Top Place: Eastern Tennessee

Appalachians in Eastern Tennessee
Despite sharing a border with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, much of the wild forest in eastern Tennessee is still unprotected.

What is Eastern Tennessee?

Eastern Tennessee is home to the Cherokee National Forest and wilderness areas that dot the Cherokee’s highland slopes.  This wild area is part of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which straddles both western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

The Tennessee highlands are a great urban escape for city dwellers in Tennessee and North Carolina as well as visitors from elsewhere. Their cool, shady forests grant relief from increasingly hot eastern summers, as well as recreation opportunities for hikers and backcountry campers.

Wilderness in the eastern Tennessee highlands also protects clean water supplies for a growing number of nearby communities.

What is the one best thing about Eastern Tennessee?

The wilderness areas of the eastern Tennessee highlands protect what some call the “Amazon rainforest” of the Southern U.S. Visitors can camp among vibrant azalea blossom, and in the early summer the mountainsides blaze pink with rhododendron blooms.  

What’s one activity East Tennessee is known for?

Backcountry campingInside the Cherokee National Forest’s Sampson Mountain Wilderness area, five swift creeks pour out of the misty forest. Backcountry campers fall asleep to the sounds of gurgling brooks and hooting barred owls.

Interested in backcountry camping and urban escapes? Get insider tips.

What’s one way The Wilderness Society is working to protect eastern Tennessee?

By expanding wilderness areas. The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011 will give the 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest the highest level of wilderness protection.

It’s been 25 years since Congress granted this kind of protection to new wilderness areas in Tennessee. Yet, since then, more people have taken to enjoying backcountry camping and other wilderness activities in the area. More people also rely on this area for their drinking water.

These protections will help keep the eastern Tennessee highlands wild for generations to come.

Learn more about our work in Eastern Tennessee.


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