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Cool off and enjoy the views

Cool off and enjoy the views

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As we reach the middle of summer, the season for outdoor activities is in full swing with a variety of activities to choose from.

By 2023, more than 61 million people in the United States will hike at least once a year, so there will be plenty of people looking for a new place to hike. East Tennessee has some of the most appealing places to hike, from higher-elevation climbs to scenic overlooks to places to take a refreshing dip to beat the heat.

Here are some places you can try this summer:

Higher altitude hikes

It’s hot in Tennessee, and sometimes the only way to cool off is to hike up into the Great Smoky Mountains. Here are a few trails that will take you to places where the breeze will give you a respite from the sweltering heat.

Clingmans Dome, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the highest peak in Tennessee and the Appalachian Trail passes just above it. The peak is 6,643 feet high.

There are a variety of long trails to reach the summit, including Forney Creek Trail, Noland Creak/Forney Ridge Trail, Noland Divide Trail, Little River Trail/Goshen Prong Trail, Sugar Mountain Trail, and the Appalachian Trail at Fontana Dam.

You can also drive to the parking lot at the summit and explore from there. The half-mile paved trail to the observation tower is easy. Andrews Bald is another trail from the Clingmans Dome parking lot. It’s 3.6 miles round trip and has wonderful views.

Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the national park, at 6,593 feet (2,080 m). Trails leading to Mount LeConte vary in difficulty.

The six trails leading to Mount Leconte are the Alum Cave Trail, the Boulevard Trail, the Rainbow Falls Trail, the Trillium Gap Trail, the Bullhead Trail, and the Brushy Mountain Trail. They also vary in length, but all lead to the cool, breezy summit. As an added bonus, the LeConte Lodge offers snacks, souvenirs, and outhouses.

Hikes with views, even in summer

Winter hikes in Tennessee offer scenic views when the lush trees lose their leaves. In the summer, you should plan ahead to ensure you can enjoy those wonderful views.

House Mountain is the highest peak in Knox County, rising to an elevation of 2,064 feet. There are four main hiking trails up this forested mountain, and they total about 4.5 miles. The hike should take about 3 to 4 hours to complete, so make sure you are well prepared and have good hiking shoes. The view of the surrounding communities and mountain ranges is at the top.

The Sharp’s Ridge Loop Trail at Sharp’s Ridge Veterans Memorial Park in Knoxville is known for having one of the best views of the Smoky Mountains (without actually going there). The unpaved trail is 5.4 miles long and returns to the start in an average of one hour and 30 minutes. The high ridge takes you above downtown for amazing views of the city.

Hiking trails where you can also swim

After a hike in the woods, it’s nice to have a place to take a refreshing dip.

The River Trail Loop at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville is a great combination of forest and water, as the trail runs through the forest and along the Tennessee River. The trail is 1.3 miles long at low elevation and takes 30 minutes on average to complete. The location offers easy access to swimming opportunities, including kayaking at the Ijams Riverside Boat Launch near Lake Mead’s Quarry for a refreshing dip in the water. However, there are no lifeguards and cliff jumping is prohibited.

The Littler River Trail in Townsend is another great opportunity for those looking for an easy hike and a fun place to swim. The trail is on the easier side, about 5 miles long and only 412 feet in elevation. This location also offers a great opportunity for swimming and tubing as the trail is located along the Little River. It is a must-visit for families in the summer and a place where childhood memories are made.

Metcalf Bottoms Trail is an easy trail located in Gatlinburg with a 100-foot elevation gain that should take less than an hour to complete at 1.2 miles round trip. Hiking is optional for those visiting Metcalf Bottoms due to its great picnic and swimming spots for those wanting a more relaxing, wet excursion.