First, there’s that sweet spot – the prime location between Chattanooga and Knoxville, close to the Smoky Mountains. Add to that the million dollar lake views, hiking trails, winery, and antiquing. Finally, finish up with sumptuous food, and you have Loudon County TN, a must see in our list of places to spend a weekend in the South.
Recently, Kary and I had the chance to visit Loudon County in East Tennessee, and we had a blast! We navigated the “triangle,” hitting the cities of Lenoir City, Loudon (the county seat), Philadelphia, and Greenback. With the Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop, the Tennessee River always nearby, and charming boutique downtown shopping around every corner, we never ran out of adventures and activities.
As an added bonus, Loudon is only around 3 hours from Nashville TN, so you could easily combine the two for a fun-packed vacation!
Here are our favorite things to do in Loudon County, a.k.a. “LoCo!”
1. Outdoor Activities in Loudon County
Check out the Million Dollar View
For the best view in the region, we stopped to admire what locals call “the million dollar view,” the natural, scenic areas open to the public around Tellico Lake.
Hike East Lakeshore Trail
East Lakeshore Trail is located along the east shoreline of Tellico Lake. The trail is 28.8 miles long, with access at nine trailheads along the way. Advanced hikers could do the entire trail in a day, but it’s also a great option for more leisurely hikers who could as little as a half mile hike to the Mizell lookout point. The variety and versatility of hikes make it a great option for just about anyone.
Tellico Dam Walkway (Lenoir City)
For those who prefer more of a walk than a hike, the paved path along the dam is perfect. The path is flat, favoring walkers, runners, bikers, and pet-walkers. Expansive views of the lake sometimes include fishermen and boaters.
Boating on Fort Loudoun Lake (Lenoir City)
During spring, summer, and fall, getting out onto the water is one of the most popular activities in the region. We rented a pontoon boat from Fort Loudon Marina and set out for an impressive cruise through Fort Loudoun Lake, Tellico Lake, and Watts Bar Lake. The scenery included coves, bluffs, and the dam.
Did I mention the diversity of a pontoon boat? I got to both drive AND chill on the vessel!
2. Places to Visit in Loudon County TN
Dead Man’s Farm (Lenoir City)
Named the scariest haunted house in Tennessee, and one of the top frights in the country, I can tell you, the accolades for Dead Man’s Farm are warranted. This was my first time at a walk-through haunted house, and the Bludgeon House Tour was 25 minutes of pure psychological terror!
I definitely channeled my most intense childhood fears, and I had to keep saying to myself, “they won’t actually touch you” (because yes, you can opt for a “touch” experience in which you wear a glow necklace and they are allowed to drag you into the experience!). Even without the touch option, I screamed so loud and often that I developed a sore throat, and my nails drew blood from Kary’s arm.
Sweetwater Valley Farm (Philadelphia)
Agritourism at its best, the Harrison family has brought new meaning to the term “cow to consumer” with the entire process taking place on site. I almost skipped this working dairy farm because I’m allergic to dairy – except for cheddar. As it turned out, cheddar is exactly what they produce – approximately 300,000 pounds of the cheese annually – so I was able to partake. And partake I did. They offer small samples of dozens of delicious cheeses. My favorites were the jalapeno cheese, the tomato cheese (think: pizza), and their award-winning Reserve extra sharp. I took home blocks of each of these. I am so glad I decided to visit Sweetwater Valley Farm!
The Highway 11 antique trail starts in downtown historic Lenoir City and continues on to Loudon and Sweetwater. We had fun browsing through the vintage antiques, memorabilia, and collectibles. There are also boutique shops selling custom furniture and handmade arts and crafts.
Tennessee Valley Winery (Loudon)
Established more than 30 years ago, Tennessee Valley Winery is the state’s oldest operating, family-owned winery. The winery is perched on a high hill with extensive views of the valley below. It has received over 800 awards and has even been served at the White House. I don’t usually drink wine unless it has bubbles, and I particularly do not like red wine, but they persuaded me to try the Country Red, their biggest seller. I’m telling you the truth… I LOVED it! It was sweet and light, very unlike other reds which do not appeal to me.
Paint and Sip (Lenoir City)
If you’d like to try your hand at painting, Markets on Broadway is the place to go. Would-be artist groups can all do the same painting, or if you don’t want to paint the same thing as the rest of your group, do your own thing. The shop provides a 16″x20″ canvas, acrylic paint, easel, apron, brushes and a local artist for instruction. Artists bring their own food and/or drinks.
3. Loudon County’s Best Places to Eat
Annabell’s Emporium & Café (Loudon)
What could be more fun than eating lunch surrounded by an eclectic and colorful array of antiques, furniture, and jewelry? Annabell’s menu includes homemade quiche, soups, wraps, and desserts.
Greenback Drugstore and Diner (Greenback)
The diner is famous for its grilled honeybun. They start with an oversized honey bun (already a good idea), slather it with butter and heat it on the griddle under a metal cover. The warmed bun is topped with a double scoop of ice cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Big enough to share!
Calhoun’s at the Marina (Lenoir City)
You can’t beat waterside dining at one of Tennessee’s largest marinas, where we watched the yachts moving about as we ate the excellent barbeque and fish and chips.
The open-air dining on Calhoun’s patio is available all year round with heaters to keep out the chill in the colder months. And if you’ve rented a pontoon boat for the day, you can pull up dockside to pick up take-out orders.
Ugly Mug (Lenoir City)
I loved this unique coffee shop! Ugly Mug allows you to do just that….drink your coffee from one of their lineup of mugs – many of which are unattractive. Try a challenge to see who can snag the ugliest mug! We had a very tasty bagel breakfast sandwich and coffee cake mega-muffin with our excellent coffee.
Country Kinfolk Marketplace & Café (Lenoir City)
Family owned and operated, Country Kinfolk is an entrepreneurial conglomerate which includes a down-home restaurant, a marketplace with primitives, antiques, and custom furniture, a barn used for events (there was a wedding reception in progress when we were there), and four cozy cabins currently being constructed. If you’re lucky, patriarch “Vince” – very much like everyone’s uncle – may come over to your table to regale you with his hilarious antidotes.
Tic Toc Ice Cream Parlor (Loudon)
29 flavors of homemade ice cream served in glass dishes or three kinds of cones. Why not try one…or three?
Blue Heron (Loudon)
We enjoyed excellent fine dining with a stunning sunset view over the lake at the Blue Heron at the Tellico Village Yacht Club. I had a petite filet and Kary had lamb shank – both were excellent.
Stop and Shop (Loudon)
Cook-to-order breakfast at this diner and convenience store makes it a great place to meet friends. The eatery also hosts the local bluegrass band, Hard Road, every other Thursday night. The nighttime menu includes fried catfish dinners, cheeseburgers, and cold beer on tap.
4. Most Instagrammable Spots
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Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Visit Loudon County during her stay in East Tennessee, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.
Read more about Patti Morrow.