the destination. There is so much along the way to enjoy and photograph, and the peak will give a sense of accomplishment to all those that reach the top.

View Trail on Alltrails.com →

This is just a small sampling of all the amazing mountain adventures that await minutes from the main roads in Unicoi County. No matter what time of year you plan your trip, there will be plenty of natural beauty to keep you coming back for more.

Be sure to visit local outfitters in Unicoi and Erwin to get more information about these and other great hikes in the area. You will find friendly and helpful people, and amazing local dining available in the area. We look forward to hosting your adventure soon, and are confident that you will be glad you came.



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