Watauga Lake Hike

Johnson City, Tennessee 37602

Watauga Lake Hike

Watauga Lake Hike Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Soak in this highlight-filled lakeside ramble. Join the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as it curves along the shore of Watauga Lake, bordered by mountain vistas aplenty and swimming opportunities too."

More Watauga Lake Hike Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Five-Star Trails: Tri-Cities of Tennessee and Virginia (Menasha Ridge Press)
Johnny Molloy
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"Enjoy a highlight-fi lled lakeside ramble on the Appalachian Trail. Join the AT as it curves along the shore of Watauga Lake, soaking in mountain vistas aplenty, and swimming opportunities, too. Cruise away from the lake, passing a pair of pre-lake homesites. Next, stop by an AT shelter before visiting Watauga Dam. Th e dam, a Tennessee Valley Authority legacy, off ers wide-ranging panoramas of the surrounding land and waterscape."

Watauga Lake Hike Trip Reports

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The Appalachian Trail rambles down to Watauga Lake, and continues around the water's edge until crossing the Watauga Dam at a beautiful park and observation deck. There is great camping here on the Appalachian Trail or Cardens Bluff Campground, at a a small peninsula with wonderful campsites right on the lake. It is pretty inexpensive with clean showers and restrooms. It is a very quiet and peaceful waterfront campground, so I would recommend it. There's no electricity or water at the sites, but there are concrete pads and fire rings and restrooms are conveniently located. Boats and canoes can be anchored by the sites. There are boats available to rent or plenty of shore to lounge around on and enjoy the views. I would rate the hike itself as moderate and it is easily accessible from Highway 321 in Hampton, Tennessee. I highly recommend it for anyone, especially new hikers in the Tri-Cities area who are looking to experience the Appalachian Trail without too much strenuous hiking. You’ll definitely encounter awesome mountain and lake vistas, pass by an A.T. shelter, and walk on top of the highest earthen dam in the eastern U.S.

Watauga Lake Hike Photos

Trail Information

Johnson City
Nearby City
Trail Type
Easy to Moderate
Skill Level
3.5 hours
1,970 feet
Trailhead Elevation
2,240 feet
Top Elevation
Cherokee National Forest, Watauga Ranger District: 423-735-1500, www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee
Local Contacts
Trails Illustrated #783 South Holston and Watauga Lakes; Appalachian Trail Conservancy TN–NC Maps 1 and 2; USGS Elizabethton and USGS Watauga Dam
Local Maps

Trail Log