Hiking in the Wild
Some of TVA’s hiking trails are on TVA’s designated Small Wild Areas…or, if you like, “where the wild things are.”
No, these lands aren’t inhabited by author Maurice Sendak’s wild creatures and a small boy in wolf costume. Rather, Small Wild Areas possess exceptional natural, ecological or scenic qualities. Think of them as wilderness conservation tracts in miniature…small natural gems set aside for protection from man’s interference.
Take for example the Lady's Bluff Small Wild Area at Kentucky Lake, near Linden, Tenn., (about 72 miles east of Jackson), which offers a scenic hike featuring limestone outcroppings, fresh-water springs, natural sink holes and spectacular views of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge’s Busseltown Unit on the opposite shore.
Wildflowers? Yep, abundant varieties include shooting star, trout lily, and wild ginger.
Wildlife? Definitely bring your binoculars. In a few months when fall arrives, the wildlife refuge becomes an annual resting point for thousands of waterfowl, thick with the loud calls of migrating geese and ducks. We’ve seen ring-neck ducks, American black ducks, mallards and bald eagles.
Hike Lady's Bluff Trail
Coordinates: 35.688261 -88.012921
Can't make it there? No worries. There are 15 other Small Wild Areas with trails for hiking. There's a good chance one's near you. They are:
Big Ridge Small Wild Area
Big Ridge TVA Small Wild Area is located on Chickamauga Dam Reservation in Hamilton County north of Chattanooga. The SWA is over 200 acres of mature upland hardwood forest; at least 60 acres being over 100 years old. A portion of the area is habitat for large-flowered skullcap (Scutelleria montana), a member of the mint family and listed as a threatened species.
Hike the Big Ridge Trail
Coordinates: 35.114542 -85.225150
Buck Island Small Wild Area
Buck Island Small Wild Area provides a relaxing walk through the woods for hikers, trail runners, bird watchers and other wildlife observers. This 250 acre area provides 2.2 miles of trails that wind past a wetland that provides birdwatching opportunities and through the hardwood forest providing views of Guntersville Reservoir. There are several varieties of wildflowers that are featured in the spring and fall including Spring beauty, trillium, cross vine and others.
Hike the Trotter Bluff Trail
Coordinates: 34.407111 -86.248846
Cave Mountain Small Wild Area
Cave Mountain Small Wild Area occupies about 34 acres on the south side of Guntersville Dam, has an abundance of flora and fauna, and is home to an important part of Civil War history. As the name implies, there is a cave on the property that was mined for saltpeter (a base ingredient in gunpowder) during the war.
Hike the Cave Mountain Trail
Coordinates: 34.418224 -86.405146
Fooshee Peninsula Small Wild Area
Fooshee Peninsula Small Wild Area is an 182-acre tract on Watts Bar Reservoir that has exceptional natural, scenic and aesthetic qualities. On the east side of the peninsula is a dry ridge forest of large white oaks and shagbark hickories. Brown Hollow, on the western edge of the area, is a moist forest of beeches and maples with a ground cover of ferns and wildflowers. The SWA provides habitat for wintering bald eagles and numerous other migratory birds, offering visitors a unique wildlife-viewing opportunity.
Hike the Fooshee Trail
Coordinates: 35.660961 -84.762489
Hall Bend Small Wild Area
Hall Bend Small Wild Area encompasses about 30 acres on Tellico Reservoir and is quite diverse in habitat. Within the SWA is a limestone bluff, a well-developed barrens plant community and upland hardwood forest. Barrens plant species include little bluestem grass, orange coneflower, asters and yucca with scattered eastern red cedar trees of considerable size.
Hike the Hall Bend Trail
Coordinates: 35.77396 -84.26659
Hemlock Bluff Small Wild Area
Hemlock Bluff Small Wild Area is a 78-acre area forested with hemlocks, white oak, beech and pine. It features scenic views of Norris Reservoir as well as a variety of wildflowers.
Hike the Hemlock Bluff Trail
Coordinates: 36.27004 -83.9677
Honeycomb Creek Small Wild Area
Honeycomb Creek Small Wild Area near Guntersville, Ala., is a 274-acre area that includes numerous limestone outcrops and is characterized by upland hardwoods and old growth, short leaf Virginia and loblolly pines. Sinkholes, caves and other karst features are also present.
