Learn the stories of the Cherokee people, fuel your adventurous side and more along the Tanasi Trail
Heading to Chattanooga? Home to America’s largest freshwater aquarium, the Hunter Museum of American Art, Rock City and Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga has a wealth of options for solo or family travel to keep you going for days or even weeks.
However, if you want to get away to the hills and hollers in the surrounding area, walk in the steps of Native Americans, experience life as an early West-bound settler, and drink in stretches of limitless scenery where pictures don’t do the beauty justice, then you’ll need to fill up your gas tank, grab a Tanasi Trail, one of the 16 Discover Trails & Byways that travel through Tennessee’s nine regions, map at the Chattanooga Visitor Center, and head out for an adventure of a lifetime. Here are some of the sites you can see along the trail:
Head to the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum to see an impressive array of the largest teaching collection of ancient Near Eastern ceramics in North America. From bowls and vases to jewelry, browse the relics from Greece, Cyprus, Anatolia and more in Collegedale.
Hungry? Travel along to Cleveland for absolutely everything apple at the Apple Valley Orchard. The 40-acre establishment is home to 30 different kinds of apples that are pre-packed and used in all kinds of treats. Sip some apple cider and nosh on a fritter or a change-your-life-forever fried pie.
Quench your thirst for adventure in Ducktown as you ride the whitewater rapids of the Ocoee River with the Ocoee Whitewater Center. Keep the adrenaline pumping along the Tanasi Trail’s Mountain Biking System, which consists of 30 miles of single-track for riders of all levels that run through the Cherokee National Forest. Pedal along Old Copper Road, Thunder Rock Express or take one of the many rock cairns that have many stop-off points for photo-ops. Tellico Plains will greet you with a 90-foot cascade known as Bald River Falls. The roaring water can be found while taking a drive along Tellico River Road. The falls are visible from the road but you can walk to get a better look and to feel the cool air rolling off the water.
See Tennessee scenery from a different way of transportation. Hiwassee River Rail Adventures will take you and yours on a rail excursion you won’t ever forget through the Cherokee National Forest, along the Hiwassee River and the Hiwassee River Gorge, all comprising The Hiwassee Loop, approx. a 3 1/2-hr trip. The loop is 50 miles round trip and travels up the mountain near Farner.
Vonore is home to a wealth of Overhill Cherokee history, customs, beliefs, family life and, of course, the Trail of Tears at Sequoyah Museum. Learn about the creator of the Cherokee writing system while also taking a meditative moment at the Cherokee Memorial, a common burial site for Cherokee remains that were covered during archeological studies prior to the creation of Tellico Lake. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Stop and sip at Morris Vineyard & Tennessee Mountain Winery, a family-owned and operated vineyard and winery located 30 minutes from Chattanooga, with some of the very best wine selections around. Ranging from dry, semi-sweet and sweet, the winery grows more than 28 varieties of muscadines, grapes, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries on the more than 50-acre farm. A family day can also be spent among the many rows of the vineyard picking fruit and enjoying the scenery of the Appalachian Mountains.
Make your way through the hills, stopping along to take pictures of the endless scenic beauty of the Southeast region as you head back to Chattanooga and finish your trip with a visit to Big River Grille & Brewing Works for some good grub and hand-crafted beer. Start dinner off with a signature lager and the habanero shrimp followed by the New York strip steak, bruschetta chicken or the low country shrimp in grits sautéed with bacon, garlic, tabasco and mushrooms with white cheddar parmesan cheese grits.
Have you driven the Tanasi Trail? What are you some of your favorite stop-offs along the Tanasi Trail? Tell me in the comment box below!