East Tennessee Crossing Byway Follow the Cherokee Warriors Path

Explore along the East Tennessee Crossing National Scenic Byway

East Tennessee Crossing (Hwy 25E) stretches 83 miles in Tennessee from the Cumberland Gap, southeast to the Cherokee National Forest. It has been used since prehistoric times by pioneer travelers, hunters and tourists alike, and is as well traveled as it is named. 

The route is known as the Cherokee Warriors’ Path, originally cut by bison and used by Native American tribes to attack each other, trade with each other, and travel from place to place.

It is also known as Wilderness Road, an important route for settlers from the East Coast colonies moving west into “new” lands. Wilderness Road changed the rugged lifestyle of the settlers in the Appalachian Mountains, bringing craftsmen with new skills and visitors with new ideas to the area.

The route was once known as the Dixie Highway, a network of paved roads connecting the Midwest and the South, from Chicago down through Chattanooga to Miami. Started in 1915, it was a project of businessman Carl G. Fisher, funded by individuals, businesses, and local and state governments. It was overseen by a group of motor enthusiasts known as the Dixie Highway Association. In its beginnings, this stretch was one of the roughest parts of the route, with roads frequently washed out, treacherous mud and unpredictable weather. Travelers setting out from Chicago heading to Florida had no map and no way of knowing where to find gas, food or lodging along the way, and would often stay in the homes of the people who lived in the area. By 1927, the Association had disbanded and the route was taken over by the U.S. Highway System. Its traffi c helped to sustain the economies of the communities you’ll visit on the White Lightning Trail.

It has also been called Thunder Road, named for the fast and furious routes taken by moonshiners under the cover of darkness, transporting homemade, untaxed liquor during prohibition in the 1920s. Thunder Road and its reputation for rebellion and adventure has been the subject of Tennessee legend, and has been attributed to the beginning of NASCAR.

Today, the East Tennessee Crossing National Scenic Byway waiting to be explored. EAST TENNESSEE CROSSING NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY is yours to take in — its scenic beauty, rich history and unique communities are just

Explore the Wilds of Panther Creek Along the East Tennessee Crossing

In less than a mile’s hike along the Norris Blackburn Trail of the East Tennessee Crossing , you can experience an area that, according to local legend, panthers once inhabited. Although these majestic cats have since disappeared from Panther Creek State Park, the trail will take you to the park’s covered wildlife observatory, where park rangers ensure plenty of nearby natural food sources will tempt other wildlife within your view. See Wild Turkeys scratch for seeds and bugs along the trail, white-tailed deer wade through the long blades of grass, and red foxes and squirrels scamper beneath the brush. If you linger into dusk just before the park closes, you may hear the rhythmic hoots of Short-eared Owls, while raccoons with their bandit markings steal through the shadows. Leave the stress of civilization behind and enjoy a peaceful day among a wide array of animal activity along the East Tennessee Crossing!

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This route follows the original path of the Cherokee Warriors Path, the Wilderness Road across the Clinch Mountain and the Cumberland Gap, the Dixie Highway of the Civil War period and Thunder Road of moonshining lore.