If you are looking to break up your time at the lake with some outdoor time on the land, Center Hill Lake has plenty of hiking trails to explore along its banks. These excursions can range from a casual stroll to more advanced hiking, depending on what you are looking for. We’ve included a list here of our 5 favorite Center Hill Lake hikes. Wherever you choose to hike, be sure to come prepared with appropriate footwear, hydration, and protection against the sun and bugs. Please remember to keep our trails clean by properly disposing of any trash.
1. Burgess Falls
Burgess Falls State Park is located at the northeastern corner of Center Hill Lake, off of Tennessee State Route 135. This scenic spot has something for everyone. When you get out of your car, the sound of the Falling River cascading can already be heard. The 1/2-mile River Trail starts along the river, just a few steps from the parking lot. As you follow the river, the trail offers stunning views of the three falls that this park boasts, concluding with the largest and most impressive Burgess Falls. From the lookout deck, you can turn back or continue down to get a close up view of the falls from above. Less ambitious hikers can go as far as the want on the in-and-out trail and still enjoy plenty of beauty. Around the parking lot, guests can also take advantage of several picnic areas, a covered pavilion, bathrooms and a playground. If you are looking for something more, make a stop at the Little Blue Barn Market just north on Burgess Falls Road, for delicious lunch options, ice cream treats and fresh produce.
2. Window Cliffs
Just on the other side of Burgess Falls is Window Cliffs State Natural Area. This relatively new trail provides a memorable adventure for the prepared hiker. The 5.5-mile hike (round trip) includes 9 water crossings each way, approximately 600 ft in elevation change and beautiful scenic views. Come prepared for this one, appropriate footwear and clothing is a necessity for the water crossings. The climax of the hike, brings you atop the Window Cliffs with a 360° view of the Cane Creek below and the local untouched terrain. The hike also includes a waterfall and a view point for getting a nice glimpse of the “windows” before you summit them.
3. Appalachian Center for Craft and The Retreat at Center Hill Lake
If you are looking for a rewarding hike to a “destination”, this might be the one for you. The Retreat and Center Hill Lake and Tennessee Tech’s Appalachian Center for Craft are located adjacent to one another on a narrow piece of land surrounded by Center Hill Lake. Few realize that between these two properties there is a network of interconnected hiking trails that are open to the public. Maps of the trails are available at either location. A nice way to enjoy this secret is to start at the Retreat at Center Hill Lake. Check in at the front office for directions to the trailhead at the back of their property. From there you can follow signs for either the Lower Lake or Upper Lake trails. At the point where the two trails come together, there is another trail path that leads to the Appalachian Center for Craft. Following this path will bring you to the driveway of the Craft Center, just a short walk to the right brings you to the main building where you can enjoy the gift store or the Blue Water Grille on the Hill Cafe (open seasonally, call for more information). To the left, takes you to the overlook tower with great views of the lake and surrounding area. The Craft Center also has a trail that leads down to the shoreline of the lake at Pedigo Point.
4. Rock Island
This gem of a state park is located at the headwaters of Center Hill Lake and the confluence of the Caney Fork, Collins and Rocky Rivers. There are plenty of hikes to venture on at this park. On the one side of the Caney Fork River Gorge, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the gorge from the overlook and follow the trail down to the gorge. Opposite, off of Powerhouse Rd, visitors can follow a short trail to view the Great Falls and a little further downstream, the Twin Falls. There are additional trails scattered throughout the park that offer views of the intersecting waterways and the impressive rock formations that line Center Hill Lake.
5. Edgar Evins’ Story Book Trail
Hiking should be a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy together. Edgar Evins State Park has just opened a new trail that is perfect for engaging young hikers. This 1/2 mile trail features enlarged pages of the children’s book, Where the Butterflies Grow by Joanne Ryder, along the path so that the story of the book unveils as the hike continues. The park offers many other trails along the banks of Center Hill Lake, the Story Book Trail is located across from the Interpretive Center, near the cabins.
From one end of Center Hill Lake to the other, there are plenty of trails and view points to enjoy this beautiful region of Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland. Book a stay at our retreat with a purpose, the Retreat at Center Hill Lake and check out these hiking trails for yourself.