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8 Best Hikes Near Kingsport, TN

Are you searching for the best hikes near Kingsport, TN?

Who could blame you — one of the best things to do in Kingsport is go hiking.

And as one of the Tri-Cities (along with Johnson City and Bristol, TN), Kingsport is nestled in a peaceful corner of the Appalachian Mountains just south of the Tennessee-Virginia border, making it an outdoor lover’s paradise.

In fact, there are three nature preserves located within minutes of the city, which means there are countless options for spending a day on the trail!

From short strolls along the Holston River to heart-pounding climbs up to a lookout tower, it can be tricky deciding which trail to tackle first.

That’s exactly why we put together this list!

Just remember to prepare before setting out. Many of the best hikes near Kingsport are short, but dehydration, critters native to mountains and forests, and getting turned around are all still concerns. It also gets especially hot and humid come summertime! 

Without further ado, lace up your favorite hiking boots, grab your camera, and let’s explore eight of the best hikes in Kingsport and the surrounding area! 🥾

The Best Hikes Near Kingsport, Tennessee

1. Bays Mountain Reservoir Trail

  • Length: 2.8-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 282 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Dolan Branch (Photo: Bays Mountain)

Located just minutes from Kingsport, Bays Mountain Park has more than 40 miles of picturesque trails. One of the best is the Bays Mountain Reservoir Trail, which gives hikers a diverse sampling of what the park has to offer.

The trail weaves through densely wooded forest, up rolling hills to a lookout tower, and along the shore of the small but scenic lake. Look out for beavers swimming in the water and listen to the multitude of birds chirping in the trees.

Come in autumn for especially beautiful photo ops, when the vibrant fall foliage shows off exactly why this is one of the best hikes near Kingsport! 

Springtime brings a multitude of wildflowers, starting in late April and typically lasting through early June. Even during the summer, the abundant shade on the trail makes this an excellent choice. 

Bays Mountain Reservoir Trail is moderately difficult, mostly due to a section with a steep incline. Plan on 1-2 hours for the hike, and prepare for mud after rain

Feel free to bring the whole family along, including dogs — as long as they’re on a leash. Also, bring some cash, because the park charges a $5 entrance fee.

Local tip: The park organizes barge rides on the Holston River. For only $5, visitors can cruise the river for 45 minutes and enjoy a pleasant afternoon!

2. Bays Mountain Fire Tower Trail

  • Length: 3.6 miles out and back
  • Elevation gain: 639 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Bays Mountain Fire Tower (Photo: Bays Mountain)

Another of the best hikes in Kingsport, this trail is also in Bays Mountain Park. The hike passes by the park’s reservoir and leads up to a 60-foot-tall fire tower

The climb to the top, which involves 80 fully exposed steps, isn’t for the faint of heart (or those afraid of heights!). However, hikers who make it will enjoy 360-degree views of the stunning scenery surrounding Kingsport.

The view of the South Fork of the Holston River is especially impressive!

Just getting to the tower is a sweat-inducing trek in itself.

There’s a bit of elevation gain and the trail is often muddy, which slows progress down some. Leave the hiking sandals at home for this one and wear sturdy, closed-toe hiking shoes. 

Aside from the climb up the tower, this Kingsport hike isn’t particularly technical and should be suitable for most people with even limited hiking experience. However, parents may want to consider leaving kiddos at home, since there’s quite a bit of exposure at the tower. 

For people looking for a slightly longer hike, take the trail intersection toward the Chinquapin Trail. It reconnects with the Fire Tower Trail, forming a loop that totals 4.7 miles. 

We highly recommend downloading the trail map ahead of time (whether you do the extended loop or not!), because the trail junctions can be hard to follow!

Bays Mountain Park is also home to a planetarium, as well as several large-scale telescopes! The preserve hosts excellent programs, covering everything from Mars to home-turf interests like the night sky in Appalachia. 

Check the event calendar and stay after sunset for a completely different perspective of the area!

3. Laurel Run Trail

  • Length: 4.3 miles out and back
  • Elevation gain: 620 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Laurel Run Falls (Photo: Joshua Moore)

Set alongside the banks of the tranquil Holston River, Laurel Run Park offers a chance to hike and immerse in relaxing wooded scenery. 

The namesake Laurel Run Trail meanders into the heart of the park, passing multiple trickling streams and small waterfalls.

These include Laurel Run Falls, Kiner Creek Falls, and Upper Logger Creek Falls, but you may also see smaller seasonal cascades. 

Ideal for hot summer days, the trail involves some elevation gain but remains mostly shaded throughout the entire route.

The hike is just over four miles in length and takes most people a couple of hours. Once you’re finished, relax at one of the picnic tables by the river. You can even bring a fishing pole and try your luck catching lunch!

Stop to take in the colorful wildflowers (especially impressive from April through June!), detour to other waterfalls, and cool off by one of the cascades. Also, look out for the historic homestead and cabins along the way!

For the photo-ops alone, this is one of the best hikes near Kingsport. In fact, the park even served as a filming location for the 1984 movie The River, featuring Mel Gibson! 🎥

Laurel Run Trail also connects with those in Bays Mountain Park, so avid hikers or bikers can choose their own adventure and create a longer route.

4. Canebrake Mountain Overlook Loop

  • Length: 1.7-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Photo: Lisa Jarnigan via Alltrails

For a shorter hike in Laurel Run Park, check out the Canebrake Mountain Overlook Loop.

