There are some things that just seem to be made for each other, like peanut butter and jelly, rainy days and long naps, and of course, the great outdoors and craft beer. Whether it’s hiking, biking, or paddling, there’s no better way to finish an adventure than with a cold, frothy beverage at a local brewery. The outdoor adventures to be had in Northeast Tennessee are practically endless, and there’s no shortage of craft breweries, either. Here are a few of our favorite pairings for outdoor destinations and unique refreshments.
1. Bays Mountain Park & Sleepy Owl Brewery
There’s a whole world of things to do at Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium in Kingsport, especially if you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie. Situated on a picturesque 44-acre lake, Bays Mountain features 40 miles of hiking trails, of which 25 miles are open to mountain bikes.
If you seek even more thrills, the park offers several adventure courses for those who want to walk on the wild side. Large groups will enjoy the high and low ropes courses, while the 310-foot Flying Squirrel zipline promises to take your breath away.
After your day at Bays Mountain Park, head over to the Sleepy Owl Brewery and round out your adventure the only way that makes sense: with a Bays Mountain Ale. While you’re there, you might catch some live music or one of the rotating (and cleverly named) local food trucks like Let’s Taco ‘Bout It or the Hokie Smokie.
2. Sill Branch Falls Trail & Depot Street Brewing
The short hike to the 20-foot Sill Branch Falls is a local favorite because of its accessibility and rewarding view. The trail begins gradually and becomes only moderately steep after you take a left at the fork and cross the stream. You’ll reach the lovely fan-shaped falls just a half-mile from the trailhead, and it’s best visited after rain.
Following your journey to waterfall wonderland, you’ll drive about 30 minutes to reach the closest brewery, Depot Street Brewing in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town. Founded in 2004, Depot Street is Northeast Tennessee’s oldest brewery and prides itself on using ingredients from around the world to make the most authentic beers possible. There are three signature beers always on tap (all with train-themed names), and a cast of rotating seasonals.
3. South Holston Lake & Holston River Brewing Company
For some of the most serene flatwater paddling in the region, take your kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard to South Holston Lake, which offers nearly 8,000 acres of pristine waters. More than half of the lake is surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest, so you’ll find plenty of wooded shoreline for picnicking and exploration during your day on the water. The lake also features many secluded islands and is a recognized trout fishery, making it ideal for fly fishing.
Next, keep the Holston-themed adventure going and enjoy a beverage at Bristol’s first brewery, Holston River Brewing Company. With 12 signature beers always on tap, you’re sure to find a favorite among the many options. Feed your post-adventure hunger with hand-crafted burgers, sandwiches and tasty appetizers from the in-house kitchen.
4. Warrior’s Path State Park & Gypsy Circus Cider Company
Situated on the banks of the Patrick Henry Reservoir on the Holston River, Warrior’s Path State Park lies along an old network of trails that the Iroquois, Cherokee, and other tribes used for trade and war raids. In the 1960s, a portion of this historic land was transformed into a state park that now spans 950 acres and includes 12.5 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking, as well as two miles of horseback trails.
For a truly unique Tennessee adventure, contact the park’s stables ahead of time and arrange a guided horseback ride for your group. You’ll gain a whole new perspective on this gorgeous park and the surrounding mountains.
If you’re feeling a bit colonial after your horseback ride through this historic area, drive 5 minutes to Kingsport and cap off your trip with the type of drink the settlers would have enjoyed—a hard cider. The Gypsy Circus Cider Company, one of the south’s most awarded cideries, uses locally grown, fresh-pressed apples to make a variety of delectable ciders. You’ll find plenty of entertainment while you sip, with old-school video games and board games, food trucks, and not so ordinary entertainment.
5. The Nolichucky River & JRH Brewing
About 3,000 feet deep in some places, the Nolichucky River Gorge offers dramatic surroundings for a rafting adventure. Depending on just how much excitement you’re seeking, you’ll have a few different rafting options. For a real thrill ride, you can take a half-day or all-day trip through Class II-III rapids. For a mellow excursion, book a trip on the Lower Nolichucky, which features Class I-II rapids and is suitable for ages four and up.
After you’ve dried off from rafting, head north on I-26. As you exit the mountains you’ll hit Johnson City, home of JRH Brewing, which offers six signature beers named after points of interest specific to the area, plus small batch specials. This brewery is known for its huge array of weekly events, from yoga sessions and running meetups to crawfish boils and cheese tastings. You’re sure to find an event that’s almost as adventurous as your trip down the Nolichucky.
6. Steele Creek Park & Elderbrew
If you love to hike and mountain bike, head to Bristol to explore Steele Creek, one of Tennessee’s largest city parks. Its 2,000 acres of undeveloped forest are home to more than 24 miles of trails, including fantastic winding singletrack offering moderate to difficult rides. The park also features a nature center that focuses on the area’s natural history, as well as native animal exhibits, herb and wildflower gardens, and a native species arboretum.
After a day in the wilds of Steele Creek, you deserve an equally wild beer. Head over to Elderbrew in Bristol to taste some wonderfully weird brews like the Thai Fighter or the Black Lodge Imperial Porter. You can check Elderbrew’s website to find out what’s currently on tap and plan your visit to coincide with one of their frequent concerts or weekly events.
7. Roan Mountain State Park & Yeehaw Brewing Company
Just 35 minutes out of Johnson City, Roan Mountain State Park is one of Northeast Tennessee’s most popular spots for adventure, and for good reason. It’s home to a beautiful natural rhododendron garden, which blooms into flowery brilliance each June, in addition to breathtaking bald mountain landscapes. The state park is great for day hiking and camping, and the Appalachian Trail can also be accessed nearby at Carver’s Gap, where visitors can hike or backpack in the highlands for miles on end.
After your trip to Northeast Tennessee’s most well-known outdoor destination, it’s only fitting that you end your day with some of the region’s most well-known beer at Yeehaw Brewing Company. This place offers a variety of craft brews, tons of great outdoor seating and old school arcade games like skee-ball. The brewery is located in the heart of downtown and shares its space with White Duck Taco Shop, making this a one-stop shop for all your post-adventure needs.
After your visit to the park, you could also head to The Station at 19E, which is Roan Mountain’s only hostel with a pub. During your visit to The Station, you can sample a variety of local brews and enjoy talking with folks who are hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Written by Madison Eubanks for RootsRated Media in partnership with Northeast Tennessee Tourism.
Featured image provided by Northeast Tennessee