Hiking through the dense forest of Frozen Head State Park is a singular experience, given that its 24,000 acres of northeastern Tennessee land feels as if it’s every bit as frozen in time as the mountains top is.
With no fewer than 18 trails from which to choose, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the kinds of hikes you can customize for yourself throughout the park. All forged on natural paths with varying degrees of difficulty, the park’s hiking trails are a network of unspoiled opportunities to experience Tennessee as it’s always been—before towns were settled and further developed into cities. Here, the challenging caprocks of Chimney Top Trail put even the most experienced hikers to the test without climbing gear, while others are easier on those who pass through, even if you’re a first-timer.
What Makes It Great
There’s something for every level of hiker in this expansive stretch of mountain beauty, and no two trails are quite alike.
Of the dozen and a half trails onsite, eight are considered easy, and range from 0.1 miles to 1.2 miles: Coffin Spring, Emory Gap, Judge Branch, Old Mac, Old Prison Mine, Panther Gap Rockhouse, as well as the visitors center and interpretive trails. Moderately intense trails range from 1.6 miles to 6.9 miles and include Fodderstack Mountain, North Old Mac, Panther Branch, South Old Mac, and both sides of the Lookout Tower Trail.
If you’re an experienced hiker ready to test your mettle, try the 6.6-mile Chimney Top Trail, the short but challenging Spicewood (2.5 miles), or either Bird Mountain trail (four and seven miles, respectively). Each has its charms and its challenges.
While hiking, don’t forget to look into the sky and the trees—Frozen Head is recognized by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area. Some birds stop in Frozen Head during migration, like the cerulean warbler, while others can be found along the creek in the spring and summer (Acadian flycatcher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, northern parula and yellow-throated warbler and Louisiana waterthrush). Others still can be found in the fields, and some prefer higher elevations. Even if you aren’t into birdwatching, with more than 130 documented species, your adventure will at least have it’s own natural soundtrack.
Who is Going to Love It
Given the menu of options, there’s something for everyone here, from beginners to diehard mountain climbers. If you like the hiking and birdwatching combo, you will be in heaven here.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the south, take Highway 27 North towards Wartburg; turn right onto Highway 62, travel two miles and turn left onto Flat Fork Road. In four miles, take the park entrance and follow the signs for parking.