With The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Appalachian Trail, and the Cumberland Plateau all within a drive away, Tennessee is a nature lover’s dream. That’s why we have decided to make the perfect snack for them to bring on all their outdoor adventures and share our love for our beautiful state with our five favorite hiking trails. And the best part? They are all jerky-friendly.

Gourmet Jerky: As Good On-The-Go as it is at Home

There’s a reason so many hikers opt to take beef jerky with them on their outdoor adventures.

Beef jerky is packed with lots of protein which helps your body keep up with all the outdoor elements while still staying full enough, so you don’t have to stop and rest every few minutes. This makes it the ideal snack for a hiking trail that builds in intensity as you make your way up its rolling hills and steep inclines. Trust us, having to stop halfway up a huge hill on a hiking trail may seem like a good idea when you’re hungry, but the pain in your knees and feet you’ll have later may make you think differently. That’s why you’re going to want to bring a snack that will keep you full while you’re on the trail.

This protein-packed snack is also lightweight which makes it the perfect to keep in your pack since it won’t weigh you down while you’re out on the trail. Unlike granola bars that crumble apart and get all over the inside of your backpack or fruit that will eventually spoil, jerky is mess-free, delicious, and nutritious but also portable. So don’t add more weight to your backpack than necessary, go light with some homestyle beef jerky.

Aside from the fact that it’s delicious, jerky also has a long shelf-life, making it great for hiking trails both long and short. So, while you’re exploring, don’t let your worries about spoiling snacks get in the way of your time out in nature.

Just like Tennessee’s hikers, gourmet beef jerky makers like us also love finding new opportunities to explore. Whether you enjoy the wild game flavors of elk, buffalo, or venison jerky, there is always something for you to enjoy when you opt for local, homestyle beef jerky. Unlike the big box brands that have flashy, mythical mascots who use nitrates and lesser quality cuts of beef, when you choose handcrafted, small batch jerky you get all-natural ingredients, top quality meat cuts, and an overall healthier options.

1: Cool Off at Midnight Hole 

Midnight Hole is a very popular destination for families and hikers alike. It’s part of the Big Creek Trail in North Carolina. It’s a moderate level hike and about a three-mile-long round trip, making it an easy trip for hikers of all levels of experience to complete. You’re likely to bump into lots of friendly, outdoorsy folks along the trail as you head to and from Midnight Hole, all of whom are usually in a great mood as they make their way through this coveted Smokey Mountain destination.

However, its accessibility is not Midnight Hole’s main draw. This trail eventually leads to a deep and scenic pool in the middle of the woods with a gorgeous six-foot waterfall, complete with plenty of rocks that are great for jumping off into the cool pool below. The water is usually cold all year round, but after your hike in it will feel incredibly refreshing. And if you hike up another half mile from the pool, you will find yourself at the Mouse Creek waterfall—a majestic forty-one-foot tower of natural water and the perfect place to experience a little peace and quiet on your hike—as well as get some good pictures.

2: See the Smoky Mountains in All Her Majesty at Camel Gap Trail

A great trail for any new hikers in Tennessee for the first time, Camel Gap Trail is known for its gorgeous views of The Great Smokey Mountain National Park, especially in the fall.

The trail is located on the Cosby Campground and gradually builds uphill for about 4.5 miles up to the top of its summit where it meets with The Appalachian Trail. Camel Gap also runs parallel to the beautiful Yellow Creek, a great spot to look for the ever-sought-after Smokey Mountain Trout and other native wildlife species in its placid streams and pools.

At the summit, you are treated to a beautiful view of the majestic Balsam Mountain top as it peeks through the trail’s treetops. This ancient beauty reaches over 5 thousand feet at its highest point, making it one of the highest peaks in the Great Smokey Mountains. Once you’ve taken it all in, you can then continue onto the Appalachian Trail and meet up with some expert hikers, or you can take one of three other trails back down the campground.  

3: Choose your Own Adventure at Big South Fork

Oneida, Tennessee, is home to the picturesque Cumberland Plateau, a landmark that has been carved out for millions of years by the Cumberland River. Through gradual erosion, this river has been shaping the plateau into its many impressive cliffs, arches, and chimneys. And with so much scenery to take in, it makes sense, then why the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area would offer so many ways to explore the Cumberland Plateau with its fourteen different trails that encompass 125 acres of this piece of gorgeous Tennessee landscape.

Some of our favorite trails at Big South Fork include Angel Falls, a beautiful place to look for Tennessee wildflowers and plants; and the historic John Litton Farm Trail which takes its hikers on a journey back in time through the early roots of Appalachian history. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, branch out to The Twin Arches—the largest natural bridge between Tennessee and Kentucky; or walk under a 113-foot waterfall on the Yahoo Falls Trail. No matter how you choose to spend your time at Big South Fork, you are guaranteed to have a time out on the Cumberland Plateau that will be completely unforgettable.

4: The Hidden Gem that is Hen Wallow Falls

Tucked away in the lush forests on the Gabes Mountain Trailhead in Cosby, Tennessee is the beautiful, hidden Hen Wallow Falls: a waterfall that reaches up to 90 feet and fans out to 20 feet in width at the base. It’s a moderate-level hike that runs about 4.5 miles total, but the few moments of steepness on the trail are all worth it when you get to this gorgeous waterfall.

At the waterfall’s base, you might be able to find a few salamanders who love to sit and rest on the cool, mossy rocks, and along the way, to the top, you are sure to see plenty of other native Smoky Mountain species like toads, butterflies, and plenty of native birds. In the Northeast part of the trail, you can also get a little taste of Tennessee’s history. There are a few pioneer cemeteries around this part of the trail that can clue you into what families lived in this particular neck of the woods back during the days of early colonization. So, if you can’t decide if you’re after nature or history, then get the best of both at Hen Wallow Falls.

5: Explore Knoxville’s Natural Beauty at House Mountain

Back in Knoxville, Tennessee, we have our wonderful little mountain and recreation area. House Mountain natural trails lead up to the highest point in our county: a 2100-foot crest, scattered with peaceful cliffs, that overlooks our beautiful city and has a picturesque view of the parallel mountain ranges that are only 30 miles away.

On this near six-mile-long trail that winds to the top of the summit, you can expect to see migrating hawks and warblers, pileated woodpeckers, scarlet tanagers, wild turkeys, plus over 100 additional species of birds that travel along House Mountain in this 500-acre park. The nature trail also offers a great workout for avid cyclists and rock climbers, so there really is something for everyone to enjoy at House Mountain.

Crockett Creek: For When You Want More than just a Taste of the Outdoors

No matter if you’re taking a quick three-mile hike to Midnight Hole or conquering House Mountain by bike, it’s important that you’ve got the right fuel for your body to complete the journey. At Crockett Creek, we make quality, hand-crafted jerky made right here in Tennessee and only use premium meats and seasonings for our products. Because we believe that you should be at your best when you’re out on the trail experiencing the best that our beautiful state has to offer.

And just like how Tennessee is full of adventures that are great for everyone, we have flavors of jerky that everyone will love, too. Whether your next hiking trip calls for something smoky, spicy, or just a little sweet, Crockett Creek has the gourmet, gluten-free, protein-packed jerky you need to help you blaze the trail. Visit our website today to explore all our great flavors before you get out and explore our great state.