Be aware that some caverns may be temporarily closed due to the ongoing pandemic, but they will gradually be re-opening! Other destinations will be open on a case-by-case basis as the state re-opens in phases. Please check the links below for updates and further information!
We’re all ready to get out of doors after a tense spring spent indoors, so the destinations we’ve chosen for today’s article are The Best Tennessee Natural Attractions! While we wish they could all be open at this time, we know the time will soon come when we can get out and explore these gorgeous wild landscapes Tennessee residents are so proud to call our own.
Clingmans Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN bit.ly/clingmansdome
Sitting atop the highest point in Tennessee, Clingmans Dome crowns this section of the Appalachian Trail. Walk along the paved, scenic trail to the end, and you’ll be able to soak in panoramic views from the observation tower. On clear days, visitors can enjoy sights up to 100 miles away! However, even making it to the parking area will net you stunning views of this lush mountain range.
Ruby Falls Chattanooga, TN rubyfalls.com
Located within Ruby Caverns, this waterfall is only reachable by guided tour. While an elevator will do most of the work, you will eventually arrive over 1,100 feet below the mountain and continue your exploration deep underground. After your guided tour, you’ll encounter the awe-inspiring beauty of Ruby Falls. Lights and music will enhance the view, heralding your arrival. Due to the height restrictions and rigorous nature of the tour, athletic movers under 6’3” tall will have the easiest time navigating the hike to Ruby Falls.
This privately-owned cave system is unique in that it is still run by the two men who discovered the caverns back in 1953. Best known for the gargantuan “Big Room” as well as the underground, 210 ft. Silver Falls, this actively-forming cavern is one of the only such cave systems that permits visitors to interact with the caves through touching rock formations, making it beloved by families with small children.
Ramsey Cascades Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN bit.ly/ramseycascades
This 100-foot plunging waterfall is one of the tallest, most visually arresting waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains. If you hike the strenuous 4 miles through the hardwood forests, past the bluebells and yellow birch trees up to the waterfall’s pool, be sure to look closely—salamanders are likely blending into the rocks below the water’s surface. Visitors to the waterfall are warned that they will not be able to attempt the lethal climb to the fall’s summit.
Having been dubbed the “#1 Thing To Do in Chattanooga!” by TripAdvisor, these highly geologically active, beautifully preserved caverns offer both guided walking tours and adventurous guided spelunking tours. The walking tour is about an hour long and takes visitors through the lit caverns along safe pathways. In addition to the stunning cave formations, keen-eyed observers may see native cave bats and salamanders.
Cades Cove Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN bit.ly/cadescovevalley
Cades Cove is a lush, sweeping valley nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains. This popular wildlife observation spot is usually quite packed, with visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of a bear, coyote, or wild turkey. It’s the perfect choice during this season of social distancing since there is an 11-mile vehicle touring loop that allows visitors to take their time at each observation pullout zone. Plan to snap photos of the historic grist mill, churches, barns, and other lovingly restored historic buildings!
These caverns stretch an impressive 30 miles back, with sparkling waterfalls, serene pools, and stunning rock formations everywhere you look! Cumberland Caverns offers walking tours, spelunking tours, and overnight caving adventures. Visitors will learn the cave’s history as they travel through rooms larger than Mammoth. This mild walking tour is appropriate for all ages and most ability levels.
Chimney Tops Trail Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN bit.ly/chimneytopstrail
Although Chimney Tops Trail is still recovering from the 2016 500-acre wildfire, the Chimney Tops Trail is still a stunning hike through the Smokies. This 2-mile hike may sound like a cakewalk, but be warned: due to the steep incline, most visitors give up before reaching the summit! This summer, visitors will see wildflowers in riotous bloom, and those who make it to the halfway point at Beech Flats will have the chance to take a detour toward the Appalachian Trail or to continue onward with their climb.
Charlies Bunion Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN bit.ly/charliesbunion
Charlies Bunion is a stone outcrop that gives visitors hiking the Appalachian Trail a perch high above sweeping views of the Great Smoky Mountains. To make it to the outlook, plan to hike 4 miles one way, or drive about 15 miles. From Charlies Bunion, the Appalachian Trail continues on to its end in Maine!
This historic cave, which sheltered Native American tribes throughout the centuries, was taken over by businessmen in 1964 and is now an adventure and education destination. This one-hour guided walking tour takes visitors through grotto after grotto, past towering rock formations, and a sparkling subterranean stream. Though the trail is well-lit and offers handrails where needed, visitors will need to navigate about 60 stairs. Forbidden Caverns is famous for its impressive light and sound show, complete with a simulated thunderstorm!
The team at Parks Realty joins each of you in hoping for a swift return to normalcy. Until then, we hope to see you out on an outdoor adventure, waving to your fellow Tennesseans from a safe and healthy distance. Take care of yourself, and as always, thank you for visiting Parks!