Deep in the Eastern Highland Rim sits Edgar Evins State Park, a beautiful expanse of hillside splendor with plenty of room to explore. Half a dozen hiking trails range from a 0.1-mile cemetery path to a rigorous 5.5-mile loop trail traversing a steep ridge, in a mixed hardwood forests filled with buckeye, hickory, oak, tulip poplar, and wild cherry, among other tree species. As if that wasn’t enough beauty, the park is bisected rather spectacularly by the sprawling arms of Center Hill Lake.
What Makes It Great
The park’s lakefront, hillside location make for a diverse array of terrain along its six hiking trails. The shortest path traces the .1-mile perimeter of a small cemetery where a former resident and his family were laid to rest, and the .5-mile Evins Ridge Trail and 1-mile Marina/Campground Trail are solid warmups for the park’s grandest explorations. The longer trails at the park include the 2-mile Highland Rim Loop Trail, covered in wildflowers every spring, the 2.5-mile Millennium Loop Trail, and the piece de resistance—the 5.5-mile Merritt Ridge Loop Trail.
The latter two (Millennium and Merritt Ridge) share a trailhead and can be combined via a connector trail to make an 8-mile adventure that dips down to the lake, passes several old homesteads, snakes back into the forest, and travels across a very steep ridge with staggering views.
Don’t forget to look around while you’re breaking a sweat, because the park is known for an abundance of wildlife year-round. Owls, eagles, and hawks can occasionally be seen among the hardwoods. Look for the cerulean warbler in the summer, which is uncommon in other parts of the state, but is regularly spotted at Edgar Evins.
Who is Going to Love It
These trails are mostly meant for intermediate to advanced hikers, and they will love the fairly rigorous, but rewarding routes. That being said, the Campground/Marina Trail is considered easy/moderate, so would be a good option for less-experienced hikers to get in a solid workout.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Nashville, follow I-40 East to TN-96 S, which becomes Edgar Evins State Park Road as it enters the park. Follow signs for parking. You must register to hike the Millennium and/or Merritt Ridge Loop Trails.