Rangers at all of the 54 Tennessee state parks will welcome spring with free, guided hikes on Saturday, March 22.
"These hikes are a great way to get outside, exercise and enjoy nature with friends and family," said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill.
The 2014 Spring Hikes are designed for all ages and abilities. Some hikes will be no more than one mile in length and tailored for novice hikers, while others are lengthier and geared toward more experienced hikers.
Here are a few highlights from parks in the region. Participants should wear comfortable but sturdy shoes and bring water and maybe a snack for longer outings.
Complete details, directions plus outings at other state parks can be found at tnstateparks.com.
■ Booker T. Washington: A one-hour, 1.5-mile trek along the nature trail and paved walking surfaces starts at noon. Sign up at 11:30 a.m. at the swimming pool parking lot. 423-827-9240.
■ Cumberland Mountain: Meet at the park office at 10 a.m. CDT to carpool to the trailhead for the 3-mile walk along the Pioneer Loop Trail. 931-484-6138.
■ Fall Creek Falls: Meet at 9 a.m. CDT at the Nature Center to carpool to the Prater Place trailhead. The 6-mile round trip into Camps Gulf to see Hemlock Falls has a few steep slopes. In case of any heavy rains this week, call 423-881-5708 by Friday, March 21, to see if the hike is still on because there is a seasonal creek crossing involved.
■ Harrison Bay: Meet at 10 a.m. at the Bay Loop trailhead for a moderate, 4.5-mile hike. 423-344-6214.
■ Hiwassee/Ocoee: Meet at the Park Office at 10 a.m. for an easy, 3-mile hike along the Hiwassee River. 423-263-0050.
■ Old Stone Fort: Jack B. Carman, author of "Wildflowers of Tennessee," will lead a talk at 10 a.m. at the Old Stone Fort Museum, followed at 11 a.m. by an easy, 1.25-mile wildflower walk along the White Trail (all times Central). After the walk, he will be available for a book signing in the museum. Copies also will be available for purchase in the Old Stone Fort gift shop.
■ Red Clay: Meet at the museum porch at 8:30 a.m. for a brief 1/2-mile stroll on the Blue Hole Nature Trail along the creek. 423-478-0339.
■ South Cumberland: Choice of three hikes. The first starts at 11 a.m. CDT at the Carter State Natural Area parking lot. The strenuous, 5-mile hike may involve off-trail inspection of the landscape. 931-779-3532. The second starts at 1 p.m. CDT at Savage Gulf Ranger Station. This moderate, 4-mile round trip follows the Savage Gulf Day Loop. 931-779-3532. The last meets at 2 p.m. CDT at Greeter Falls parking lot. This moderate, 2-mile hike along the Greeter Loop Trail offers three waterfalls: Upper Greeter, Lower Greeter and Boardtree. 931-692-3887 or 931-924-2980.
■ Tims Ford: Meet at the Visitor Center at 9 a.m. CDT for a moderate, 2.5-mile trek along the Lost Creek Overlook Trail, which features two of the longest suspension bridges in the state. 931-962-1183.