Gal Pal Weekend

Gal Pal Weekend

Fall in East Tennessee is amazing. The colors are gorgeous. The weather is perfect, not too hot, not too cold. And, there are endless things to do where you can immerse yourself in nature.

Day One

Go Paddling - Like we said, it is not too cold and not too hot, which makes fall the perfect time to be on the water in a kayak or on a paddle board. The fall colors reflected off the water are just breathtaking.

You have several options in Anderson County for paddling adventures. For beginners, we recommend Norris Lake because of the still waters. If you don’t have a kayak or paddle board, you can rent one at Norris Lake Paddling Adventures and try out the sport before you buy the equipment. Melton Hill Lake is another great place for paddling. The water is not as still as Norris Lake, but a beginner will have little problems navigating it. Melton Hill also has a rental company, Adventures Outdoors.

The Clinch River is probably the most challenging area to paddle especially if water is being generated through Norris Dam. You can check the schedule on the Tennessee Valley Authority Lakes App. Most people paddle the river in groups and paddle down river having a car available to shuttle them back to their starting point. We suggest starting at the River Road ramp and paddling down to the Peach Orchard ramp. You can see a map here. Along the way, there will be some places to veer off (by water) and explore. We recommend doing this. You will get to see some interesting rock formations and many picture perfect spots. This trip will take a couple of hours depending on the current.

Day Two

Hit the Trails-Get ready to test your endurance by trekking up hills and through the valleys of East Tennessee while surrounded by the fall colors of East Tennessee. There are four areas in Anderson County where you can become one with nature.

Haw Ridge-Situated on a scenic peninsula along the shores of the Clinch River with 30 plus miles of trails perfect for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. Be sure to get over to the back side of the property where you can enjoy five miles of shoreline. The Park closes one weekend in October, November and December for TWRA hunts. Check for dates.

Norris Dam State Park-Located on the shorelines of Norris Lake and laying to the east and west of Norris Dam, the park offers 17 different trails with a total of 20 miles ranging from moderate to difficult. Most of the trails are for foot traffic only, but there are some multi use trails for bikers too.

Norris Watershed-Adjacent to the east side of Norris Dam State Park, the watershed has just under 30 miles of moderate to strenuous trails of singletrack and old road trails for biking and foot traffic. The Highpoint Trail connects with the lake loop at Norris Dam State Park. The trails dry quickly after inclement weather making this the place to go when other trails are soggy. The trails are on public land that is open to hunting, check for dates.

North Boundary Trails-Sixteen miles of singletrack and gravel paths pass through ridge-top woodlands, bluffs, and creek-side habitats showcasing a variety of wildlife and native plants as well as remnants of pre-Manhattan Project settlements. Parking is available at the guard house at the west end of the Oak Ridge turnpike. Trails drain well during wet weather conditions.

Stay Another Day

Go Off-Roading at Windrock Park, the largest privately owned off-road recreation area in the country with over 72,000 acres to explore. Trails are open seven days a week, 365 days of the year. Riding ATVs and Side-by-sides on the 300 plus miles of trails is the most popular activity to do at Windrock Park, but there is also hiking and downhill and cross country biking trails. Special points of interest that you don’t want to miss are the windmill farm on Buffalo Mountain, the waterfall on trail 16 and Rattle Rock, the rock crawl course. If you don’t already have an off-road vehicle, you can rent two seater, three seater and four seater side-by-sides from Windrock. Go to for SXS rental information.

Where to Eat

There are many locally owned and chain restaurants in Anderson County, but for this trip we recommend a couple of places that you don’t want to miss.

  • Deans Restaurant and Bakery-serves traditional Southern favorites with Appalachian roots.
  • The Other One Diner and Dive-a great place for lunch. Go just to find out the reason they have a burger called the Fat Boy. It is not why you think.
  • Golden Girls Restaurant is a great place for home-style fixin’s and you will want to save room for their homemade desserts.
  • Aubrey’s Restaurant boasts such items as their Fresh and Famous Strawberry Salad, Grilled Salmon Tacos, Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Blackened Rattlesnake Pasta.
  • Clinch River Brewing-Kick back, relax and enjoy a craft beer and casual creole, low country fare. You’ll love the outdoor beer garden and be sure to check their Facebook page for their live music schedule

Where to Stay

Anderson County has a variety of lodging options. There are several hotels and if you have a large group, you can find several short-term rentals that could accommodate your group. You can find out more information at

If you are spending most of your time around the Norris Lake area, check out the cabins at Norris Dam State Park. The Foust Cabin and Harned Cabin, which are authentic 1860’s era cabins, are also great short-term rentals near Norris.

Windrock Park offers a variety of cabins with spectacular views of the mountains and fall colors. Their cabins can accommodate groups up to 18 people. Be sure to also check out their new yurts.