When making a trip to East Tennessee, the obvious choice for almost any outdoor activity is the Smoky Mountains. However, there are many hidden gems outside of the park throughout the rest of East Tennessee. House Mountain, located just northeast of Knoxville in Corryton, is at the top of that list. It's summit is the highest point in Knox County, and it is the go-to spot for local hikers and birders.
House Mountain State Natural Area has a total of 5.8 miles of walking and hiking trails, including the main 4.5-mile loop. Starting at the parking lot, you will head into the woods, through a clearing, and up to the official trailhead. Here you have two options: a 0.8-mile climb up switchbacks with rocky terrain, or a 1.2-mile gradual climb with more steady footing and only a few switchbacks. You are able to go up and down the same way, but crossing the ridge and seeing the entire mountain makes for the best experience as well as the best workout!
The ridge is arguably the best part of this hike. Relatively flat with rolling hills in place of those dreaded switchbacks, it offers a much more pleasant hike that allows you to focus on the trees, rock formations, and incredible views of the farming town of Corryton in the valley below. All along the trail are small viewing ares, and some even have rocks you can easily climb to get a better panoramic view. Of course, use caution anytime you boulder, and stick to the rocks that are back off of the ledge. Another beautiful part of the ridge are the wildflowers every spring and summer. Any lover of flora will have plenty to gaze at on this hike. From top to bottom there are spruce, pine, and hemlock trees as well as rhododendron and other small brush and vines along with the wildflowers.
The vistas are the other big highlight of this trail. Though there are many smaller overlooks, there are two main vistas located on either end of the ridge. The West Overlook, which you'll see first coming up from the shorter Summit Trail, offers views of the eastern edge of Knoxville, and some breathtaking views of the Smokies to your left and Cumberlands to your right. The East Overlook, however, steals the show. With two huge rocks that jut out over the side of the mountain, it offers the ideal Instagram-worthy landscape. This is the spot to grab a bite to eat and spend some time enjoying the view, which is best done by stringing up a hammock in the many trees around the rocks. What's better than taking a nap at the top of a mountain?
This is a moderate 4.5-mile loop that is doable for most everybody. The loop option is great for those looking for a moderate day hike, but the up and back option makes it convenient for those with a time restriction. Dogs are allowed and encouraged at House Mountain, just be mindful and make sure to clean up after your pets. Considering its close proximity to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, House Mountain is rarely crowded. This is more of a local favorite than a must see, but if you're looking to beat the crowds and still get a great East Tennessee feel out of a hike, this is the one for you!