Whether you’re looking for the perfect place to get out on the water, explore state and national forests, take a wine-tasting tour, go bass fishing, play disc golf or just relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery, there’s one place that offers all this and so much more: the 9 Lakes Region of East Tennessee.
With four national parks (including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), Obed Wild & Scenic River, the only national forest in Tennessee (Cherokee National Forest), seven state parks, seven motorcycle trails, three wine trails and – you guessed it! – nine lakes, the 9 Lakes Region is a one-stop shop for all things outdoor recreation.
In addition, 9 Lakes’ prime location (it’s situated about 3 hours east of Nashville and 3 hours south of Cincinnati, and also draws visitors from other parts of the Midwest and Atlanta) means it’s ideal for day trips, weekend getaways or longer visits in any season.
Here are a few of the best ways to enjoy this stunning part of the state:
Discover More to Explore in Claiborne County
Claiborne County is known for its easy access to Norris Lake, which offers 800 miles of shoreline and 34,000 acres of water for boating, fishing (record-setting trout have been caught in the tailwaters), waterskiing and more. The lake is dotted with marinas offering boat rentals, guided tours and great food. Want to see some exciting action on the water? Check out the Powell River Kayak & Canoe Regatta, a fun, high-energy event that is growing each year.
Claiborne County might be best known for its lakes and rivers, but there’s plenty to do on land here, too. Hit the links at the beautiful Woodlake Golf Club, explore Cumberland Gap National Historic Park or make some memories at the White Lightning Trail Festival (a two-day event celebrating Appalachian culture) or the Genealogy Jamboree.
Say Tomato (Festival!) in Grainger County
Grainger County is famous for growing some of the best tomatoes in the country, and every year people come together for the Grainger County Tomato Festival in Rutledge to celebrate the area’s beloved fruit, as well as the artists, craftsmen and musicians who call this place home. Held the last full weekend of July for the past 26 years, the event is totally free, and has been named one of the top 10 festivals in the country by Parade magazine.
Make the Most of the Outdoors in Morristown
Did you know Morristown is the disc golf capital of Tennessee? With not one, not two, but four championships disc golf courses, Morristown is a destination for amateur and professional disc golfers. The city even hosts the Annual Tennessee State Disc Golf Championships, a national qualifying tournament, every June.
Disc golf isn’t the only sport that thrives here. Panther Creek State Park hosts four Dirty Bird endurance events, including a mountain bike race and triathlon. If you’d rather enjoy the park at a more leisurely pace, you’ll find 17 hiking trails spanning more than 30 miles. Boaters and anglers flock to Morristown’s Cherokee Lake, one of the premier bass fishing lakes in the country, for amazing fishing and water recreation year round.
It’s easy to stay busy enjoying the natural areas around Morristown, but the historic downtown is well worth a visit as well. Full of unique boutiques and fantastic restaurants, it’s the perfect place to spend a day walking, shopping and eating before heading back to the lake.
Taste Your Way Through 9 Lakes Wine Country
The countryside of Middle East Tennessee is not just scenic, it’s also home to over 20 fantastic wineries. Taste your way through this unique piece of wine country via any (or all) of 9 Lakes’ three wine trails, which lead visitors through the area’s award-winning wineries and beautiful vineyards.
Fans of 9 Lakes wines can also sample many of them in one place at the Nine Lakes Wine Festival, an annual event that brings together the best of Middle East Tennessee’s vintners, for a lakeside celebration of Tennessee wine. You’ll also want to mark your calendars for the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon and Wine Festival Oct. 25-27 in White Pine. Cheers!