Top Secret Trail reveals Tennessee’s hidden charms
Wanna know a secret?
Tennessee is home to some of the best-kept ones around including having its own “Secret City.” The state wants to let you in on its exclusive destinations, which is where Top Secret Trail comes in, one of the 16 Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways self-guided driving trails. It has 111 stops within Knox, Anderson, Campbell, Overton, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Clay, Roane, and Pickett counties. Historic characters in fascinating towns and natural destinations where not a soul can be found for miles are all wrapped up in the musical soundtrack of the mountains which will keep your curiosity roaring and your vehicle’s wheels moving. So what are you waiting for? Grab a map, fill up the tank and head out to discover what lies beyond the hills and hollows.
You may not expect a Moonshine Exhibit to be located at a Hampton Inn which is why this destination in Caryville is perfect for the Top Secret Trail. Visit one of the United States’ Top 10 Hampton Inns where llamas roam along the lake and the true story of East Tennessee bootleggers is told through authentic decor and memorabilia.
Did you hear that? If the sound of something like a bugle rings through the mountains as you’re traveling along Elk Valley, chances are it’s just the area living up to its name. Home to a populous elk community, Elk Valley hosts a curvy mountain drive suitable for cars or motorcycles that takes you through the lush farming valley of the Cumberland Mountains. You can take the trail straight to Jellico or you can hop back onto Top Secret for more exploration.
Stretch your legs by hiking, biking, and exploring the 4,000-acre Norris Dam State Park where scenic valleys, sparkling streams, and wildflower trails can be found.
Big South Fork National River & Recreational Area encompasses 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau and is a great destination for thrill seekers. Whatever your mode of transportation whether it’s horseback riding, paddling or mountain biking, you’ll find it all available at Big South Fork.
Stop and smell the flowers, literally at Frozen Head State Park. With 24,000 acres, the park is home to some of the richest wildflower areas around. It also is home to one of the highest peaks measuring at approx. 3,300 feet. Choose your pace to see waterfalls and rock shelters. You can also choose to plan a camping trip or enjoy a picnic lunch.
Oak Ridge is considered Tennessee’s “Secret City.” Why? Back in 1942, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bought 59,000 acres of farm land in Oak Ridge. A city cropped up in the hopes to develop a technology that would end World War II. It became the largest community for the Manhattan Project, reaching a population of 75,000 and became Tennessee’s fifth largest city in two and a half years. Learn more about this secret city, shop at the quaint stores and enjoy Southern cooking.
Travel to Scott County where the Museum of Scott County is located. The museum, located on the campus of Scott High School, is the only one of its kind in the U.S. as it is built, managed and curated by students. Impressive exhibits teach visitors about heritage, World War II, coal mining and more. The Battleship Museum, a memorial to the U.S.S. Tennessee, a petting zoo, children’s museum and cabins can also be viewed.
What are some of your favorite stops along Top Secret? Let me know in the comments below!