Geographic Location: north side of
Caryville, TN (36.30929, -84.21887)
Length: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: January 2015
Overview: A fairly flat hike on asphalt trail through wooded creekside habitat.
Park Information: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/cove-lake
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=727606
Directions to the trailhead: North of Knoxville, take I-75 to US 25W in Caryville (exit 134). Exit and go north on US 25W. Drive US 25W north 0.9 miles to the park entrance on the left. Turn left to enter the park, then proceed straight at each intersection to the main park road’s end at a parking circle just uphill from the lake. Park here.
The hike: Like its brother/sister state parks Norris Dam and Big Ridge,
has its roots in the
depression-era Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA’s construction of Norris Dam on the Cove Lake
State Park Clinch
River several miles downstream caused water to back up into Cove
Creek, which in turn threatened to flood the town of Caryville. The TVA’s solution was to build a second auxiliary
dam on Cove Creek called Caryville Dam.
Water held back by Caryville Dam created , the centerpiece of this state
In addition to the lake,
features a 106-site
campground, a Cove Lake
that contains tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a restaurant, and several
picnic shelters. In hiking circles, the
park is best known as an access point for the Cumberland Trail, the master path
of eastern Recreation Village Tennessee. When complete, the Cumberland Trail will
trace a diagonal course for more than 300 miles from in the northeast to Cumberland
Gap National Historic
Park in the southeast. Check the website of the Cumberland Trail
Conference at http://cumberlandtrail.org/website/
for trail construction updates. Chattanooga-Chickamauga
is the least desirable
of northern Cove Lake
State Park Tennessee’s three TVA
state parks because its trails do not form loops. Some short out-and-backs can be done starting
at the campground, and an unnamed paved trail makes a figure-eight route along
the east bank of . In my view, the best option for dayhikers is
the northern lobe of the figure-eight trail, which is the hike described here. Although the trail is paved, the route stays
in the woods most of the time and explores the headwaters of Cove Lake . Cove
|Signs at trailhead|
Pick up the paved trail at an information board and directional sign near the back of the parking circle. The trail is open to both foot and bicycle traffic. To minimize the potential for collisions, park regulations require that bikers turn left and ride the loop clockwise while hikers must turn right and walk the loop counterclockwise.
The asphalt trail immediately enters the woods and undulates gently as it makes a sweeping 180-degree turn to the left. I heard and saw many songbirds here including robins, sparrows, woodpeckers, and cardinals. This trail would make a very nice short hike but for the ugly asphalt constantly stretching out before you. On the bright side, your feet will stay dry on this trail even when other dirt trails are too muddy for comfortable hiking.
|Hiking the paved trail|
At 0.2 miles, you reach a point where the other western arm of the loop comes very close on the left. The loop continues as the trail curves right and approaches a power line that sits just over the park’s eastern boundary. The trail never passes under the power line but instead curves back left to stay in the woods. The next segment of trail parallels the park boundary, which lies immediately to your right.
Near 0.5 miles, you reach the trail’s northern-most point as it makes a sweeping left turn to begin heading south. One of the main streams that feed
comes into view on the right for the first time here. When I hiked this trail on a cold winter
afternoon, thin layers of ice remained on the edges of the creek’s shallow
waters. Cove Lake
|Feeder stream for Cove Lake|
The trail meanders south as the creek weaves in and out of sight on the right. At 0.8 miles, a dirt trail exits right. A sign identifies this trail as the Beaver Workshop Loop and Cumberland Trail Access, but it quickly led to a frozen wetland on my visit. Thus, I chose to remain on the main paved loop.
The primary direction remains south as
backwaters begin to appear to the right.
Just before closing the loop, you pass a wooden wildlife observation
tower that was inaccessible due to high water on my visit. I managed to see some Cove Lake Canada
geese in the lake even without the tower.
The lake comes into view just as you approach the parking circle, thus
marking the end of the loop. If you want
more lake views, you can continue straight and hike the southern lobe of the
paved figure-eight-shaped trail for just under another 2 miles, but that lobe
passes through a more developed area of the park than the nice woodland loop
you just completed.