Perhaps only summertime in the Southern Appalachian Mountains could retain such a startling contrast. With average summer temperatures in East Tennessee hovering between 85-90 degrees, you can find relief from the heat by looking to the mountains themselves.
See, cool water streams born in the high reaches above flow cold and quick along their courses. The mouths of caves stand open, emanating an endless breath of chill air from deep in the bellies of the mountains. Deep hollows formed by waterfalls where the splashing mist lingers in a shaded recluse that is never touched by the day's sun. And also the summits themselves, 5,000 and 6,000 ft. above sea level where the ambient temperature is sometimes tens of degrees cooler than the valley floor below and the humidity is nearly nonexistent.
Even early settlers, sweating profusely in their heavy buckskins, knew how to find relief from the heat in the days before the days of convenience via electricity.
(Lost Sea, Sweetwater)
There are many caves to visit in East Tennessee like Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, the famed Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, and Craighead Caverns where the largest underground lake in North America is the Lost Sea in Sweetwater.
Stay on the surface with hundreds waterborne options that range from the scenic lakes like Norris and Watauga Lakes to the beautiful rivers like Clinch, Ocoee and Holston, on which you can float lazily or tear through the rapids.
(Ocoee River, credit: Josh Ness, Nashville Explorers Club)
Hike to waterfalls that dot the eastern region of Tennessee:
Benton Falls, Polk County
Benton Falls is popular among hikers, so get ready to make lots of friends while hiking along the 3.5 trail to the waterfall. This hike is good for all skill levels. For more of a challenging hike, head to some of the others below.
Blue Hole Falls, Grundy County
(Credit: Chuck Sutherland)
Take the Fiery Gizzard Trail in South Cumberland State Park to see this beauty. The Trail is 12.5 miles long one way that eventually leads to Foster Falls, another Tennessee waterfall not to be missed.
Rainbow Falls, Sevier County
Known for the rainbow you can see on sunny afternoons, this 80-ft. high waterfall can be accessed through a moderate hike of 5.4 miles roundtrip. Once taking in the breathtaking scene, you can continue for four miles to the summit of Mount Le Conte.
Ramsey Cascades, Sevier County
(Credit: Molly Brown)
Hike 2,200 ft. in elevation over four miles for a moderately strenuous hike that bears big rewards. The water fall is the tallest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Water drops approx. 100 ft. before it collects in a small pool.
Upper Boardtree Falls, Grundy County
(Credit: Chuck Sutherland)
Part of Savage Gulf State Natural Area which is part of South Cumberland State Park, one of Tennessee's most scenic wilderness areas, these falls can be found just passed Greeter Falls. Boardtree Falls' waters tumble over a tiered rock hill. Be careful when you climb as steep inclines and narrow pathways weave to this natural wonder.