Roan Mountain State Park – Roan Mountain, Tennessee
For scenic views of the Blue Ridge mountains and the Appalachian trail, look no further than Roan Mountain State Park and the Cherokee National Forest. With numerous dog-friendly trails and no shortage of spectacular 360-degree vantage points, this area feels like a true escape from reality.
Some of our favorite hiking spots include Carver’s Gap, Round Bald, and Elk River Falls. Since a lot of trails are connected in this area, you can hike anywhere from 1.5 up to 8+ miles out and back, depending on how you are feeling that day! The AllTrails app is very helpful in navigating different trailheads near the mountain.
Roan Mountain is home to the largest natural Catawba rhododendron gardens in North America with blooms peaking in June, making that a very popular time to visit. We chose to visit in March to have some fun in the snow with the dogs! Due to the high elevation, the weather could be in the 50’s at the base of the mountain and drop below 20 degrees up near Carver’s Gap at 5,823ft. I would always recommend checking the weather at higher elevations so that you can pack appropriate clothing for your hike!
South Cumberland State Park – Monteagle, Tennessee
South Cumberland State Park is a hiking destination! Every time we visit, we find new trails and areas to explore. There are trail options available for hikers of every skill level – from beginner to advanced, making it a great place to visit with family, friends, and dogs. If you enjoy camping, this is a perfect weekend spot to pitch a tent and experience the nature of middle Tennessee.
Some of our favorite areas within this park are Fiery Gizzard/Sycamore Falls (3 miles), Greeter Falls (1.5 miles), and Foster Falls (5 miles). We enjoy packing a lunch and spending some time down near the waterfall to cool off in the summer with the dogs.
Tip: Especially during the summer months, it is best to start these hikes early to avoid the crowds and the heat. I would recommend wearing supportive hiking boots, as you will encounter some bouldering rocks on your descent down to the waterfalls that can be slippery. I like to pack some type of water shoes in my backpack (think Chaco’s) so that you can enjoy the water without having to hike back up with wet socks!
Machine Falls – Tullahoma, Tennessee
Just a short drive southeast of Nashville lies the Short Springs State Natural Area, home of Machine Falls. This was one of our first hikes upon moving to Tennessee and we continue to go back and gush over the beautiful falls. The versatility of this area allows you to go for an easy hike to the falls (1.6 miles) or you can complete the loop and explore the rest of the area to hike up to 4 miles.
Our dogs absolutely love swimming and splashing in the pool below the waterfall. Unlike some other major waterfall hikes in Tennessee, one side has natural stairs which makes it manageable for the dogs with minimal boulder scrambles. There are also some smaller creeks and trails that branch off of the main path, which can be fun to explore if the main trail is a bit crowded.
I would recommend visiting this trail during the off season (November-April), as it is much less crowded than the summer months and very enjoyable to spread out with the dogs! Definitely make sure to build time in to sit and relax down by the waterfall to enjoy the view – even pack a lunch (with some tasty EarthBites for your pup!)
Tennessee is full of adventure that is waiting for you to explore! Whether you are hiking up to a mountain peak or down to the base of a waterfall, you are bound to enjoy the beautiful scenery of our state. Enjoy the time spent hiking with your dog and remember to leave no trace!