Have you ever been enjoying a pristine view, a burbling mountain creek or a sunset from a cliffside perch, only to have your serenity stripped from you by hikers blaring the latest synthesized beats? If not, you may be the exception.
It is a far too common occurrence to be greeted on backcountry trails with booming bass notes and wailing melodies. As Bluetooth speakers are becoming more portable, more people are taking them out into otherwise quiet respites from our everyday noise-filled lives. If any of your friends engage in this sort of behavior, give them a firm smack on the back of the head for me. Hopefully, we can make our trails quieter one smack at a time.
However, there are some less violent initiatives out there to keep wilderness areas quiet. Quiet Parks International (QPI) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of preserving quiet places around the globe. They recently recognized a Taiwanese trail as the first certifiable quiet trail in the world. The Cuifeng Lake Circular Trail follows an old railroad track through a lush and damp cedar forest. Thick layers of moss cover much of the forest floor and crawl up the trees. The moss creates an acoustic barrier that deadens any noises from far off civilization. The result is near silence. Parts of the trail register less than 25 decibels, which QPI classifies as near silence.
Although the number of speaker-wielding hikers is at an all-time high, it is heartwarming to see an organization fighting to preserve the quiet spaces we all hold dear. Although, you don't have to book a flight to Taiwan for a quiet wilderness experience. Plenty of quiet trails are located right here in the Scenic City.
Here are a few recommendations to get you started in your quest for quiet.
For a quick after-work hike, you can't beat the Bluff Trail. Located 5 miles from downtown on the western slope of Lookout Mountain, the Bluff Trail boasts scenic views and offers a relatively quiet experience given its proximity to the city. This is a good entry-level quiet trail offering many options to extend the experience. The Bluff Trail is only the start. Once you're out there, check out Skyuka, Mountain Beautiful or, if you have an inclination for elevation, you'll love Gum Springs Trail.
The Pot Point Loop is another peaceful trail that is not too far from downtown. The 12-mile loop in Prentice Cooper is mostly silent. The only distraction from nature would be the occasional hunter's ATV speeding on a nearby dirt road, but even then, most sections are totally silent. Don't miss Snooper's Rock with its iconic lookout over the Tennessee River. Climbers will find themselves straying from the trail to check out the rich boulder garden.
For the ultimate quiet experience, start at the Barker Camp trailhead. About 30 miles from downtown near Soddy-Daisy, this section of the Cumberland Trail is the ideal place to spend the day surrounded by the sounds of birds and rustling trees. Look out for swimming holes and cliff lines. One possibility is the 12.5-mile point-to-point to Hall Road. North Chickamauga Creek Gorge is full of quiet trails, especially in the winter.