By Alli Hill
A good run isn’t always about beating your best time. Sometimes, it’s about the journey as you push yourself in unprecedented ways. That’s the beauty of trail running. Speeding through the woods as you soak in the sights and sounds of Mother Nature, you never know what you’ll find. From slight ups and downs, to varied terrain and obstacles, to waterfalls and wildlife cheering you on, trail running is a unique experience that ensures every run is miles away from ordinary. If you’re ready to test your running skills like never before, check out these five awesome trail running spots in Tennessee.
Seasoned trail runners looking for a new challenge should head to the roughly eight-mile out-and-back Ramsey Cascades Trail. Rated as difficult, this strenuous trail climbs gradually until the last mile, where it sharply ascends to an amazing payoff—a beautiful view of the waterfalls. Going back down you’ll challenge your muscles even more to ensure you don’t lose your footing. It’s by far one of the best trails in the Smoky Mountains, and makes for an epic running experience.
Short and sweet, this under-one-mile trail leads directly to a lovely waterfall and rolling views of the hilly terrain. If you’re wanting to up the challenge, there are other inter-looping trails that can extend your run by several miles. It’s a desirable spot for those just getting into trail running, with few challenges and relatively easy terrain. Plus, you don’t have to work too hard or too long for the rewarding views.
If you love the thought of a trail run but don’t want to commit your entire day to one, head to the Benton Falls Trail. This easy 1.5-mile trail takes you to the gorgeous Benton Falls, where you can enjoy the view before your return. The hike itself is fairly simple, but after a recent rain you’ll want to use extra caution. However, if you want to see the falls at their finest, you’ll want to explore this trail after a decent rainfall. Either way, you’re guaranteed to get a good run, falls or no falls.
This 1.3-mile trail is also one of most scenic spots for trail running. You’ll glimpse multiple waterfalls as you’re rushing through, along with beautiful foliage (especially in the fall months), wildlife, and a river to make your run more enjoyable. The trail itself is relatively simple, no confusing markings or strenuous challenges. If you’re just getting into trail running, this is your spot.
This 11-mile loop travels throughout Cades Cove, a historic area known for its breathtaking scenery and wildlife sightings. The park features a one-way, unpaved road that’s open to vehicles, but is closed to all but foot traffic and bicycles before 10 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday morning. You won’t find much elevation change throughout the park, though there are a few slight hills, dips, and tight turns to add challenge to the distance. If you get there early, not only will you avoid traffic, you also have your best chance at spotting black bear, turkey, and deer.