Starry, Starry, Night
While the 9 Lakes Region is well known for its gorgeous scenery of sparkling lakes and wooded mountains, beauty is also found in the night when the reds and pinks of sunset fade, and the velvety black of night creeps across the sky. This is the right time to begin looking up at the sky to view stars, constellations, and shooting stars while listening to nature’s symphony of water, bird calls, tree frogs, crickets, and wind stirring thru leaves. Twice a year, meteor showers will light up the skies, providing a celestial experience for stargazers.
During the month of August, the annual Perseid Meteor showers peak on the nights of 11-12 and 12-13 providing the best viewing for star watching. Stargazers can expect to see about 60-70 meteors per hour. Viewing the meteor showers requires patience and dark sky that is away from ambient city lights. With the many acres of public land, the 9 Lakes are a natural destination for star gazing. Here are five (5) great locations to visit for your celestial viewing adventure:
Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area– Wartburg is situated on 24,000 acres of wilderness and boasts wooded campsites, trails, and waterfalls. A hike to the pinnacle observation deck provides a breathtaking 360 view of the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee Valley to the south, and a view of the Cumberland Plateau to the west and north. During the day, cool off in waters below Debord Falls. On the weekend of the Perseid Showers, the park will be hosting their 38th Annual Heritage Day event, celebrating the cultural history of the people that settled the area.
Nearby, Obed Wild and Scenic River- Wartburg is a designated as an International Dark Sky Park. Two the best locations to observe the night skies are the Lilly Bluff Overlook high above the Clear Creek Gorge and from the span of Nemo Bridge. Obed offers some of the best summer hiking and rock climbing in the 9 Lakes. Begin your adventure by stopping by the National Park Service in Wartburg and learn about the history of the area. Spend a day hiking, bouldering, fishing, or splashing in the rocky pools along the river. Enjoy a nighttime light show and the sounds of the woodlands that will make you imagine the experiences of early pioneers exploring America’s frontiers.
Coker Creek is nestled between Tellico Plains and the Cherohala Skyway. The community’s history is woven from the history of the Cherokee, migration of European settlers, and a history of the earliest gold rush. The creek is an excellent trout fishery, and the nearby trails in the Cherokee National Forest lead to beautiful waterfalls, tree canopied forest floors, and mountaintop balds such as Buck Bald. The 360 view from Buck Bald provides stargazers an ideal, unobstructed view of the skies. Trails are open to backpackers, horses, mountain bikers and OHVs.
Baker Hollow Trail- Lenoir City is one of the many TVA trails developed to provide public access to the lakes and to recreation opportunities. The trail is a section of the larger East Lakeshore Trail system on Tellico Lake. The climb to Mizell Bluff provides a vista of the lake with a backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. The trail is open to hikers. Bring your 4 legged friend to share in the adventure.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park- Gatlinburg provides many stargazing adventures. Newfound Gap Trail head parking lot is a great location to immerse in night sky watching. Another option is to porch sit from one of the numerous cabins that overlook the park. The venerable Smokies are inspiring with the beauty and views that make the park the most visited National Park.
Each night when the skies darken across the 9 Lakes, the night lights and night sounds provide a peaceful ending to a day filled with outdoor adventures. Play, stay, and relax.