Just so you know, the trail goes straight up the mountain.
Starr Mountain literally does just that. Many people think it's metaphoric -- until they hit the trail. Only when their legs are sore and their breath is coming in short gasps do they grasp the truth in this warning. The trail indeed goes straight up the mountain.
But don't let the climb deter you: Starr Mountain is a Tennessee gem.
The trail is barely a mile one way, but it climbs steadily with no switchbacks to ease the ascent. A third of the way up is a charming waterfall. It's small, but runs consistently and makes a nice stop if you're already itching for a break. Take the trail to the right and be prepared to scramble up rocks and trudge through mud. Two-thirds of the way in, the trail flattens out on a rocky ridge and it appears you have reached the top - but not yet! Stay on the trail and hike a little farther. When the path emerges to the true top, you'll know it. The view is guaranteed to take your breath away, and not just because of the climb.
What Makes It Great
There are rarely crowds and the views from the summit give you a top-of-the-world feel. Once on top of the ridge there is ample opportunity to explore.
If you're looking for an overnight trip, the Hiwassee Ocoee State Park Campground makes a good home base. For the best Starr Mountain experience, bring a sleeping bag and hammock to the top and camp out there. Befitting the name, clear nights reveal a starry canopy. Be sure to wake up early as the sun rising over the valley is a sight that shouldn't be missed.
Who is Going to Love It
Those looking for a break from crowded lookouts will enjoy the solitude of Starr Mountain. The climb up offers a challenge, but is short enough that the less-experienced can still manage.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get there, take I-75 to Cleveland then head east on highway 64. Turn north on highway 411 and follow the road until you see signs for Hiwassee Ocoee State Park. Take a right on Spring Creek road and follow it past the campground and onto the gravel. There's no sign for Starr Mountain, but there is a small pull-off on the left side of the road that you can park 2-3 cars in. Cross the railroad tracks and join the trail, which runs parallel to Coffee Branch Creek.