Cherokee National Forest

Cherokee National Forest

A History of The Cherokee National Forest

The Cherokee National Forest was created in 1920 by president Woodrow Wilson when he started combining federal land in the Appalachian Mountains. By 1936 the Cherokee National Forest was complete. It stretches from Chattanooga to Bristol along the Eastern Tennessee border with North Carolina. Encompassing some 650,00 acres the forest is the largest tract of land owned by the public in TN.

The forest is home to some 20,000 plant and animal species. The United States Forest Service (USFS) manages and cares for these natural resource so that current and future generations can enjoy them. The Cherokee National Forest is made up of several wilderness zones and each has it own recreational opportunities. Some of our favorites are.

Big Frog Mountains

  1. Big Frog Wilderness

The Big Frog area is a black bear reserve and a popular day hike and backcountry area. The Big Frog Wilderness is over 8000 acres and is highlighted by the 4224 Big Frog Mountain. Gorgeous long range views can be seen from the summit as this mountain stands alone in its surrounding terrain. All of the trail in this wilderness area are considered moderate.

Big Frog Area Info

Big Frog Area Map


  1. Bald Mountain

Best known for its many waterfalls, this scenic area is best explored on its backcountry trail system. This remote area is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. It is also a vital connection for native wildlife to move between wilderness ranges. The Bald Mountain area is a true hidden gem.

Bald Mountain Area Info

Bald Mountain Area Map


  1. Hiwassee River Valley

The Scenic Hiwassee River Valley is a great family friendly adventure. Anglers can enjoy a well stocked streams with rainbow trout, catfish and largemouth bass.  The beginner level Hiwassee River float trip is a great tube or rafting trip the whole family can enjoy. Gee Creek Campground makes a great base camp for access to the entire river valley.

Hiwassee River Area Info

Hiwassee River Area Map

Ocoee River Area

  1. Ocoee River Area

Home of the Ocoee Whitewater Center. This recreation area allows access to ocoee river rafting on class III-IV whitewater and hosted the whitewater events during the 1996 Olympic Games.  

The Ocoee River has two whitewater rafting sections to choose from: The Middle Ocoee River and the Upper Ocoee River. The 30 mile Tanasi Trail System is a hub for mountain bikers and a great way to take in the areas scenery. The Ocoee area also has lots of day hike options and well maintained picnic areas for hungry hikers. For Visitors who come to camp, the Thunder Rock Campground and Chilhowee Recreation Area & Campground  are both great options.

Ocoee River Area Info

Ocoee River Area Map

You can view all the different wilderness zones at Cherokee National Forest.

Enjoy your visit to the Cherokee National Forest and remember “Take Only Memories, Leave Only Footprints” Chief Seattle.