If you’re like me, the best therapy is getting out on a new trail. The fresh air and challenge of a strenuous hike leaves me feeling refreshed and energized. Being able to complete the trail with a bubbly dog is also infectious.
I’m from and live in Florida, so not the best hiking around here! I went on the hunt for an excellent place to road-trip to that was also dog friendly. I landed on visiting the Tennessee State Parks. Not only are they dog friendly, but each park has free entry. Perfect for a budget trip!
I booked a room at a Red Roof Inn in Manchester, Tennessee. It was a basic room and a popular truck stop location because of its proximity to the interstate, but they allow dogs to stay for free. Typically, hotels charge between $25-$75+ per night for an animal, so this was a huge saving for my stay. Because I planned to be out and about for most of the day, I did not mind staying in a no-frills hotel. It was a bed to sleep in at the end of the day.
Here is my dog-friendly hiking itinerary:
Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park
732 Stone Fort Dr, Manchester, TN 37355
A quick 10-minute drive away from the Manchester Red Roof Inn is Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park. The Old Stone Fort was built 1,500 to 2,000 years ago by Native Americans. The site was used as a ceremonial gathering place for about 500 years but eventually was abandoned. There are several trail options in the park, with Old Stone Fort Loop being a popular one. The trail is 2.8 miles long, takes approximately 1.5 hours, and is rated as easy.
The park contains several waterfalls, with Blue Hole Falls and Big Falls being the most popular. When the weather heats up, this area is a great place for a swim.
Percy Warner Park
50 Vaughn Rd, Nashville, TN 37221
Just outside of Downtown Nashville is Percy Warner Park. The park contains 7 trails, both paved and dirt paths. I thoroughly enjoyed Warner Woods Trail, a 2.8-mile partially paved loop trail that is also a perfect option if you want to stay in the shade. The trail takes just under 1.5 hours.
Nashville at Warner Woods Trail, a 1 hour and 15-minute drive from Manchester.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
2009 Village Camp Rd, Spencer, TN 38585
An hour and 15 minutes from the hotel is Fall Creek Falls State Park. This was one of my favorite parks because of the beauty of the trails and unique waterfalls. This park can easily be a multi-day adventure with 26,000 acres to explore.
Fall Creek and Coon Creek Falls via Base of the Falls Trail is a 0.8-mile out-and-back trail that brings you to a stunning gorge where the waterfall is located. This trail takes approximately 30 minutes. Don’t be fooled by the short distance, the hike does require good balance as you aren’t on a flat path for most of the trail but rather navigating rocky slopes on a 300 ft descent. Even with good hiking boots on, I did slip and fall once! The trail brings you under a large rock overhang, which was something I’d never seen before. At the bottom of the trail is a magical view of Fall Creek Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States, at 256 feet.
The next trail, Gorge Overlook and Woodland Trails (2.9 Miles) was unfortunately closed the day I visited because of repairs needed on the suspension bridge. It is still one of the highest-rated trails for Fall Creek Falls State Park, which is why I’ve included it. Instead, I was able to park at the Betty Dunn Nature Center, right by the start of Gorge Overlook and Woodland Trails, and take a short trail down to Cane Creek Falls. Behind the Nature Center is a set of steep stairs that brought me down to a smaller waterfall, Cane Creek Falls, and the river that leads to Cane Creek Cascades.
Fall Creek Falls State Park offers even more amenities with cabins and a newly built lodge. Pets are allowed for an additional fee.
Managed by Fall Creek Falls State Park but a short drive away is Lost Creek Falls & Cave Trailhead (0.3 Miles). The trail is rated as easy and takes less than 10 minutes to arrive at the waterfall. Across from the waterfall is an intricate cave that can only be entered if you have a permit. When I visited, several spelunkers were coming out of the cave which was eerily covered in fog. Being from Florida, this was such a different sight to see.
Rock Island State Park
82 Beach Road Rock Island, Tennessee 38581
Twin Falls and Downstream Trail (1.6 Miles) is an easy trail that takes about 45 minutes. The main attraction is actually at the start of the trail. The remainder of the trail gives different viewpoints of the falls and the river. The waterfall is LOUD and sure to impress every visitor. Swimming is prohibited because of how fast the currents are. Rock Island State Park is 45 minutes from Manchester.
