Panther Creek State Park
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The Best Guided Hikes to Take in Tennessee This February

After our unusually cold January weather, it’s a good time to dust off your favorite hiking boots, stretch your legs and get a healthy dose of Vitamin Outdoors. So join one of several guided hikes coming up in February across the Volunteer State.

East Tennessee’s Panther Creek State Park hosts ranger-led nature hikes along the Farm Trail on Feb. 9, 2014 and on the Trout Lily Trail on Feb. 23, 2014. Both events begin at 2 p.m. ET. Call 423-587-7046 for information.

Panther Creek State Park

East Tennessee’s Panther Creek State Park on Cherokee Lake near Morristown has more than 30 miles of hiking trails. (Photo: Tennessee State Parks)

A Natural Beauty

Tennessee’s State Natural Areas program hosts a hike to Piney Falls State Natural Area on the Cumberland Plateau on Feb. 22, 2014 at 9 a.m. CT. Piney Falls is a 440-acre natural area where winter ice makes gorgeous, glistening displays. Trip leader Lisa Huff recommends dressing warmly in layers, wearing sturdy boots, bringing plenty of water and lunch or a snack for the two-mile trek. I’d also suggest packing your camera and your best walking stick. RSVP by Feb. 19 to Lisa Huff at (865) 594-5601 or Lisa.Huff@tn.gov.

Piney Falls State Natural Area

Piney Falls State Natural Area is recognized by the United States Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark. (Photo: Tennessee State Natural Areas)

Hit the Harpeth

A few miles west of Nashville, ranger-led hikes at the 40-mile long Harpeth River State Park feature three locations on several dates.

At 1 p.m. CT on Feb. 9, 16 and 23 and again on March 9 and 16, a guided hike to the Mississippian Period town and ceremonial site known as Mound Bottom gets underway. The inhabitants of a once-thriving Native American village built in a horseshoe bend of the Harpeth River west of Nashville did not leave behind written or oral histories but archaeologists have pieced together parts of the story that unfolded here between 800 and 1300 A.D. based on excavations and radio carbon dating.

Mound Bottom

The flat plaza area with a platform mound visible at center right is part of the 100-acre site at Mound Bottom, a Native American site that is part of the Harpeth River State Park. (Photo: Tennessee State Parks)

It’s easy to imagine how the cultivation of more productive strains of corn, beans and squash along the Mississippi River and major rivers that feed it resulted in larger, more stable settlements supported by farming rich river bottom lands. The larger settlements resulted in cultural shifts that led to a more complex social, religious and economic structure with man-made mounds and large plazas used for social and ceremonial gatherings like those seen here at Mound Bottom.

Not far from Mound Bottom the Narrows of the Harpeth, another unit of Harpeth River State Park, offers guided hikes at 10 a.m. CT on Feb. 9 and 23 as well as March 16 and 17. At this location the Harpeth River comes within a few hundred feet of where the river returns six miles downstream. Businessman Montgomery Bell moved from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and cut a 290-foot tunnel in 1818 through the rock bluff at the Narrows to supply water power for his iron forge, known as the Pattison Forge.

Narrows of the Harpeth

In addition to hiking trails there is a canoe-launching site at Narrows of the Harpeth that lets you paddle the six-mile loop around Bells Bend.

From a more modern era, Hidden Lake off McCrory Lane in West Nashville is also part of Harpeth River State Park. On Feb. 16 and March 9 at 10 a.m. CT join a ranger-led hike through the forest and along the ridge to see spectacular views and learn the secrets of this little gem of a lake formed by a limestone quarry excavated during the early 1900s. Remnants of an old terrazzo dance floor and stone steps leading to the swimming hole hint at its time as a family resort during the 1930s. There is no charge to join the hikes but you’ll need to call 615-952-2099 to reserve your spot.

The Wolf of West Tennessee

In West Tennessee the Natural Areas program hosts a hike to the William B. Clark Conservation Area at 9 a.m. CT on Feb. 15. A 460-acre natural area along an un-channelized section of the Wolf River one mile north of Rossville, William B. Clark features a short hike leading to an interpretive boardwalk that meanders through the bald cypress-water tupelo swamp for about 1,600 feet. RSVP before 4:00 p.m. on Feb. 13 to trip leader Allan Trently at 731-512-1369 or at allan.trently@tn.gov.

Which Tennessee hike are you most looking forward to in February?

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

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