Hike the Honeycomb Trail
Coordinates: 34.428602 -86.335264
Johnson Ridge Small Wild Area
Johnson Ridge Small Wild Area is approximately 100 acres in size and located on Cherokee Reservoir. It is comprised of various habitats; upland hardwoods cover most of the area, two wetlands are present and the ridge top is a dry pine-oak forest dotted with rock outcroppings. Part of the SWA is a Habitat Protected Area where Pursh’s wild petunia and American barberry grow—the latter is a protected species.
Hike the Johnson Ridge Trail
Coordinates: 36.287309 -83.275857
Little Cedar Mountain Small Wild Area
Little Cedar Mountain Small Wild Area is named for the red cedar in the forest on its limestone outcroppings and bluffs. This area, located on Nickajack Reservoir, consists of 320 acres forested with cedar, redbuds and post, red and blackjack oaks. It features boulder fields, rock walls, a wetland pond, cedar glades, a variety of wildflowers and scenic views of the reservoir.
Hike Little Cedar Mountain Trail
Coordinates: 35.030727 -85.581417
Norris Songbird Trail State Wildlife Observation Area
Norris Songbird Trail State Wildlife Observation Area is located below Norris Dam on the Clinch River and provides a variety of habitats (including riverine, old fields, bottomland hardwoods and grassy areas) for many songbirds—including a high concentration of eastern bluebirds breeding in the area. Osprey and bald eagles can occasionally be seen along the river. During the spring and summer, look for nesting eastern kingbirds, eastern peewees, great-crested flycatchers, white-eyed and yellow-throated vireos, gray catbirds, brown thrashers, blue-gray gnatcatchers, yellow-throated warblers and orchard orioles.
Hike Songbird Trail
Coordinates: 36.212261 -84.073753
Old First Quarters Small Wild Area
Spring wildflowers, woodland birds, rock steps and check dams built by the historic Civilian Conservation Corps are just part of the 25 acre Old First Quarters Small Wild Area managed by TVA. The name “First Quarters” refers to a WWI building complex that housed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers troops who constructed Wilson Dam.
Hike Old First Quarters Trail
Coordinates: 34.780341 -87.655159
River Bluff Small Wild Area
River Bluff TVA Small Wild Area is located on Norris Dam Reservation in Anderson County along the Clinch River. Composed of 125 acres of rich, mixed mesophytic forest on steep north-facing slopes, this area harbors a rich assemblage of wildflowers including several rare species.
Hike River Bluff Trail
Coordinates: 36.220442 -84.095179
Trotter Bluff Small Wild Area
Trotter Bluff Small Wild Area encompasses about 30 acres and is characterized by a mature, upland hardwood forest. The bluff itself is a 400-foot cliff that overlooks the French Broad River. In spring the ground is covered in wildflowers, including phlox, wild ginger, Solomon’s seal, hearts-a-bustin’, bloodroot and jack-in-the-pulpit.
Hike Trotter Bluff Trail
Coordinates: 35.957551 -83.537505
Whites Creek Small Wild Area
Whites Creek Small Wild Area is located on one of the least-developed reaches of Watts Bar Reservoir. The 1,721-acre tract has great natural and scenic attributes with its high ridges and deeply cut, verdant ravines, its bluffs and secluded bays bordering on the reservoir. Flora in the SWA include fire pink, jack-in-the-pulpit, pussytoes, hog peanut and false foxglove. There’s a native holly grove at the trailhead.
Hike Whites Creek Trail
Coordinates: 35.957551 -83.537505
Worthington Cemetery Cedar Barrens Small Wild Area
Worthington Cemetery Cedar Barrens Small Wild Area on Melton Hill Reservoir near Oak Ridge, Tenn., is 26 acres of barrens, wetlands pines, cedar thicket and is home to a small cemetery. It is also an Ecological Study Area, where local schools conduct outdoor classrooms. Over 125 species of birds have been identified here. Cedar barrens are uncommon in east Tennessee, making this SWA a unique environment for this part of the state.
Hike Worthington Cemetery Trail
Coordinates: 36.04781 -84.207069
It’s always a good 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 recreational activities on our reservoirs. While you’re enjoying the lakes, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds, share your own stories and photos on Instagram using #TVAfun.
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More TVA Trails
Wildflowers and wildlife thrive throughout the Tennessee Valley. Discover more options for trails to find them 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
If Small Wild Areas sound too tame for you, perhaps you'd like to forge your own trail through even wilder lands. You can walk freely in the woods on the about 230,000 acres of 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.