Hiking Close to Home: for Beginners and Intermediates

The epicenter for outdoor activity in southeast Tennessee is only a short, twenty-minute drive from Lee University. Chilhowee Mountain begins at the base of Parksville Lake, fed by the Ocoee River.

Chilhowee Mountain is home to seven-acre McCamy Lake and multiple hiking trails suitable for any type of hiker.

For the beginning hiker, it is important to start on an easy trail, such as Forest Walk Trail No. 130. This is a short, slightly inclining trail with a low degree of difficulty. Forest Walk Trail No. 130 makes a loop that overlooks McCamy Lake and is clearly marked, thereby minimizing the chance of hikers getting lost. The trail is comprised of mostly dirt, with minimal rocks, and one small, but sturdy, bridge. 

For any hiker, it is important to be equipped and dressed appropriately. Patagonia Baggies shorts for men, women, and kids are not constricting, repel water, dry quickly, and include SPF50 sun protection, making them ideal for hiking and cooling off in McCamy Lake. 

The most important apparel to consider is footwear when hiking on slopes, wet leaves, or slick rocks. If you're considering hiking during the Summer months and taking a dip in McCamy Lake after your hike, consider Chaco sandals with a heel strap and toe loop, or the waterproof Keen Uneeks. The soles are durable and provide aggressive traction. 

In cooler weather, or for a closed-toe option, Salomon's X Mission trail shoe offers great grip, support, and tough technical features while maintaining the appearance of a classy, casual tennis shoe. The X Mission is a fantastic option for an easy trail. However, as you progress into harder hiking trails, we recommend a sturdy, waterproof boot with optimal arch and ankle support. 

Slickrock trail, a short distance away from Forest Walk Trail No. 130, offers experienced hikers the challenge of a narrow, slightly overgrown path with a medium-grade incline and abundant small-to-medium sized rocks. Hikers reaching the top of the mountain are rewarded with the surprising view of a beautiful, grassy field. The trail to the right side of the field leads to Slickrock trail's long loop, a total trail length of 5.1 miles. 

For a shorter hike of 1.8 miles, veer to the left of the field to catch the express exit back to the easy Benton Falls Trail, which can be taken back to McCamy Lake and the parking area. 

A few basics for all hikers to consider bringing along on their trip:

  • Plenty of water; also consider a lightweight water filtration system, such as LifeStraw
  • A lightweight food source (i.e. a few Clif Bars)
  • Quick drying clothing; avoid cotton
  • Comfortable walking shoes with good traction
  • Trekking poles (these take 20% of the weight off of your legs, and can be used as support in case of a rolled ankle or exhausted leg muscles)

For more information about activities on Chilhowee Mountain, safety, or trail information, contact the Cherokee National Forest Rangers' Station.


Written: September 2014

Revised: August 23, 2018