These 16 self-guided motor routes will take you off the beaten path and through all of the state’s 95 counties. So, gas up the car and hit the scenic route. Follow the brown signs; they showcase the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways, making them a little easier to find. These trails feature attractions, restaurants and other places worth a stop as you’re driving across the state. Here are a few attractions for each trail, listed from west to east; find even more ideas on planning your drive along these roads less traveled.
Take a journey through the West Tennessee Delta, stopping to explore the West Tennessee Agricultural Museum, where you’ll learn about agrarian life in this part of the state. Take home the bacon from Tripp Country Hams in Brownsville, curing award-winning hams and bacon from a secret family recipe for decades. Walk the winding boardwalk through Cypress Grove Nature Park, a 162-acre cypress forest in Jackson. Reward yourself with a specialty burger from The Grind Mac & Cheese Burger Bar in the college town of Martin.
Walking Tall Trail
Relive the stories of larger-than-life figures on this trail, such as railroad legend Casey Jones, and blues and rock ’n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, B.B. King and W.C. Handy. Learn about the legacy of McNairy County Sheriff Buford Pusser at his Home and Museum in Adamsville, including the room where Elvis is said to have mourned during the sheriff’s funeral. Browse the selection of Amish and Mennonite homemade goods and creamy cheeses at Ada’s Unusual Country Store in Bethel Springs. Take the family camping in Pickwick Landing State Park. For more than 20 years, Wolf River Cafe in Rossville has been a great place to grab some catfish and blackberry cobbler. Be sure to stop in ready to eat!
Great River Road Trail
Tracing stories along the Mississippi River from Memphis to Reelfoot Lake, this trail echoes the history of cotton fields, Civil War conflicts and life along America’s mightiest river. At Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in Memphis, you can see the hidden tunnels and cellars where slaves waited for their chance at freedom. Visit the Alex Haley House and Museum in the “Roots” author’s childhood home of Henning, which honors his life and influence. Green thumbs will enjoy exploring Soleil Garden Center in Union City, where you can also browse local art or lay down a track in the nursery’s recording studio (only in Tennessee!).
Tennessee River Trail
Middle Green River Stables in Waynesboro offers access to 2,700 acres of trails on ponies or horses. Take a 10-mile, self-guided driving tour through Shiloh National Military Park, site of one of the most violent battles in the Civil War. Explore the local cultural heritage expressed along the many quilt trails through Houston, Stewart and Benton counties. Many of the quilt patterns have been passed down through generations.
Take a Scenic Road Trip Across Middle Tennessee
Ring of Fire Trail
On this trail through some of Middle Tennessee’s most beautiful scenery, treat your taste buds to a phosphate or egg cream soda at Thomas Drugs in Cross Plains, an old-fashioned soda fountain with burgers, icecream treats and more. Float the Red River in a canoe near Port Royal State Park, starting in Adams. Red River Canoe will even pack you a barbecue picnic lunch. Pick up farm fresh milk, vegetables and farm-raised beef at Gammon Family Dairy in Orlinda. Further east, explore the 80 miles of shoreline on Dale Hollow Lake by houseboat. Time your visit to Portland to coincide with the annual Strawberry Festival the third week of May, or grab a taste of the sweet fruit with a glass of Portland Strawberry Blush wine at Sumner Crest Winery.
Nashville’s Trace Trail
Visit local Amish farms in Ethridge, or shop their farmers market during the summer. Don’t miss the annual Mule Day Festival the first week of April in Columbia, beginning with a festive parade. Plan to spend Saturday morning at Centerville’s Grinder’s Switch Center, where local musicians sing and tell stories during the “Grinder’s Switch Hour.” Stop in local favorite Mt. Pleasant Grille for some pimiento cheese fritters, fried chicken and top it off with a banana split. While there, check out the many boutiques.
Old Tennessee Trail
Serenite Maison in Leiper’s Fork is a treasure trove of 19th-century European chandeliers, textiles, jewelry and farm tables. Enjoy a taste of New Orleans at Papa Boudreaux’s Cajun Café in Santa Fe. Check your Tennessee Wine Trail map, and plan your tasting tour at Natchez Hills Vineyard, Amber Falls Winery and Keg Springs Winery in Hampshire, close to the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Promised Land Trail
Retrace the trails forged by our earliest pioneers through forested mountains and hills and small towns. Known as the “Antique City of the South,” explore the area’s roots as you browse stores on Lebanon’s Historic Square. Satisfy your yearning for Memphis-style pit barbecue at the rustic Timberloft Restaurant in Gordonsville. Keep your catch or catch-and-release at Twin Lakes Catfish Farm in Baxter. Train enthusiasts will enjoy seeing the history of the country’s railroads at Crossville’s Wonderful World of Model Trains. Sample specialty cheeses at Simonton’s Gourmet & Cheese House in Crossville, or plan to attend the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree in early July.
