An autumn scene along the East Lakeshore Trail on Tellico Lake. (Photo: Contributed)

When fall brings spectacular colors to the trees of the Tennessee Valley, it’s prime time for hiking. Here are four suggested fall hikes on Tennessee Valley Authority trails, all located within a one-and-a-half-hour drive or so of downtown Chattanooga.

East Lakeshore Trail
Certified as a National Recreation Trail, this 28.8-mile network of 11 interconnecting segments runs along the shoreline of Tellico Lake. Numerous bridges cross streams and coves, one being 15 feet high and 85 feet long. Beaches, bluffs, boardwalks and benches invite you to pause to take in the scenery. Campsites are available along the trail, with numerous opportunities for primitive camping, if you want to stay overnight. Trail segments range from 1.4 miles to 5 miles in length, and most are appropriate for every hiker. View a map of the East Lakeshore Trail here.


Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Distance: 1.4–5 miles
Find it: Take exit 81 off I-75, turning east onto Highway 321, then right onto Highway 95 near Greenback, Tennessee
Coordinates: 35.77813, -84.24256

Honeycomb Trail
The recently restored Honeycomb Trail offers stunning views of TVA public lands along Guntersville Lake from five bluff overlooks. The 9.3-mile trail is open for both hiking and biking, and traverses varied terrain through the woods and along the shoreline. You can start from a parking lot at one trailhead or Honeycomb Campground at the other. The trail passes through three natural areas, so classified because of their sensitive plants or animals or because of their old-growth timber. Exploring the woods along Honeycomb Trail, you might discover a derelict moonshine still or the 19th-century Honey Cemetery.

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult (for length)
Distance: 9.3 miles
Find it: Off Highway 431 about 18 miles north of Guntersville, Alabama; secondary trailhead outside Honeycomb Campground on Highway 431
Coordinates: 34.428602, -86.335264

Big Ridge Trail
This semiurban trail is in Chattanooga, just on the north side of Chickamauga Dam. TVA protected this area specifically because of its old-growth forest, which includes several species of oaks, yellow poplar and shagbark hickory. The moderately difficult 1.3-mile loop was created in conjunction with the Boy Scouts and is accessed through the city of Chattanooga’s Greenway Farm park.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.3-mile loop
Find it: Off Hamill Road, approximately a mile east of Highway 153 in Hixson
Coordinates: 35.114542, -85.225150

Whites Creek Trail
The secluded Whites Creek Trail on Watts Bar Lake offers solitude and a bit of a challenge. The moderately difficult 3-mile loop traverses hardwood-forested ridge tops and hushed valleys, vibrant with color in fall. Stone and wooden steps help make the steepest inclines easier. Birds are abundant, making this a great destination for those who love to hear nature as well as see it. Come back in spring to see a variety of wildflowers, including fire pink, jack-in-the-pulpit, pussytoes, hog peanut, false foxglove and more.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3-mile loop
Find it: Just east of Highway 27 between Spring City and Rockwood, Tennessee
Coordinates: 35.762211, -84.762352

Watch your step
While beautiful, autumn leaves can pose problems. Especially on steeper slopes, leaves can get slippery. They can also hide hazards.

“Leaves can cover many surprises, such as holes, roots, rocks and nuts, which can cause you to stumble and fall,” TVA natural resources watershed representative Melinda Watson said.

If leaves prevent you from seeing the ground, take care to maintain your footing.

Other TVA trails
Click here to find other TVA trails to explore—more than 40—on TVA’s trails page. Find the best spots on TVA public land to hike, bike or ride horses, and get directions and view trail maps.