Built in 1914, the Donoho Hotel is one of three historic hotels still operating in Red Boiling Springs. Photo Cathy Summerlin

Ten Must-See Fall Foliage Spots in Middle Tennessee

Whether you hike, bike, canoe or drive, Middle Tennessee has dazzling fall foliage displays coming soon to a spot near you. There are so many gorgeous locales it’s tough to limit myself to only ten places to head for a taste of fall eye candy but these should whet your appetite.

Without further ado, here are my favorite fall foliage spots in no particular order:

1) Radnor Lake State Park is a jewel of a Day Use Area with a handsome lake that reflects the changing seasons and several nice hiking trails with views the lake, migrating birds and resident wildlife that finds refuge here.

Radnor Lake

Radnor Lake State Park provides scenic, biological, geological and recreational opportunities not found in other metropolitan areas of Nashville’s size.

2) The Natchez Trace Parkway offers opportunities to admire fall foliage around nearly every turn whether you’re two-wheeling, four-wheeling, on foot or on horseback. The spectacular view from the bridge at Birdsong Hollow about 12 miles south is one of the highlights near Nashville.

Natchez Trace

The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway and Byway commemorates the ancient trail used by animals and people that connected portions of the Mississippi River to the salt licks in central Tennessee.

3) The drive east on TN 25 from Gallatin through Castilian Springs follows the historic Avery Trace, the main route from Knoxville to Nashville prior to the 1830s. Take TN 52 to Red Boiling Springs, at one time Tennessee’s premier mineral springs resort. It is still known for its five kinds of mineral waters and three historic hotels. The Thomas House schedules ghost hunt weekends but you might think you’ve died and gone to heaven after your hot mineral bath and relaxing massage at Armour’s Hotel.

Avery's Trace

Avery’s Trace was the principal road used by settlers travelling from the Knoxville area in East Tennessee to the Nashville area from 1788 to the mid-1830s.

4) Continue east to Pall Mall and the beautiful, beloved Wolf River Valley of Sgt. Alvin C. York. Both the home and York family gristmill are open to the public.

5) Ten miles away as-the-crow-flies, the forest surrounding Pickett State Rustic Park has unusual rock formations including Indian rock houses, natural bridges and numerous caves. Pickett’s near neighbor, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (BSFNRRA), has deep dramatic gorges of 500 feet or more cut through the hard capstone layer of rock to the soft sandstone layers beneath by the south fork of the Cumberland River. Dramatic vistas and 123,000 acres of multiple-use areas that include camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, white-water rafting and canoeing await.

  1. Big South Fork

6) The lovely seven-arch dam at the 1,720-acre Cumberland Mountain State Park provides a stunning centerpiece for its popular restaurant, cabins, camping and hiking trails.

7) Edgar Evins State Park overlooks Center Hill Lake. The park will offer History Hayrides again this year on Oct. 12. Ten wagons are scheduled to leave the visitors center and make stops at scenes where costumed actors and actresses portray historical characters and past events beginning at 2 p.m. with the last departure around 6:30 p.m.

Edgar Evins Fall Boat Cruises

Two hour Fall Pontoon Boat Color Cruises are slated for Nov. 2, 2013 at Edgar Evins State Park on Center Hill Lake. (Photo: Randy Hedgepath, TN State Parks)

8) Fall Creek Falls hosts Fall Colors Weekend on Oct. 19-20 with ranger-led bicycle tours, guided hikes and slideshows focusing on the autumn splendor at the park.

Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls has been voted the best state park in the Southeastern United States by Southern Living readers.

9) South Cumberland State Park is one of the Volunteer State’s most scenic areas. It is a popular destination for hikers with numerous miles of trails and a number of primitive campgrounds servicing the 24,000 acres that is home to Savage Gulf, Stone Door & Fiery Gizzard Trails. The only way you won’t see dramatic vistas as the seasons change here is if you stay home.

South Cumberland State Park

Rimmed by sheer sandstone cliffs, the rugged canyons of South Cumberland State Park offer scenic glimpses of the wilderness that remains on the southern portion of the Cumberland Plateau. Photo TN State Parks

10) Covering about 170,000 acres between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers that encompasses areas above and below the Tennessee-Kentucky State line, Land Between the Lakes is a multi-use National Recreation Area with hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing and site-seeing.

Land Between the Lakes

Programs to celebrate the arrival of fall are scheduled throughout October including the Oct. 12-14 celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Homeplace, sixteen structures that recreate a working farm. (Photo: Cathy Summerlin)

So that’s my top ten list for leaf looking this fall. What’s your favorite spot?

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on



    Brian Hollowood



    Chris Martin

    I am planning a road trip from northern ky to Oak Ridge, Tn. In October . Wanted to know when the best time to go to see the leaf foliage colors?

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