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Five Magnificent Scenic Drives/Areas to Experience in Tennessee

1. Cherohala Skyway. This National Scenic Byway, opened and dedicated in 1996, is a 43-mile adventure through southeastern Tennessee and southwestern North Carolina, which starts in Tellico Plains, about 75 miles northeast of Chattanooga, on TN HW 165 (and continuing on to NC HW 143). You'll drive through two national forests, the Cherokee in Tennessee and the Nantahala in North Carolina (thus the naming of the byway, Chero-hala), and be treated to mile-high vistas, wonderful waterfalls, the splendor of the national forests, abundant wildlife, and the beauty of the Tellico River. Must-see stops along the way include the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center, which offers maps, picnic tables, souvenirs, and clean restrooms; Bald River Falls, a 90-foot waterfall, off of Forest Road 210, just outside of Tellico Plains, which you can see from your vehicle or hike some into the river gorge above the falls; Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, a 3,800-acre remnant of the original Appalachian forest, with enormous trees standing 100 feet tall, some as old as 450 years, the largest stand of old growth trees in the eastern U.S., a memorial to the poet who wrote Trees; Indian Boundary Recreation Area, which offers picnicking and an 87-site campground surrounding a 96-acre lake, and includes hiking and biking trails. Other options are the Charles Hall Museum (located next to the visitor center), Falls Branch Falls (a short hike through the forest to a 55-foot cascade waterfall). Cherohala Skyway official site.

2. East Tennessee Crossing. This National Scenic Byway (HWY 25E) is an 83-mile route in northeast Tennessee that starts in Cumberland Gap and travels southeastward to the Cherokee National Forest, following the original path of the Cherokee Warriors Path, the Wilderness Road across the Clinch Mountain and the Cumberland Gap, the Dixie Highway of the mid-1800s, and Thunder Road of moonshining lore. Start at Pinnacle Rock at the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, where you'll enjoy stunning views of Cumberland Gap. This 20,508-acre park, so rich in American Indian, early pioneer, and Civil War history, offers lots of opportunities, including touring Gap Cave, the Hensley Settlement (an early 20th century Kentucky mountain community), and walking along the restored wagon path; hikers will also find 70 miles of trails. Continuing on the byway, visitors will experience mountains, presidential history, pioneer trails and trading posts, old railroad towns, and artisan communities full of culture. Stops should include the Abraham Lincoln Library & Museum in Harrogate, home to a large and diverse collection of Lincoln and Civil War artifacts; Bean Station, a much-used trading post that became a posh hot springs, and site of the Civil War's Battle of Bean Station; Newport, a beautiful and historic railroad town (Cincinnati, Cumberland Gap and Charleston Railroad), and home to excellent whitewater rafting; and the Martha Sundquist State Forest, a 2,001-acre forest surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest; and the Christy Mission, in Del Rio, the actual location of the book, plays, movie, and television series Christy are based.

3. Great River Road. This National Scenic Byway, which follows the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles, travels 185.5 miles through the entire western coast of Tennessee, beginning in Reelfoot Lake State Park, in the upper northwestern part of the state. The park is a great place to boat, fish, hike, bird-watch, and camp (including two campgrounds, with water, electric hookups), but the main attraction is the shallow 15,000-acre lake, the state's only large natural lake, which was created by a series of violent earthquakes in 1811-12 (the New Madrid earthquakes) that caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short period and flood a cypress tree forest; it is home to many shore and water fowl, including golden and bald eagles. To the north of the state park is the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, a 10,498-acre area designated to protect waterfowl, aquatic life, and other wildlife. Reelfoot is one of five refuges in western Tennessee (part of the West Tennessee national Wildlife Refuge Complex); the others are the Chickasaw, Lower Hatchie, Hatchie, and Lake Isom -- all along the byway. Also consider stopping at Fort Pillow State Park (preserves a Civil War battle and artifacts; on a bluff on Mississippi river; 1,642 acres; 32 camping sites), Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park (13 miles north of Memphis; 12,539 forested acres; Chickasaw Bluffs; nature center; hiking trails; 49 camp sites and cabins; disc golf course); TO Fuller State Park (urban park in south Memphis; 1,138 acres of picnic, trails, playing fields), and Graceland (former home of Elvis). Follow Hwy 78 south from Reelfoot until Dyersburg, where you get on Hwy 51 all the way to Memphis, where you pick up Hwy 61 to the Mississippi border.

4. Natchez Trace Parkway. The National Scenic Byway and All-American Road, which goes through three states (Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi) while roughly following the 440-mile "Old Natchez Trace," a historic travel and trade corridor used by many for thousands and thousands of years, including the Mississippian Culture, American Indians (Natchez, Choctaw, and Chickasaw), Kaintucks (rough frontiersmen), European settlers, slave traders, and soldiers and that travels some 86 miles in middle Tennessee, from joust outside of Nashville to the Alabama state line. Parts of the original trail are still accessible and some segments are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Starting in Pasquo, about 20 miles southwest of Nashville, off of TN HWY 100, follow the winding trail in a beautiful greenbelt at a pace slow enough (50 MPH maximum) to be able to stop and enjoy. Along the way, consider stopping at Devil's Backbone State Natural Area (950-acres of forest along the Highland Rim; 3-mile loop trail), Fall Hollow (hiking trail with wooden bridges leading to observation deck for Fall Hollow Waterfall), Swan View Overlook (where you can stop and see the water tower in Hohenwald, Tennessee, the highest town between New Orleans and Chicago), Laurel Hill Lake (fishing, picnicking, boating), and the Meriwether Lewis Memorial. A bit off the byway is Bowie Nature Park in Fairview (700 acres of forest and lakes; 17 miles of trails; nature center; treehouse playground). The entire byway crosses four ecosystems and eight major watersheds and is best traveled in the fall to experience the colors of the hickory, maple, and oak trees along the way. Natchez Trace Parkway official site.

5. Woodlands Trace. A 43-mile long north-south National Scenic Byway that runs along a ridge of land between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley and traveling through the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, from northwest Tennessee (13 miles) to western Kentucky (30 miles). Open year round, you'll either experience the blooming trees and flowers in spring, the green tree canopies during summer, brilliantly colored leaves in the fall, and clear views through the forest in winter. Camp, hike, boat, bike, off-road, and more. The byway begins as TN SR 49 at the intersection with US 79, on the west side of Dover. As you drive northward, you'll pass the remains of an old furnace, as well as the 1860s Homeplace (living history farm with animals, artifacts, and people conducting chores as in years past), but the big attraction is the 170,000-acre recreation area, which includes undeveloped forests, wetlands, open lands, miles of trails for all types of users, scenic roads with wildlife viewing areas, and large amounts of natural shoreline, as well as many boat ramps and campgrounds. While in the area, be sure and visit Fort Donelson National Battlefield, which preserves the remains of Fort Donelson (as well as Fort Heiman on the Kentucky side) and other fortified areas critical to the Civil War era, as well as the Fort Donelson National Cemetery.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.


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