Prentice Cooper State Forest
3998 Game Reserve Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37405
Snoopers Rock Trail (4.9 Miles) is a moderately rated hike that takes just over 3 hours to complete. The trail showcases one of the best views of the Tennessee River Gorge. The trail is not marked the best and ticks can be excessive in the thicker brush, so if you’re up for an easier option, you can drive almost right up to the lookout point by continuing past the first parking lot area. I recommend a crossover or truck because there are some dips in the road that can catch some smaller cars. Snoopers Rock is the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon picnic with a stunning view. Be sure to check the State Forest website for any closures that are upcoming due to hunting.
Prentice Cooper State Forest is 1 hour and 15 minutes from Manchester.
1289 Rutledge Falls Rd, Manchester, TN 37355
Rutledge Falls (0.2 Miles) is an easy trail that is located on private property less than 15 minutes from the Manchester Red Roof Inn. Parking is located at the Rutledge Falls Baptist Church and entry is allowed from dusk to dawn.
The waterfall is a fantastic place for swimming but be aware that there can be some large crowds. When I arrived close to 6 PM, the falls were still very busy. There is a bit of a steep path down to the water so continue to wear good shoes with traction!
South Cumberland State Park
7608, 11745 US Hwy 41, Monteagle, TN 37356
South Cumberland State Park is located 25 minutes from Manchester and is one of Tennessee’s newer state parks. It boasts over 90 miles of unique trails and is sure to impress.
I started with Grundy Day and Fiery Gizzard Loop Trail (3 Miles), rated as a moderate hike that takes about 1.5 hours. We had the trail almost entirely to ourselves, but that doesn’t seem to be the case typically. About halfway through the loop, there is an option to veer off to Sycamore Falls, which adds approximately 1.2 miles to the trail. The loop has several great spots to soak in the crisp water or let your pup play.
Next, I ventured to Foster Falls Small Wild Area Loop (1.6 Miles), another moderate hike that takes 40 minutes to complete. This trail is much more climbing down rocks than a regular dirt path, so wear shoes with a good grip. It is very steep! If you have a dog with you, it may be hard to hold onto the leash while navigating the rocks. I found that my dog enjoyed the challenge of navigating the rocks and because we practically had the trail to ourselves, he was able to do this off-leash. Once past the steep rocks, there is a neat bridge that leads to Foster Falls. This area is fantastic for a swim if the water isn’t too cold for you!
My last stop in South Cumberland State Park was Stone Door Trail (1.8 Miles), rated as easy, but don’t let that fool you; it will still get your heart pumping. The trail takes approximately 50 minutes to complete. The first quarter-mile of the trail is paved and a great option for wheelchairs and strollers. After this, the trail continues as a dirt path. The path brings breathtaking views of the mountains and eventually leads to a unique stone staircase, something I’ve never seen before! The staircase made this trail one of my all-time favorites.
Bee Rock Overlook
1420 Bee Rock Rd #3253, Monterey, TN 38574
Bee Rock Overlook (0.7 Miles) is an easy trail that takes only 20 minutes to explore, although you might want to sit and admire the view for a bit longer. The trail recently became public property but is still a great option to stay away from the big crowds. The trail is located an hour and a half from Manchester.
Burgess Falls State Park
4000 Burgess Falls Dr, Sparta, TN 38583
Burgess Falls Trail (1.1 Miles) is rated as an easy trail and can be completed in 35 minutes. This trail leads across several waterfalls, with the final waterfall on this trail cascading over 130 feet down into the gorge. Pictures do not do this waterfall justice! This area was home to Native Americans and used as a hunting ground until the 19th century when mills started operating along the river. In the early 1900s, the river was used to generate hydroelectric power for the city. The park is located less than 1 hour and 15 minutes from Manchester.
Although this does not cover all the fantastic dog-friendly hiking options in Tennessee, hopefully, this gives you a good itinerary and some inspiration!
Map of Stops
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