Your next Tennessee Adventures is as close as next door.
Cumberland County is bordered by eight other Tennessee counties — and Overton County is a mere stone’s throw away. All of them are full of fun and informative spots to visit.
This list is by no means complete — it’s meant to merely serve as a guide to find that out-of-the-way treasure you haven’t discovered or may have forgotten.
Our neighbor to the south, Pikeville, offers a slice of small town nostalgia with its historic homes and a picturesque Main St.
Throughout the year, music takes center stage at activities like Music on Main and cruise ins. From May through September, the Nine Mile Music Festivals offer old-time mountain music Friday and Saturday. Bring your lawn chair and the family and listen to the expert musicians on the fiddle, mandolin and banjo.
At the time of publication, dates for 2020 are May 8-9, June 26-27, Aug. 7-8 and Sept. 18-19. Adult admission is only $5 and children under 10 are free.
They have concessions and arts and crafts, too!
Music begins at 7 p.m. Friday nights and 11 a.m. Saturdays.
The bluegrass festival is held at the Edmonds Family Farm across the street from the Nine Mile Volunteer Fire Company, 21008 Old State Hwy. 28.
Sgt. Alvin C. York put Pall Mall on the map a century ago. Now the northern Fentress County community has another claim to fame.
It’s home to the World Pig Championship.
Mark Feb. 29 on your calendar: play starts at high noon, and this year is the 20th annual championship.
Ground zero for the card game beloved by Fentress and Pickett County players is Forbus General Store, a century-old country store on Hwy. 127 north of York’s homeplace. Players gather daily in the store for a hand or two of the game, whose origin has been lost to history.
Native Jim Buck introduced the notion of a World Pig Championship to the players in 2001. Up to 100 have been drawn to the playoff, which sometimes has music and other celebratory accompaniment.
Stop by now for tips from the pros, many of whom will be glad to deal in a newcomer and share the pastime. That’ll get you ready for play, or give you an edge to cheer on your favorite.
The pot-bellied stove will be fired up for the event. (And try the homemade fudge. Forbus General Store is almost as famous for this confection as for the card game.)
Rushed for time? Make it a twofer and knock two counties off your list by visiting Oliver Springs. The tiny town sprawls across three Tennessee counties, including Cumberland County neighbors Morgan and Roane. (Anderson is the third.)
The tiny enclave is a living movie set: Jake Gyllenhaal’s star rose mightily after he roamed Oliver Springs streets as a young Homer Hickman in the making of 1999’s October Sky; storefronts still pay homage to Oliver Springs’ time in the spotlight. Get in the true Rocket Boys frame of mind by visiting the third week of October, when the town hosts its annual October Sky Festival, complete with rocket launches, town tours and music from hometown favorites. It’s the only venue for Crystal Creme hot dogs, an Oliver Springs favorite from the 1950s-‘60s.
Go offroad for fun at Windrock Park, a 73,000-acre park filled with 300 miles of trails for four-wheeling fun. Trails are available for the novice up to those seeking a bit more thrill with boulders, cliffs and ruts for a bouncing good time. No four-wheeler? No problem! Rentals are available.
Make it a day trip — or spend the night at the park’s campground, where you’re welcome to pitch a tent, park your RV or take it easy in a cabin or yurt.
Every September, the best marble rollers convene at Standing Stone State Park in Overton County for the “Super Bowl of marbles.” The National Rolley Hole Marbles Championship and Festival has been hosted by the park for 37 years.
“The Championship is the most challenging marble tournament, where only the finest players dare to compete,” said Shawn Hughes, a park ranger, in a 2018 press release. The park is the only state park in the country with a marble yard. Hughes said that’s because “some of the best players hail from Tennessee’s Clay County.”
Rolley Hole is similar to croquet. Players try to keep their opponents from making the hole — often by making difficult shots that send marbles ricocheting across the dirt yard.
The event also includes music, food and children’s games.
The date for this 2020 tournament is not yet available, but it’s held in September.
Looking for fine crafts? There’s no need to head to Knoxville, Nashville or Chattanooga when the Appalachian Center for Craft is to Cumberland County’s west. The campus of Tennessee Tech University offers degrees in fine art. The Gallery at the Appalachian Center for Craft is one of the finest retailers of contemporary American fine craft in the Southeast, representing the work of more than 100 artists whose work ranges from the contemporary to the traditional.
The Craft Center hosts up to 25 exhibitions annually. Shows range from the works of regional, national and international contemporary craft artists, to faculty, resident artists and student exhibitions.
Find world-class, handmade functional and sculptural fine craft including handblown glass, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, decorative metals and ironwork, quilts, textiles and weaving, clocks, lamps, candles, wood carvings and turned bowls, and books and craft supplies.
Sportsmen looking to make that fabled fish story a reality need only travel to Dayton’s Chickamauga Lake. The Scopes Monkey Trial town has rebranded itself as Basstown U.S.A. because of all the trophy-sized bass fishermen are reeling in. Try your luck in one of the major tournaments, or drop your line one afternoon or weekend to see what bites. Anglers come for the bass, but bait can also lure sunfish and catfish — a Denver, CO, man hauled a 75-pound blue catfish out of the Chickmauga just last summer.
Van Buren County
Van Buren County is home to Fall Creek Falls State Park, one of the most popular parks in Tennessee’s 56-park system.
With more than 50 miles of hiking trails, four waterfalls, multiple swimming holes, a golf course and a high adventure course, there is something for everyone. The trails provide stunning views of the falls and overlooks.
The namesake waterfall is 256 feet high, making it one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States. You can hike to the base of the falls from the overlook with a .4-mile hike. But the trail is challenging with stairs and boulders to scramble over and around.
The inn and restaurant are currently being rebuilt, but the park offers cabins and camping opportunities, including RV camping and rustic campsites.
The Canopy Challenge Course offers a breath-taking adventure among the forest. The course includes six different routes for a unique experience with each visit.
The park offers a variety of activities during the year. Coming up, you can learn about outdoor preparedness at a Jan. 25 session or use special paints to create artworks during the Jan. 17 Painting Nature Out of the Darkness event.
Learn more by visiting tnstateparks.com.
Hiking, boating, caving — you can find all sorts of outdoor adventures in White County. Adventures vary in difficulty. You can stop by the scenic overlook on Hwy. 70 W. for a photo op overlooking the valley below. Walk a few feet down the road for a view of Wildcat Falls when the water is flowing.
Just over the line from Cumberland County is the 1,157-acre Virgin Falls State Natural Area. An underground stream forms the namesake waterfall that falls 110-foot only to disappear into a cave at the bottom.
The traditional trail begins is rated strenuous with a 9-mile hike to the falls and back. The trailhead is located off Hwy. 70 W. just past Pleasant Hill. There are campsites. If you don’t plan on staying the night, be sure you get an early start.
If you’re not feeling up to a 9-mile hike, White County offers you an alternative.
Lost Creek State Natural Area is similar to Virgin Falls, with a 40-foot waterfall emerging from a spring and dropping over the rocks. It then disappears again. Several scenes in the 1994 Disney film “The Jungle Book” were filmed here.
The natural area includes about one mile of hiking trail.
Lost Creek also offers caving opportunities, with five entrances and seven miles of mapped passages. While there are some caving opportunities at nearby state parks, Lost Creek Cave is the only cave open to the public on state natural area property.
However, visitors should be mindful of restrictions on cave access. The cave is open from May to August and you need a permit — available from the Fall Creek Falls State Park Nature Center — before you visit. White Nose Syndrome continues to impact bat species in the state, so be sure to bring clean gear to the cave and properly clean everything after your visit.