Take a Delicious Drive Down Tennessee’s Pie in the Sky Trail
The Pie in the Sky Trail has Chattanooga as its jumping off place and its sweet return. Sweet because the final stop is the MoonPie General Store.
Chattanooga is the home of the MoonPie, that delicious marshmallow crème and graham cracker cookie produced by the Chattanooga Bakery.
The Pie in the Sky Trail also gets its name from the blue skies gracing the peaks and valleys between Chattanooga and the Cumberland Plateau. Driving in the northwest direction, motorists go through the Tennessee River Gorge and the Sequatchie Valley before rising to the spectacular plateau.
The 363-mile Pie in the Sky Trail is one of six self-guided driving tours in East Tennessee. The joy ride delivers bits of Native American history, a spaceship house, and a Holocaust memorial. You can take your time at four state parks, a dozen waterfalls, and miles of hiking trails. You can shop, eat barbecue, visit farmer markets and enjoy pies at six bakeries. All roadside attractions are marked on the brochure, available for download from the website.
Chattanoogans make excellent use of the Tennessee River. Most of the city’s premier attractions face the water, or are within a stone’s throw of the riverfront. The Tennessee Aquarium, rated one of the nation’s best, lets you glimpse into the underwater world of rivers, oceans, and seas. In addition to center city, the NorthShore Historic District and the Bluff View Art District bustle with shops, restaurants, museums and other attractions. Masterpieces spanning 300 years fill the Hunter Museum of American Art, which also displays some of the best views of the city, river, and surrounding mountains.
While you are in Chattanooga, you might take time to recall the events of 150 years ago during the Civil War. The Battles of Chattanooga in the fall of 1863 determined the course of the war in the western theater. More than 30 sites on the Pie in the Sky Trail relate to the area’s Civil War heritage.
Going west, drive to Jasper, South Pittsburg, and Monteagle. Stops to make include Jim Oliver’s Smoke House Restaurant, Monteagle Winery and the University of The South – Sewanee. The liberal arts college, resplendent in Gothic-inspired, Oxford-style architecture occupies woodland laced with garden paths.
You are at the doorstep of South Cumberland State Park, Tennessee’s largest wilderness park and home to dozens of waterfalls and 35 hiking trails. Nearby, the Lone Rock Coke Ovens are vestiges of Tracy City’s past when coal was king in this area. Three communities founded by Swiss immigrants prospered from the coal and railroads. Beersheba Springs attracted vacationers as early as 1839; remnants of this illustrious era are still visible.
Stone Door/Savage Gulf State Natural Area offers a short nature walk to Laurel Falls or a 1-mile hike to a rock formation that allows entrance into a gorgeous gorge. Your next stop is McMinnville with its handsome redbrick Warren County Courthouse, but then the natural wonders continue with Cumberland Caverns and Rock Island State Park. Here the Collins and Caney Fork Rivers come together and you can see the Great Falls tumbling into a limestone gorge. Fall Creek Falls State Park boasts deep chasms, cascades and a 256-foot waterfall, the highest in the Eastern United States.
You have a chance to enjoy the charming town of Pikeville before you amble north to
Cumberland Mountain State Park. On the outskirts of Crossville, you will encounter the Homesteads Historic District, a legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The farming settlement included 256 families.
It’s time to round the bend and make your way back toward Chattanooga, going through Spring City, Dayton, Dunlap, and Whitwell. The region is a tapestry of general stores, train depots, and craft shops. Not to be missed: Piney Falls State Natural Area, Scopes Trial Museum at the Rhea County Courthouse, Cookie Jar Café, and the Children’s Holocaust Memorial, situated in a German train car.
As you enter the Prentice Cooper State Forest and make your way to Walden’s Ridge and Signal Mountain, you wind through ancestral lands of Native Americans. So, it might come as a surprise to see the Spaceship House perched on the mountainside. This private residence, round as a flying saucer, was built in 1972.
Your last stop is the MoonPie General Store in the heart of Chattanooga. You can munch on the snack once known as the “Working Man’s Lunch” by coal miners who needed a snack “as big as the moon” to carry in their lunch pails. Nearly one million are produced every day in Chattanooga, thanks to the folks at the Chattanooga Bakery.
Have you gone for a ride on the Pie in the Sky Trail? Let us know your favorite stops in the comments!