The Jack Trail
Discover 100 years of Tennessee history and see the world’s largest cedar bucket in the historic replica Cannonsburgh Village in Murfreesboro. Sip on exciting new varieties of moonshine at Short Mountain Distillery in Woodbury. Explore hiking, camping and fishing at Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park. Browse the 2,000-year history of airplanes, all immaculately restored at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum in Tullahoma. Satisfy every taste with a tour of Jack Daniel Distillery or a refreshing milkshake at the Lynchburg Pharmacy.
Screaming Eagle Trail
Explore westward through Middle Tennessee, beginning with historic downtown Kingston Springs. The Fillin’ Station is a party spot on weekends with songwriter nights and live music. Fly through the trees on nine ziplines at Adventureworks, on the far side of Kingston Springs. Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns is the perfect place to rent a cabin for a fishing, hiking and golfing getaway. Explore downtown Dickson, where you’ll find antique shops and local arts and crafts. Appreciate the changing exhibits in Clarksville’s downtown art galleries and Customs House Museum. Get out on the water and see some wildlife with Ashland City’s Blue Heron Cruises through the Cheatham Wildlife Management Area.
Road Trip East Tennessee
Pie in the Sky Trail
Begin your exploration of beautiful southeast Tennessee at Monteagle’s Hallelujah Pottery, where a colorful treasure is sure to catch your eye. Enjoy great food for a cause at the The Blue Chair Cafe & Tavern, a gourmet market and coffee shop in Sewanee. Sales support women and children in need. Plan a hiking trip along some of the state’s best trails in the waterfall haven of South Cumberland State Park in Monteagle. Take a tour of McMinnville’s Falcon Crest Mansion & Gardens, one of Tennessee’s grandest mansions, and enjoy lunch in the Victorian Tea Room. Treat yourself to a piece of lifetime cookware at the iconic Lodge Cast Iron Company in South Pittsburg. Finally, drop by the newly renovated Rhea County Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum in Dayton to learn more about the famous trial.
Sunny Side Trail
Uncover backroads brimming with history on this mountain trail. Walk the historic district of Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town established in 1779 and considered the Storytelling Capital of the World. Explore the Appalachian Caverns near Blountville, where evidence shows habitation by early Native Americans, pre-Revolutionary War soldiers and frontiersmen including Daniel Boone and David Crockett. In Gray, discover more about the earth at Gray Fossil Site & Museum (also home to the Hands On! Discovery Center) and Bristol Caverns in Bristol; then watch that rubber burn at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Rocky Top Trail
Natural attractions, Southern cuisine and Appalachian stories are on this trail. Savor the apple-based treats at Carver’s Orchard & Applehouse Restaurant, overlooking the 40,000 apple trees in Cosby. Learn more about the Cherokee people and Sequoyah himself at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore. Discover Appalachian history and culture at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend.
This trail will take you on a trip on the wild side of Tennessee. Wind through the Ocoee River Gorge and over Chilhowee Mountain for stunning scenery, or book a water adventure at the Ocoee Whitewater Center in Copperhill. Discover high-quality South Appalachian arts and crafts at the Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland. Take home a souvenir bottle of wine from Savannah Oaks Winery in Delano. Check their website for concerts and grape stomping events. Soak up railroad history in the restored 16-room, two-story Victorian passenger station and L&N Depot & Railroad Museum in Etowah. Join the locals at Baker’s Place family dinner barn in Englewood on a Friday or Saturday night for a little two-step or line dancing.
Top Secret Trail
Take a tour of Oak Ridge and learn how the secret Manhattan Project National Historical Park helped end World War II. Visit one of the utopian towns of Harriman or Rugby, where preserved, historic buildings tell tales of past dreams. Stop for a chocolate malt at ’50s-style Rock-a-Billy Café in Clarkrange and drop a coin in the jukebox. Saddle up on trail rides through Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. At the end of the day, enjoy a meal and spectacular views at the floating Sunset Marina Restaurant on Dale Hollow Lake, popular with boaters and houseboaters.
White Lightning Trail
You’ll discover some of the finest mountain crafts at the Appalachian Arts Craft Center in Clinton. Explore underground on a two-hour, ranger-led caving adventure in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Enjoy a cozy stay in the 1750s cabin at The Olde Mill Inn Bed & Breakfast in Cumberland Gap. Pet the cashmere goats when you visit the Mountain Hollow Farm and country store in Tazewell.