The Cherokee National Forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee, but lots of people don’t even know when they’re in it. This huge National Forest is home to some of the most beautiful wildlife and some of the most thrilling recreation activities. Here’s everything you need to know about the Cherokee National Forest:
Cherokee National Forest is located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and makes up almost the entire border between Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s composed of 650,000 acres of land that are separated into two sections, North and South of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The forest spans 10 counties in Tennessee and one county in North Carolina. The forest headquarters are located in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Opportunities for recreation in Cherokee National Forest are endless. The quick moving rivers are perfect for fishing for brown trout, brook trout, and stocked rainbow trout. The lakes in the forest are better for catching bass, bluegill, and crappie. There are over 600 miles of hiking trails in Cherokee National Forest, including 150 miles of the well known Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Horseback riding trails can be found in the Starr Mountain, Citico Creek, French Broad River, and Holston Mountain recreation zones. As far as water activities go, boating (both motorized and non-motorized), swimming, and tubing are permitted at various bodies of water throughout the forest. No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, the Cherokee National Forest has an opportunity for you.
Cherokee National Forest is home to over 20,000 species of plants and animals due to its massive size and diverse geography. Throughout the forest, you can find mammals like black bears, raccoons, coyotes, river otters, white tailed deer, and many more. The forest is home to reptiles including timber rattlesnakes, common snapping turtles, frogs, toads, and salamanders. If you’re going to one of the rivers or lakes in the Cherokee National Forest, make sure you take some goggles and a snorkel! Many visitors like to scope out the shallow waters or look into the deeper pools in hopes of spotting fish and turtles in their natural habitat. This activity is especially popular at the Conasauga River Blue Hole in the Southern section of the forest.
White Water Rafting
Perhaps what the Cherokee National Forest is most well known for is white water rafting. The forest is home to the Hiwassee River, as well as the famous Ocoee River. The rapids on the Ocoee range from class III to class V, and it’s a well known destination for kayakers and rafters alike. During the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, the upper section of the Ocoee River hosted the whitewater sports portion. Today, white water rafting is a popular activity for experienced rafters as well as newcomers to the area.
Whether you’re visiting Cherokee National Forest to unplug and get away from the busy world, or to have a thrilling outdoor adventure, this forest has plenty to offer. Check out white water rafting on the Ocoee River and plan your visit today!