Book Review – Hiking Tennessee

Hiking Tennessee by Victoria Steele Logue
Human Kinetics Publishers, April 2015

3 stars.
The good:

-Hike descriptions are super-detailed. A few of them might even take longer to read than to hike! Emphasis is given to pointing out natural and historical features found along the trail, making the descriptions far more than simply directions on how to complete the hike.

-GPS points are given for virtually every feature identified in the hike descriptions.

-This book is an excellent guide to Tennessee’s state parks. I think every state park with a trail or path of any sort is featured, with the exception of the two newest that opened within the last few months (Seven Islands and Rocky Fork). On the flip side, all but four of the areas listed are state parks–and there are tons of great places to hike in Tennessee that aren’t state parks!

-The overview text of each park is extensive, educated, and readable.

-I like the “hike finder” chart listing at the beginning, that shows the types of terrain and natural features found on each trail.

-This is a pretty book, well organized and a pleasure to read. The author is both knowledgeable and a clear communicator.

The bad:

-The emphasis seems to be on very short trails. I count 14 “trails” under 1 mile, and 56 that are under 3 miles. In many cases, significantly better trails at a park are overlooked in favor of short jaunts. As an example, the wonderful 4.5 or so mile Cub Creek Lake Trail at Natchez Trace State Park is well worth a visit to the park for its water features, walk across the dam, combination ridge and bottomland hiking, and optional wire traverse across a stream (not to mention that it’s a loop that connects with a pair of beautiful bridges across the lobes of the lake, not a one-way trail as stated in the guide). The Fairview Gullies Trail, a 1 mile loop through astonishing erosive features, is another great choice. But this book gives a full page description of the half-mile Fern Nature Loop instead–a cute interpretive trail, but it’s not going to inspire anyone to drive the 100 or so miles from either Nashville or Memphis to hike it, whereas better choices would.

-The maps are very simplistic, just black and white drawings of roads, trails, water features, a few icons, and numbered points along the trail that refer to the legend and text descriptions. In many cases, these could be simply labelled on the map. No topo lines are shown, so ridgelines are not obvious at all, a glaring oversight. No scale is given. The overview maps of the park frequently don’t identify the trailheads for the hikes (and sometimes don’t even share any features!), which makes it difficult or impossible to match up the hike detail map to the park map.

As an example, check out these two maps from the Reelfoot Lake State Park entry.  The first one is the overview of the park.  The second is the trail map.  Try to figure out where the trail is in the park.  From the legend, it is clear that there are roads and bridges along the hike.  Why are those not indicated?

Reelfoot LakeReelfoot Lake - Airpark Trail

-Elevation data isn’t readily found. This is a must for any Tennessee hiking book!

-The book is a big, heavy 8.5×11″ package that I really couldn’t see taking on a hike. Hello, scan and print and the questionable copyright law interpretation that entails…

Probably more “Walking Tennessee” than “Hiking Tennessee”. Good for its coverage of lesser-known trails, but all too frequently these are lesser known because they don’t present much in the effort/reward ratio. This volume could have been considerably better with improved maps and more compelling hike choices.

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