Pickett CCC Memorial State Park is one of my hidden gems for hiking. It is such a lovely state park; small but full of great hikes to cool rock formations, a fun swinging bridge, and around a picturesque lake.

I especially recommend it to people if they are looking for lots of easy but interesting hikes from one central location. It is terrific for families with younger kids not up to doing huge mileage but also for anyone that likes to wander through the woods and see rock arches, caves, waterfalls, and a lovely lake with a swinging bridge.

These are my favorite hiking trails in Pickett State Park and they are a mix of super short trails, afternoon jaunts, and one longer day hike.

I particularly like that you can string several shorter hikes together without having to drive to another trailhead and also, that you can reach most of these hikes from the campground. I love being able to leave my car for most of the day or even the whole weekend.

My Favorite Hiking Trails In Pickett State Park

  1. The Lake + Island Trail – 1.85 mile combined loop, easy
  2. Hazard Cave – 1.6 mile loop, moderate because of stairs
  3. Natural Bridge Trail – 1 mile loop, easy
  4. Story Book Trail – 0.25 miles, super easy
  5. Hidden Passage Trail – 7.8 mile loop, moderate
The kids and our dog on Hazard Cave trail, one of our favorite hiking trails in Pickett State Park. It is a massive rock shelter that the kids were suitably impressed by.

General Info About Hiking Trails In Pickett State Park

There are only 10 trails in this small park, which comprises just over 1,000 acres. Nine of these hiking trails are 2.5 miles long or less, while Hidden Passage trail is the only long trail in the park at 7.8 miles.

(Part of Hidden Passage trail exits the park boundaries and continues through the adjoining Pickett State Forest where you can find several more good trails. I’ll link to those at the end if you want more information about those. The surrounding Pickett State Forest consists of 20,887acres.)

Most of the hiking trails in Pickett State Park have a cool feature (like an arch or a cave) at the end or along the way, which makes it a particularly great place to hike with kids (or easily bored adults).

My recommendation is to hike one trail in the morning and another in the afternoon, interspersing it with lunch at a picnic table by the lake. That makes a pretty great day out in the woods in my book.

The park has color coded all of the trails and put matching blazes on trees and signs to make it easy to follow the trail you are on. This is nice because often these trails criss-cross each other so you could get off on the wrong trail if you weren’t following your handy-dandy color.

I would check in at the ranger station as soon as you enter the park. It is right there by the entrance so it’s easy to do. That way you can find out if there are any trail closures you need to know about.

A Little Background About The Park

The full official name of the park is Pickett CCC Memorial State Park. The park was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a state recreation area. They built the cabins, the lake, and most of the trails.

The CCC Museum in the park is small but very interesting with lots of first- hand accounts of the men who worked in the CCC. To find out more, head to Things To Do In Pickett State Park.

Pickett State Park Map

Is Pickett State Park Dog Friendly?

Yes! Like all Tennessee State Parks, you can bring your fur baby with you to Pickett State Park as long as you keep your dog on a max 6 ft long leash. My dog loved her trip here and rates it 10/10 Milkbones.

A young boy and medium sized red dog stand on a wooden boat dock with canoes and paddleboards tied up. They are looking out over the lake towards a rock bluff on the far side.
My nephew and my dog admiring Arch Lake in Pickett State Park. In summer, you can rent the canoes and paddleboards for the lake. See our blog about Things To Do In Pickett.

Our 5 Favorite Hiking Trails In Pickett State Park

1) The Lake Trail + Island Trail

1.85 mile combined loop, easy

Start from the parking area by the swinging bridge over Arch Lake, walk over the bridge, and turn right. This starts this super scenic and easy Lake Trail (Blue Blazes) around the lake. You will get some great views over the lake as you head north into a more wooded area.

At about the halfway point, you cross Thompson Creek on a small bridge (about where Bluff Trail and Ladder Trail split off on the map above). From there, you loop back to the lake, passing some cabins, the boat dock and swimming area, before getting back to the parking area.