The path, which locals consider a little-known hidden gem, runs along a small overgrown road up to an incredible vista overlooking Hurst River Valley

The forest is particularly dense along this trail, more so than other hikes near Kingsport, so the clearings and meadows among the lush foliage, and especially the waterfalls, come as a surprise.

You’ll pass some of the same lovely cascades seen along the Laurel Run Trail. 

Count on many colorful, fragrant wildflowers in spring, and the crunch of fallen leaves in autumn! 🌸

The hike is overgrown in spots, with fallen trees, moss, and rocks to navigate. You should also keep your eyes open for snakes, as they tend to inhabit the area. It’s part of the adventure, though — the slightly more wild conditions make the loop feel like an adventure

🥾 At just 1.7 miles in length, it won’t take much more than an hour to complete the Canebrake Mountain Overlook Loop, but it’ll feel like you’re far from civilization (the very thing that makes this one of the best hikes in Kingsport, in our opinion!). 

Note that because of its shorter length and the fact that it’s dog-friendly, this trail gets extremely busy, especially on weekends. 

5. Devil’s Backbone and Fall Creek

  • Length: 3.5 miles out and back
  • Elevation gain: 567 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Photo: Amy Mckinney via Alltrails

South of town lies another one of the best hikes near Kingsport, TN – the lollipop loop formed by combining the Devil’s Backbone and Fall Creek trails. 

Located in Warrior’s Path State Park, the hike starts from an inconspicuous spot on a golf course, then goes on to reveal a stunning stretch of the Holston River.

Wildlife sightings are also common, with many deer inhabiting the woods.

Part of the hike follows a ridge high above the river, showcasing impressive cliffs and a panoramic view

Although the hike isn’t particularly technical and it’s dog-friendly, you may want to leave pups and young children at home, since the drop-offs in this section are steep. 

The rest of the hike is much more leisurely, with a flat section weaving alongside Fall Creek. Take a moment to rest (and enjoy a snack!) on the quaint wooden bridge crossing the stream here. 

Only three miles total for both trails, the hike requires about 1.5 hours to complete. Afterward, drive across the bridge to Moody Bluff to admire the route you just tackled! 

Note that many people find the trail tricky to follow in some sections, so it’s a good idea to download the trail map ahead of time. 

6. Darwin’s Revenge

  • Length: 2-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 285 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Photo: Scott Densmore via Alltrails

Also located in the Warrior’s Path State Park, the Darwin’s Revenge hike may sound intimidating, but it’s actually one of the most relaxing trails in the area. 

The route even passes by a few small beaches along the Holston River

While the trail isn’t popping you out at the beach, it delves into a lush forest. It’s especially beautiful in the springtime, when the woods pop with vibrant green, wildflowers, and chirping birds

A short and sweet two miles in length, Darwin’s Revenge is a surprisingly relaxing hike, perfect for a spur of the moment stroll with your family and pup. The accessible switchbacks also make it one of the best trails near Kingsport for trail running. 👟

Best of all, you can easily combine this easy-going trail with others in the park for a longer hike. Or, choose one of Warrior’s Path State Park’s other fun outdoor activities pre- or post-hike, like disc golf or kayaking.

The marina inside the park offers SUP and kayak rentals!

7. Kingsport Greenbelt

  • Length: 9 miles total point-to-point
  • Elevation gain: 127 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Kingsport Greenbelt creek (Photo: Robin Bell via Alltrails)

One thing we really love about Kingsport (and really, Tennessee in general!) is that you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy The Great Outdoors

Known locally as just “the Greenbelt,” one of the best hikes in Kingsport runs through the city

The entire trail system spans roughly 10 miles of paved walkways along Reedy Creek and the Holston River, covering just about the entire width of Kingsport. 

However, there are numerous access points and parking locations, so it’s easy to hop on and off to hike (or bike!) as much or as little as you want!

Perfect for a jog, bike ride, or a simple leisurely walk, the Greenbelt highlights some urban attractions in addition to riverside views. 

For example, it passes picture-perfect historical attractions like the Netherland Inn and Museum, which hosted several presidents including Andrew Jackson and James Polk. Stop by to read the markers explaining the region’s fascinating history, including the battle of Kingsport.

There are also several great spots for a rest along the path, like the benches sprinkled throughout Riverside Park. Check out the online brochure for a map and overview of area attractions. 

You can also easily combine a Greenbelt hike with a stroll through downtown Kingsport. Go for a walk after grabbing coffee, or work up an appetite for dinner and a beer in the heart of town!

8. Bays Mountain Road and River Mountains Road Loop

  • Length: 7.6-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 1,118 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead details: Alltrails
Photo: Daniel Bishop via Alltrails

Looking for a secluded hike that will keep you busy most of the day and that you’ll have all to yourself?

This elongated loop trail weaves through the protected terrain of Bays Mountain Park, providing a full immersion into the beautiful, rugged scenery of the Appalachian Mountains!

The trail passes by highlights including the park’s fire lookout tower, and a small stretch follows the reservoir. 

When conditions are muddy, a perfect alternative is following the gravel service roads. While other hikes near Kingsport often become so slippery that they’re nearly impassable after rain, the alternative path keeps this one clear.

Clocking in at over seven miles, this loop trail will take up a good chunk of your day. There are numerous descents and ascents, which also makes it a fun course for trail runners, as well as experienced mountain bikers

Just remember that although it’s generally not a busy trail, that doesn’t mean it’s empty — always check around corners and use all your senses to keep an eye (and ear) on others to avoid collisions.