Exploring Ocoee, Tennessee: 5 Must-Visit Mountain Ranges
Ocoee, Tennessee, is surrounded by the vast Cherokee National Forest covering parts of the Appalachian Mountains. It's truly a diverse and beautiful area with mountains, valleys, and rivers just waiting to be explored. Let me take you through some of the most noteworthy mountain ranges around Ocoee:
10 miles | 20-minute drive from Welcome Valley Village
To the west of Ocoee lies Chilhowee Mountain, which is part of the Chilhowee Mountain subrange of the Appalachian Mountains. You'll find forested slopes and rocky outcroppings here, offering a range of outdoor activities like hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, and even hang-gliding. Don't miss out on Chilhowee Lake, a beautiful 10-mile-long reservoir created by the Chilhowee Dam. And if you're up for it, the Chilhowee Recreation Area is perfect for fishing, swimming, and camping. This place is especially great for families or anyone interested in the diverse wildlife in the area.
Note: The campground is only open from early April until late October, but the day-use area is open year-round.
35.5 miles | 1 hour 15 minute drive from Welcome Valley Village
If you head south of Ocoee into the neighboring state of Georgia, you'll come across the Cohutta Mountains. This is one of the oldest known mountain ranges in the world, once bordering a prehistoric ocean. It extends into the Cherokee National Forest, providing fantastic opportunities for hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and exploring secluded wilderness areas. It's an absolute nature lover's paradise, but these are some of the most remote hiking trails in the state, so keep that in mind.
Safety tip: It's a good idea to let someone know your expected return date and itinerary when venturing into the trails here. It's not uncommon to spend days without encountering another hiker.
72 Miles | 2-hour drive from Welcome Valley Village
The Unicoi Mountains are a part of the larger Appalachian Mountains and are nestled within the Cherokee National Forest. They offer a wide range of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, backpacking, and fishing. These mountains are characterized by their dense forests and rolling hills. Among the various peaks, the Brasstown Bald Peak is one of the most remarkable. Fun fact: This peak is actually the highest natural point in Georgia! You can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding landscape from its summit. In addition to enjoying your outdoor adventures, you can explore the region's cultural heritage, including Native American and Early European settlements.
Pro Tip: If you decide to kick off your hike from the Unicoi State Park trailhead, there will be a $5 parking fee. To avoid it, you can start your adventure from the Georgia side of the mountain range.
Bald River Mountains
82.5 miles | 2 ½ -hour drive from Welcome Valley Village
The Bald River Mountains, located within the Cherokee National Forest, are known for their diverse wildlife, rugged terrain, and stunning vistas. A major attraction in this range is the magnificent Bald River Falls. This 100-foot waterfall is easily accessible and offers a picturesque spot for photography and sightseeing. If you're into chasing waterfalls or simply appreciate nature, you'll love exploring this mountain range's forested slopes and riverbanks.
Note: Don't worry about parking or bathrooms when you visit the Bald River Falls base. They've got you covered!
Great Smoky Mountains
100 miles | 2 ½-hour drive from Welcome Valley Village
Although not directly surrounding Ocoee, the Great Smoky Mountains are just a few hours northeast and easily accessible. This range is part of the Appalachian Mountains. It is famous for its incredible biodiversity, scenic beauty, and its preservation of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, this place has you covered with a variety of hikes for all levels. Plus, the scenic drives throughout the range will treat you to jaw-dropping views. It's the perfect outdoor attraction for all nature lovers and hikers out there.
Note: The Smoky Mountains are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Just make sure to check the government website for any weather restrictions or trail closures.
All of these mountain ranges create a breathtaking backdrop for the Ocoee, TN, area and offer a wide range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, birdwatching, or simply immersing yourself in nature's beauty, this region has it all. Come and explore the great outdoors — you won't be disappointed!