Island Trail

From the Lake Trail, do take the short detour over to Island Trail. You will see it as you pass by the spur to the campground. Island Trail leads across the top of the natural rock arch that gives Arch Lake its name (you can see a picture of it in the above gallery)

Once you cross on top of the arch, you can do a 0.3 mile loop around the little peninsula to get more great views of the lake as well as the weir dam that the CCC built to create the lake.

We were lucky enough to have the trail to ourselves and it felt like we were discovering our own hidden island. Super fun. ** There are some steep drop-offs at some sections of this trail so hang on to little kids!

As you get near the arch, you will see signs asking you to stay on the trail so you don’t trample the endangered Cumberland Sandwort, a plant only found in this immediate area.

2) Hazard Cave Trail

1.6 mile loop, moderate because there are some stairs

Starting from the far end of the picnic area parking lot, the Hazard Cave Trail (white blazes) leads to a spectacular rock shelter. It is worth a much longer hike than the paltry 0.8 miles you have to walk to see this super cool geologic formation, even considering the few stairs you have to navigate.

Hazard Cave is not truly a cave but actually a rock shelter which is a large rock overhang very common in this area. You will see lots of you do any hiking in this park, Pogue Canyon, and Big South Fork.

The rock shelter is home to the endangered Cumberland Sandwort as well as a rare kind of glow worm. So do mind the fences and stay on the trail when you get to the “cave” in order to avoid accidentally trampling this fragile environment.

You can shorten this hike even more by driving to the parking area off Hwy 154 that is only 0.25 miles from the rock shelter. However, this route will exchange mileage for even more stairs so this may not work out well for little kids.

You can also combine the trip to Hazard Cave with the Natural Bridge Trail (see the next trail for description) to make an approximately 2 mile hike to see both of these nifty geologic formations.

Hazard Cave in Pickett State Park, TN
A 360 view of Hazard Cave

3) Natural Bridge Trail

1 mile loop, easy

Head to the Recreation Lodge near the lake and the main parking area, then cross the street to the woods opposite to find the trailhead for this fun and easy hike.

The Natural Bridge Trail (brown blazes) takes you in just half a mile to a pretty cool stone arch that is 86 feet long and 35 feet high. You can even climb up to the top of the arch and walk across it.

Like Hazard Cave, this trail is another large bang for a ridiculously low buck. You can combine the two trails together to make a roughly 2 mile loop walk that is easy enough for even young kids to do at a slow speed.

The fact that you can see an arch and a cave in a fairly easy 2 mile hike is one of the many reasons I really like Pickett State Park.

4) Story Book Trail

The trail is not listed on the website but my guess is around 0.25 miles

Just behind the playground at the picnic area, you will the super short but fun Story Book Trail, a great activity for younger kids.

If you haven’t seen one of these types of trails yet, basically they take a short kids book and print one page at a time on a sign, interspersing them about 10 or so yards apart along the trail. Kids love to run from one sign to the next to read the next part of the story (or wait for you to read it to them).

A sign with arrows pointing to different hiking trails in Pickett State Park near a sign with the first page of a kids story book.
The start of the Story Book Trail. The sign has the first page of the book and you hike the very short trail to read the rest of the pages. Super cute!

5) Hidden Passage Trail

7.8 mile loop, moderate

This trail has waterfalls, overlooks, and a scramble through a passageway in a rock shelter (hence the name “Hidden Passage”). It is a fun trail that will take you most of the day to hike and could be a little too much for some kids.

The blog, Cloudhiking Trails, has an excellent post about hiking Hidden Passage Trail with lots of pictures and mileage info. I unfortunately don’t have any good pictures from this trail because I broke my cell phone after hiking this trail.

I recommend hiking this trail counter-clockwise so you get the flat bit at the end.

Check in with the rangers before hiking this trail in case there are blowdowns or other trails obstacles you need to know about. This isn’t as popular a trail as the ones wholly within the park so it can get a little overgrown sometimes.

a waterfall over a series of ledges with a large rock face in the background
Crystal Falls is a neat waterfall you will see on Hidden Passage trail. Photo courtesy of Pickett State Park website.

Picnic Area and Playground

I would pack a picnic lunch to eat in between your hikes and since almost all of them start and finish at the main parking area and picnic area, it makes a great place to stop and eat.

