Trail Team 11: Hiking an ADA Compliant Trail at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

Trail Team 11

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, hiking is one of the most popular activities residents partake in; however, because of many trail conditions, it isn’t an activity that everyone can enjoy. Luckily, at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, there is a way for everyone to enjoy the trails.

For this Trail Team 11, our team explored the Patriots Path at Sycamore Shoals, which is only about a mile round trip and is entirely ADA Accessible.

“It’s a half a mile out and a half a mile back; it’s super easy,” Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park ranger Cory Franklin said. “ADA compliant all the way down, so really anybody can come so it’s about perfect.”

When you first begin your hike, there is something you’ll notice immediately – a large headstone. “His name was Valentine Sevier. Across the river, when we get out here to the trail, you’ll see that, but that was actually his property over there and during the siege of Fort Watauga, they actually ran across the river to get supplies and came back, so a very significant figure here on the frontier.”

Ranger Cory Franklin adds that, because of the significant events that have happened on park property, he believes Sycamore Shoals is the most important park in America.

“The events that took place here at this park are the reason we have the country that we do today,” he said. “The reason why we see the American flag, and the reason why we can call this the state of Tennessee is because of the events that took place here.”

Part of this trail is actually part of the Overmountain Victory Trail, which is another huge part of our nation’s history. To learn more about the connection between the Patriots Trail and the Overmountain Victory Trail, watch the video below.

While you’re hiking the Patriots Trail, you can also get a full-body workout as there are different workout spots posted along the trail for you to enjoy. Make sure to keep an eye out for the side path that takes you to Fort Watauga.

“This is actually the Matthew Talbot Homestead,” Franklin said. “During the 1700s, they had to really hastily put up the fort, so he volunteered his homestead to do so. So we do several living history events {at Sycamore Shoals}, the biggest being the siege for Watauga in May, talking about the fort being under siege. In September, we have the River Crossing and the Muster of the Overmountain Men, and October we have scary stories led by lantern light, so you can go around the fort and tell stories based off of lantern light. There’s a multitude of living history events throughout the year.”

While you’re on the hike, you’ll notice that almost the entire trail is right along the Watauga River, something that used to be a very important part of the trek.

“In 18th century standards, this would’ve been food,” Franklin said. “It would’ve been a source of travel, this was the main source of travel in the 18th century, so this was pivotal.”

Nowadays though, Cory says the river welcomes anglers from across the globe.

“This, along with the South Holston and East Tennessee, is actually one of the premier trout fishing spots in America,” Franklin said. “So people come from throughout the world to be able to travel down this river and catch some of the big browns and red rainbow trout we have here. So it’s really a good destination spot.”

While you’re on your hike, don’t forget to make a stop at the garden, which is maintained by the Northeast Tennessee Master Gardner’s, and operates as a Monarch waystation for migrating butterflies.

At the end of your hike, you’ll notice that things officially come full circle as the property you get to sit and enjoy the view of across the river.

“We are one of the smallest parks in the state of Tennessee, but our story stretches all the way east to the shores of England and stretches south to Kings Mountain, west to the Pacific Ocean, and north all the way up to Canada,” explains Ranger Cory Franklin. “Our story is very inclusive for the whole entirety of America.”

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