Step into your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and prepare to embark on a journey that transcends time itself. Welcome to our latest adventure as we “Hike Through History.” There's something truly magical about being out in nature, feeling the earth beneath your feet, and hearing the whispers of the wind through the trees. But what if you could also touch history with your own hands as you wander these picturesque paths? That's the essence of hiking through historically significant trails – a profound connection between the beauty of the great outdoors and the legacy of the people who once walked the same ground.
Norris Dam State Park is a great area to hike through history. In 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority initiated the construction of Norris Dam, its first project, during the Great Depression. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) members were enlisted to build the park. While much of the CCC's original camp is gone, remnants like the Tea Room and historic cabins, along with three CCC-built trails – Lakeside, Christmas Fern, and Tall Timbers – remain well-used today. These interconnected trails offer short half-mile hikes individually or combine for longer adventures, providing glimpses of Norris Lake, the dam, and original CCC cabins.
Two trails that are a little longer in length and will take you along remnants of many old homesteads that once inhabited the ridge prior to the construction of Norris Dam are:
Andrew’s Ridge Trail - a 1.95 easy to moderate trail that is located atop the park’s highest point. You will also see a cemetery off the side of this trail with a few graves from those that once lived in the area.
Lake View Trail - a 4.75 mile moderate to difficult trail that provides views of the lake and the chance to see a variety of plants and trees. This trail will also take you past old homesteads that once rested on the ridges before the dam was built.
Trails maps are available online here or can picked up at the park office.
Continue Hiking through History in Oak Ridge…
The Secret City, also known as Oak Ridge, was a classified city in Tennessee, during World War II. It was one of three sites of the Manhattan Project and played a crucial role in the development of the atomic bomb. Its existence and purpose were highly secretive, and it was established to enrich uranium for the bomb, contributing to the Allied victory in the war.
The North Boundary Trails, located in Oak Ridge on the Department of Energy Reservation, offer over 12 miles of trails and gravel paths. North Boundary trails feature ridge-top woodlands, bluffs and creek-side habitats that are home to a variety of wildlife and native plants. You will also see remnants of pre-Manhattan Project settlements.
Worthington Cemetery Trail is a .75-mile loop that offers both natural and gravel trails. You will encounter a historic cemetery and a scenic wetland viewing platform that was once the staging area for materials delivered by railroad to Elza, TN. Elza was a community in Anderson County that existed before 1942, when the area was acquired for the Manhattan Project. Elza Gate was the primary entrance to the secret community of Oak Ridge and was once manned by armed guards.
Here are two easy walks that also offer a historical twist:
Wheat District Greenway, located in Oak Ridge, offers 1.2 miles of wooded trails. Along the way you’ll see a historic church and graveyard. Wheat was a community that existed in what is now west Oak Ridge before the city was built as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II.
The John Hendrix Memorial Prayer Walk, located in Oak Ridge, is an easy half-mile historic nature trail that narrates the story of John Hendrix. On the prayer walk you will hear how John’s visions became a reality with the establishment of the city of Oak Ridge when the Manhattan Project developed the first atomic bombs.
John Hendrix was just an ordinary farmer until he became known for having had visions about the future around the year 1900. Those visions later found their fulfillment in the great accomplishment of the 20th century. While walking near Hendrix Creek you will find eight trail markers which tell the story of the man who came to be called “The Prophet of Oak Ridge.”
For a list of other hiking trails, visit www.adventureanderson.com.