Family-Friendly Hiking on Cherokee Lake

Looking for the perfect hiking experience for the whole family? You can do no better than this “two-fer” of trails at Cherokee Lake, loved by old and young and everyone in between.

Johnson Ridge Trail

It’s a short trail, for sure, but Johnson Ridge Trail in Johnson Ridge Small Wild Area is full of sights, sounds and diverse recreation opportunities sure to please weekend hikers, wildlife lovers and anglers. An added bonus: this trail has been completely refreshed and revamped over the last several years.

Johnson Ridge Trail is fairly flat, with a few rocks to scramble over and gentle hills along the way, offering a number of lakeside views throughout the Johnson Ridge Small Wild Area. It’s peaceful…the only “traffic noise” you’ll likely hear on this hike is that of boats on the move.

After the first half mile, the rambling pathway takes you through forests filled with pines, oaks and other hardwoods; a wetlands area; and past some rustic campsites.

And wildlife? You’ll probably spy white-tailed deer scampering away from your footsteps, or wild turkeys curious about your intent.

If you’re here on the weekend, you’ll likely see some shore-based fishermen trying their luck. That’s because Cherokee Lake is a fisherman’s dream, especially popular among those looking for a variety of fish…more than 32 different species have been recorded here, and can be caught along the 395 miles of shoreline and 29,560 acres of surface water (at full pool).

These aren’t just ANY fish, but some are RECORD fish…the Tennessee state record paddlefish was caught in Cherokee Lake in 2015, weighing in at 96 pounds—yes… 96 pounds, the size of a good-sized child (or small adult)! Additionally, sport fishing for smallmouth bass and trout is extremely popular in the Cherokee Dam tailwater area.

If you go: Johnson Ridge trail is off Hwy 25E about six miles north of Hwy 11E in Morristown, Tenn.
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.7-mile loop
Amenities: Parking, hiking, camping, hunting
Coordinates: 36.287309 -83.275857

Cherokee Cross Country Trail

Looking for a longer walk that won’t tax anyone in your party? Try the Cherokee Cross Country Trail. It offers views of the lake and dam, while providing access to the developed facilities and picnic areas at the dam reservation.

It’s built out into two loops and has a lovely paved section (about a mile long), which is perfect for strollers, wheelchairs and skaters. Off-road joggers and walkers will appreciate the rest of the trail, which is relatively flat and surfaced with crushed, packed gravel for stability.

If you go: Cherokee Cross Country Trail is on the Cherokee Dam Reservation, located about five miles north of Jefferson City, Tenn., Hwy. 92,
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.47-mile loop
Parking, hiking, restrooms, ADA accessible
Coordinates: 36.157059 -83.511711

Recreation season is here, which means it’s the prime time for fun on the Tennessee Valley’s lands and waters! Not sure where to start? We have you covered! Check out some of the best recreation activities on our reservoirs. While you’re enjoying the lakes, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds, share your adventures using #TVAfun on social media.

More TVA Trails

There are many easy, family-friendly hikes located on TVA lands throughout the Valley. Find more options on our TVA Trails page. There, you'll find maps, driving directions and information about trail use—including which ones you can explore via mountain bike or horseback.

Get Even Wilder

Would you rather forge your own trail own trail through wilder lands? You can walk freely in the woods on the nearly 293,000 acres of the undeveloped land TVA manages Valleywide as part of its mission of service. Learn more about this land—and see our Undeveloped Recreation Map—on our Recreation on Undeveloped TVA Public Lands page.