By Alli Hill
There’s no better way to experience the great outdoors than a backpack camping trip. No distractions, no traffic or highway noise—just pure solitude as you enjoy the sounds of wildlife under a blanket of starry skies. Tennessee is chock full of primitive campsites that take you miles away from civilization and let you experience the world the way nature intended. After a trip to these five beautiful backpack camping sites in Tennessee, you may never want to go back to modern life.
One of the most beloved trails in Frozen Head State Park, the Chimney Top Trail presents a challenging hiking option for backpacking campers. The seven-mile trail features several backcountry camping spots along with gorgeous sweeping views of the valleys below. There are water sources prior to hopping on the Chimney Top Trail from the Spicewood Branch Trail but none once you reach the Mart Fields Campsite, so plan accordingly.
This trail is rated as difficult (even without a heavy backpack) but the beautiful Virgin Falls makes the trek worthwhile. There’s a campsite at the top of the falls that comes highly recommended. The trail also features several noteworthy areas to explore on your trip, including Sheep’s Cave and Big Laurel Falls. However, if you do venture to Sheep’s Cave, pay attention to the trail—it can be quite confusing as there is also an old logging trail here that’s often mistaken for the hiking trail!
This 10-mile hike has one of the most rewarding end views in the state. After about 1.3 miles you’ll see why this is one of the most popular hikes in the state. The trail is dotted with unique points of interest, including the famed Arch Rock and its namesake Alum Cave. Each of these makes a perfect resting point, though the real climb doesn’t begin until just after the cave. The trail takes you straight to the top of Mount LeConte, where you’ll find rustic camping cabins and amazing sweeping views. The hike back to civilization is a bit easier, as it’s all downhill.
This 15-mile section of the Appalachian Trail isn’t without its challenges, but the views from up high make each step worth it. Situated in the Cherokee National Forest, you’ve got your pick of campsites (provided it’s at least 100 feet from any water, trail, or recreational area). Begin your journey at Osborne Farm, then head to the Backbone Rock Recreation Area to make camp. You’ll have panoramic views of the Appalachians throughout your trek—truly a beautiful sight to behold.
This state natural area is a historic place to explore. The 2,259-acre area is home to the Laurel-Snow trail which was the first National Recreation Trail designated in the state of Tennessee. At Laurel-Snow, backpackers will be afforded views of deeply-cut gorges and cascading waterfalls. While it’s a great place for day hiking, spending a night or two is a wonderful way to really see it all. Be sure to get an overnight camping permit before you stay! Some of the hikes in the area can be moderately difficult, but will offer views unlike any other.