Photo by M. Pistrong

Cherokee National Forest

The Cherokee National Forest is an awe-inspiring natural wonder, spanning over 650,000 acres in the heart of the Southern Appalachian Mountain range. It proudly holds the title of Tennessee’s largest tract of public land, stretching from Chattanooga to Bristol. Divided into North and South sections by the renowned Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this vast forest presents a wealth of recreational opportunities and a multitude of natural and cultural treasures to behold. Within the Cherokee National Forest, you’ll discover a tapestry of 15 distinct recreational zones, inviting exploration and adventure. With 30 developed campgrounds and numerous picturesque picnic areas, the forest beckons visitors to immerse themselves in its serene landscapes. Over 700 miles of trails await hikers, providing a gateway to stunning vistas, hidden waterfalls, and captivating wildlife encounters. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the forest boasts seven exhilarating whitewater rivers carving their way through majestic canyons. Nature enthusiasts can indulge themselves, marveling at the diversity of over 20,000 species of plants and animals that call this region home. Additionally, two Forest Service scenic byways offer the perfect opportunity to embark on a scenic drive through the enchanting mountains, revealing breathtaking panoramas at every turn. Originally established in 1920 as the Cherokee National Game Refuge, in 1929, it was officially designated as the Cherokee National Forest. With its roots grounded in the mission to protect water quality and ensure a sustainable timber supply, the forest stands as a testament to today’s multiple-use National Forest management principles.  The Forest Service, a branch of the US Department of Agriculture, meticulously manages this cherished landscape to maintain water quality, conserve wildlife and fish habitats, sustainably harvest wood products, promote outdoor recreation, and protect wilderness areas. Within its majestic mountains, gushing streams, and diverse vegetation, the Cherokee National Forest presents an abundance of recreational possibilities. Whether you seek a peaceful retreat amid the tranquility of a backcountry trail or the adrenaline rush of conquering thrilling white water rapids, this forest has something for everyone. Spend a night under the twinkling stars, basking in the serenity of nature’s embrace. Cast your line and try your luck with catching wild trout in pristine waters. In every corner, the forest unveils the raw beauty and unspoiled wonders of the natural world. Come, embark on a journey of exploration and discovery within the breathtaking Cherokee National Forest. Witness its timeless allure, and let its scenic grandeur captivate your soul.
Cherokee National Forest Overlook by Nathan Yarborough
cherokee national forest roadway by Nathan Yarborough
Cherokee national forest waterfall by Brian Solomon