As you are driving along the back roads of Tennessee you will notice quilt squares ( 4’ x 4’ or 8’ x 8’ wooden squares painted to look like a quilt square) on the side of buildings and bridges. These squares make up the Appalachian Quilt Trail. The trail will take you on a backroads adventure among a patchwork of blue mountains and green hills, rolling farmland, lakes, and meandering rivers, rocky ridges and fast-moving streams. As you explore the trail, you many encounter century farms and barns where rugged Tennessee pioneers helped forge a new nation out of a wild land.
The trail in Tennessee extends from the deep mists of the Great Smoky Mountains to the blue ridges of the Cumberland Plateau, and is bisected by the ecologically diverse Clinch River, as well as the Holston, the French Broad and the Tennessee Rivers. Take a hike, ride the rapids, stop for hand-pressed cider or fine Tennessee wines… Soak away stress in a natural hot spring… Browse for handcrafted gifts, learn some folklore, or tap your toes to great local music… After an afternoon spent touring the rural and mountain side-roads, you may come away with a stronger impression of the culture and heritage of the region and places that have remained relatively unchanged for centuries. Even if it’s close to home, the Appalachian Quilt Trail is miles from ordinary and truly Tennessee.
Nestled in the Cumberland Mountains, the Devil’s Triangle is 45 miles of twist and turns. There are some straight aways alongside pastures fields but there are also steep switchback curves. You will experience approximately 1,000 feet in elevation change. It is the perfect trail to explore the rural mountains of East Tennessee.
Highlights of the trail include Brushy Mountain Prison which housed James Earl Ray, assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, until his death in 1998. The prison is also the only prison to have a natural wall, the side of the mountain, as one of the prison walls.
You can also see Tennessee’s only windmill farm on top of Buffalo Mountain which is located on the Coal Creek OHV Area. The trail takes you deep in the heart of East Tennessee’s mining country. Many of the miners that lived and died in the area fought in the Coal Creek War, was involved in the Fraterville Mine Disaster or the Cross Mountain Mine Disaster in some way.
The Cumberland Gap is the most important pieces of land in settlement of the South because is the lowest point in the Cumberland Mountains where the states of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia all meet. It may not seem so significant today but when people had to walk or take a horse to get from Point A to Point B, this relatively flat trail was the easiest way to get through the mountains. It was, therefore, the path that early settlers took to the Southern States. An estimated 300,000 people walked, rode, or were carried through the Cumberland Gap between 1760 and 1850.
The Settlement of the South Trail will take you through Cumberland Mountains, the heart of Appalachia and transport you back to a time when survival depended on hard work, ingenuity and sheer determination.
The Top Secret Trail features hidden secret among the scenic wilds of the Upper Cumberland Plateau. Immerse yourself in early Knoxville history by touring Blount Mansion, James White Fort and Bleak House, General Longstreet’s 1863 Battle of Knoxville headquarters.
From Knoxville, travel to the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge, the historic site of the Manhattan Project. While in Oak Ridge, be sure to visit the largest exhibition of energy-related exhibits in the United States at the American Museum of Science and Energy.
Another must-see is the rare “utopian community” of historic Rugby, founded in the late 1800s by British social reformer Thomas Hughes. Though Rugby only thrived for a short while as a utopian community, it survives today as a fascinating historic site unspoiled by modern development.
For scenic adventure, paddle among breathtaking sandstone bluffs at Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. Finish your Top Secret adventure with a visit to the Appalachian Arts Crafts Center to observe working artists as they create their fine art and Tennessee inspired crafts.
The White Lightning Trail is peppered with moonshine exhibits, Victorian Homes, Civil War sites, scenic overlooks, famous factories and post-prohibition stock car speedways. There’s something worth seeing at every turn of the White Lightning Trail.
A picturesque drive through the fertile valleys and rustic charm of the Tennessee hills. After leaving the city limits, you’ll pass through the Great Smoky Mountains into historic country music — Maynardville — home to country music greats like Chet Atkins and Roy Acuff. Heading north, you’ll travel along the same route that rebel bootleggers used to transport their forbidden whisky. Imagine the thrill of the bootleggers’ chase, careening through the jagged mountains of the Upper Cumberland Region while outmaneuvering the long arm of the law.
After winding through ranges, roads and highways you’ll come to Norris. Here, you can stroll through historic structures filled with thousands of quilts, instruments, artifacts and furnishings at the Museum of Appalachia. Next, re-trace the steps of Daniel Boone, and breathe the same pure air that our settlers did at Cumberland Gap National Park. This part of the trail follows the actual wagon trail of the original Appalachian settlers. You can still sense their excitement — coming to a new land seeking freedom, opportunity and happiness.