Pickett has a large picnic area with lots of tables to choose from, many with a lovely lakeside setting. And you will find a small playground (aimed at younger kids) around the picnic area as well as a tennis court.

If you are looking for picnic supplies, you will need to stop on your way into Pickett State Park. There is not a lot in this area and nothing super close to the park.

Beaty’s Wildwood Grocery is the nearest convenience store/gas station and will have some picnic/camping supplies. It also has a pretty decent diner menu with burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, and breakfast biscuits. Beaty’s Wildwood Grocery is on Hwy 154/Pickett Park Hwy, about 7 miles south of the park.

More picnic supplies and restaurants can be found in Jamestown, about 13 miles/20 min south of the park.

*Pro Tip- I will warn you that it can get a little buggy in the park in the summer. Bring plenty of bug spray and citronella candles.

Other Things To Do At Pickett State Park

Besides hiking, there is swimming, canoeing, camping, tennis, fishing, and cabin rentals on site in this great little state park. Check out our other blogs about the park to find out more.

Nearby Parks With Great Hiking Also

The Cumberland Plateau is teeming with fantastic outdoor areas. Just down the street from Pickett State Park is Pogue Canyon Natural Area and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Alvin C. York State Park is 30 min away, Frozen Head State Park is an hour away, and Obed Wild and Scenic River is an hour and 15 min away.

Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area – 5 min away

Just 2 miles down the road from Pickett is this pretty park that I bet you have never heard of before- Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area. Which is reasonable because it was only sold by The Nature Conservancy to the state in 2006. Since then, several trails have been blazed to some fantastic overlooks, rock shelters, and waterfalls.

The trailhead is in a field off Highway 154 that also doubles as Pickett State Park’s astronomy field. You can take a fairly easy 1.8 mile Overlook Trail that loops past some huge rock shelters and to an overlook of the canyon from the trailhead here.

If you want a longer hike, you can connect to the Upper Canyon Trail from the Overlook Trail for a 6-7 mile hike, depending on how far you go. Read Independent Herald Oneida’s article about it or see AllTrails for good descriptions and pictures of the trails.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area – 5 min away

Park of the National Park Service, Big South Fork is one of my favorite places to hike and camp. The Divide Road entrance to the park is basically across the street from Pickett State Park and leads to fabulous Twin Arches trail as well as many others.

There is so much to do in this 125,000 acres park. Check out our blogs about it to find out more:

Things To Do In Big South Fork

Our Favorite Hiking Trails In Big South Fork

Tour A Historic Mining Camp At Blue Heron Mining Community

Camping In Big South Fork

The Best Cabin Rentals In And Near Big South Fork

What It Is like To Stay In Charit Creek Lodge In Big South Fork

Alvin York State Historic Park- 30 min away

One of the most decorated soldiers in WWI, Alvin York is famous for his capture of 128 German soldiers in the Argonne Forest. The Alvin York State Historic Park includes a Visitor Center modeled after his general store, a grist mill, the York home, and a recreated WWI trench. You can hike 0.5 miles to York’s burial site by way of a neat swinging bridge over the Wolf River.

The park is free to visit but the 45 min guided tour of the York home costs $5 for adults (free for 12 or younger). You can book a spot online.

The park is 19 miles/ 30 minutes away from Pickett CCC Memorial State Park.

Frozen Head State Park – 1 hour away

A small but beautiful state park with a fascinating history, Frozen Head has one of my favorite front-country campgrounds in the area and an easy waterfall hike worth a trip there.

Plus, you can stop in to visit Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a former maximum security prison that is now a historic site with tours given by former guards and inmates. James Earl Ray was imprisoned here.

Obed Wild And Scenic River- 1 hour 15 min away

Also part of the National Park service, the Obed is primarily for climbers and kayakers, but there are some nice hiking trails as well. The Overlook Trail at Lily Bluff is a super easy and short trail out to a beautiful overlook of the river gorge.

Final Thoughts

I think Pickett State Park is a fun little park to explore, with lots to do packed into its small footprint. Its short hiking trails to big features makes it a perfect place for families to take a walk in the woods, especially for those with younger kids. Spend a day or a weekend and enjoy all this park has to offer.

Happy Trails – Amanda

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