Benton MacKaye Trail | Tennessee Vacation

Benton MacKaye Trail

Dept. of Environment & Conservation
Nashville, TN 37243
Contact Email:
615- 532-0109

With thousands of miles of hiking trails throughout Tennessee, there are plenty of options to choose from if you want to take a hike. These choices include 90 miles of the Benton MacKaye Trail, the trail named after the father of the Appalachian Trail.

Until 2005, the northern terminus of the Benton MacKaye Trail was in the Cherokee National Forest at the Ocoee River in southeast Tennessee. But the volunteers with the Benton MacKaye Trail Association had a grander vision. They wanted to extend the trail all the way to the northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a place known as Davenport Gap. Their dream was realized in 2005.

Today, the Benton MacKaye Trail stretches nearly 300 miles from Georgia to North Carolina. Over 90 miles of the trail can be found in the Volunteer State. The segment in Tennessee is arguably some of the wildest on the entire trail, as it passes through or is adjacent to four different existing federal wilderness areas and three wilderness study areas.

In the southeast corner of the state, the Benton MacKaye Trail enters the Big Frog Wilderness in Tennessee. The Cohutta-Big Frog Wilderness complex is the largest U.S. Forest Service wilderness area in the east. The trail eventually emerges from the woods on the south side of the Hiwassee River in the town of Reliance. After crossing the river, the trail follows the John Muir Trail heading northeast. This trail is named after the famed conservationist who walked through Tennessee in 1867 on his way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Leaving the Hiwassee drainage, the trail continues north. Near the small community of Coker Creek, the Benton MacKaye Trail connects with one of North America’s oldest known trails, the Unicoi Turnpike. Native Americans once used this trail as part of a commerce route.

If you are interested in getting out and experiencing the Benton MacKaye Trail, you’ll want to visit the Benton MacKaye Trail Association website. The trail is maintained by volunteers. For more information about the trail, please visit

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