Less than one hour from Knoxville, there’s something for everyone at Panther Creek State Park. The 1,435-acre park is located on the Cherokee Reservoir in the historic Holston River Valley. Legend has it that the Panther Creek area received its name from the claim of a Colonel Bradley of Virginia who, while exploring the area, shot a panther that fell into the spring. The park offers a variety of possibilities – hiking, biking, camping and picnicking, fishing and equestrian trails.
With over 17 different hiking trails that cover more than 30 miles of terrain, there’s a hike for all ages and skill levels. Hikers can enjoy a short, one-mile hike to the park’s wildlife observation deck or opt for a more strenuous hike that leads to the highest elevation in the park. But trust me, the trek will be worth it when you see the brilliant views of Cherokee Lake and the Cumberland Mountains from Point Lookout Trail reaching 1,460 feet above sea level.
There are also more than 15 miles of mountain biking trails that range from easy to moderate. The most popular is Old Wagon Trail – a trail for all ages and skill levels, this 1.0-mile trail contours Panther Creek. You have your pick of scenery – from trails that wind along the lake or wide-open fields winding through the cedar glades and bramble fields.
Cherokee Lake, named after the Native American tribe that once resided there, provides year-round catches of bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, rock fish and bream. If you are looking to be the author of your own fisherman’s tale, cast your line in this lake – it is common to catch rock fish up to 20 pounds!
Panther Creek also offers seven miles of horseback riding trails – the 3.8-mile Hunt Knob trail being the longest. This scenic trail follows the perimeter of Cherokee Lake 1.75 miles before ascending Hunt Knob Ridge. The trail terrain varies between straight, gently sloping sections along the lake to strenuous, hilly sections around Hunt Knob. Horse trailers must use the parking area off Panther Creek Road, just to the west of Boat Ramp Road.
Need a good reason to make a day-trip to Panther Creek? This Saturday, Feb. 17, Lori Hill will lead the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club on a six-mile moderate hike that will explore several trails, making a loop that will encompass nice views of the lake and Cumberland Mountains. Meet at Comcast on Asheville Highway at 9 a.m. to carpool or at the Spoone Recreation Area parking area at Panther Creek at 10 a.m.
For more information on Tennessee state parks and a calendar of outdoor events, visit Outdoor Knoxville.