Contributed photo by Thrive Regional Partnership / Floating the Hiwassee River

Summertime is upon us — the season where we leave the humid concrete corners of the city and venture out in search of shaded green woodlands, crisp mountain air and cool water.

These outdoor adventures, plus local spots to dine and unwind, are the perfect recipe for a great summer. Explore Southern Appalachia's gorgeous natural gems and support communities and local businesses along the way.

Looking for more outdoor adventures? Contact Thrive Regional Partnership for a complimentary map of over 48 must-see natural treasures in the tri-state region. Learn more at

Here are some curated suggestions to get you started.

Hike the Fiery Gizzard Trail in Marion County, Tennessee.

Part of South Cumberland State Park, the moderate Fiery Gizzard Trail was highlighted by Backpacker magazine as one of the top 25 trails in the U.S. The recognition is well-deserved, as the hike is like walking through the pages of a fairy tale. Lush green scenery and immense boulders surround the trail which winds alongside Fiery Gizzard Creek, offering several blue swim holes along the way. Pick up a sweet treat at the delightful Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City, Tennessee, or venture to the Mountain Goat Market in Monteagle for a killer sandwich.

Tips for a great adventure

* Plan your trip before you go.

* Explore with friends or family.

* Bring the appropriate gear.

* Don’t forget snacks, water, sunscreen and bug spray.

* Leave no trace.


Explore the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County, Alabama.

For the intrepid adventurer, check out this moderately strenuous hike to a beautiful waterfall and distinctive stone gorge called the Walls of Jericho. A word of caution: Wayfinding on this trail is limited. Consider traveling in a group, and leave plenty of time and daylight when exploring. If tacos are your thing, make a pit stop at Rosa's Kitchen, an authentic, family-owned Mexican restaurant in Skyline, Alabama.

Hike or bike Lula Lake Land Trust in Walker County, Georgia.

If you haven't yet ventured to Lula Lake Land Trust on Lookout Mountain, it's time. With miles and miles of hiking and biking trails through pristine Southeastern forests, plus an iconic thundering waterfall, this experience is a must. Lula Lake is only accessible on Open Gate Days. Be sure to check out the trust's website to plan your visit. If you're hungry after hiking, check out Lookout Mountain Pizza Company. They import their flour from Naples, Italy, and the resulting wood-fired pizzas are simply phenomenal.

Float the Hiwassee River in Polk County, Tennessee.

The mild Hiwassee River makes a great family-friendly adventure. Rent a raft or funyaks and pick up some navigating tips from Webb Brothers Float Service in Reliance, Tennessee. Just make sure your watercraft is appropriate for a wild and scenic river (no pool floats, please!). Pack a picnic lunch (but remember to leave no trace!), or, if you're traveling on Highway 64, stop by Pupuseria Marelyn on the way home for some "pupusa," a Salvadoran specialty consisting of a thick corn tortilla with a savory filling.

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Contributed photo by Lula Lake Land Trust / The falls at Lula Lake