Favorite Bird Watching Destinations In Tennessee (Free & Paid)

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Tennessee is loaded with some amazing birding hotspots. Vacationers and residents of this beautiful state are lucky to have the option to check out so many great destinations. The next time you’re traveling through the Volunteer State, you should definitely take time out of your busy schedule to catch your breath and enjoy a glorious time in nature while watching your favorite gorgeous birds in their normal habitat.

Also, check out some of Tennessee’s neighboring states of Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park – No Entrance Fee

I don’t know about you, but I really like Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a lot of reasons, but in particular, it’s one of the most popular national parks in the US and it’s a great place to go birding. There are many easy and moderately difficult trails to navigate, and along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to view some truly gorgeous birds.

Location:

Sugarlands Visitor Center
1420 Little River Rd.
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Phone: 865-436-1200

GPS: 35.6131° N, 83.5532° W

Hours Of Operation:

The National Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round, as long as the weather is permitting. It’s even open on all major holidays.

Sugarlands Visitor Center, on the other hand, opens from 9 AM to 5 PM seven days a week including weekends.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7TNLFllkug 

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Red-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Winter Wren
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Black-Throated Blue Warbler
  • Brown Creeper
  • Common Raven
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Blue-Headed Vireo
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Louisiana Waterthrush

Hiking Trails:

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has more trails than any other place that I’ve discovered in the United States of America. As a matter of fact, they have 340 hiking trails in the area, which is truly amazing. So, if you love hiking and bird watching and enjoy doing them at the same time, you’ll definitely appreciate spending time in the Great Smoky Mountains.

It’s impossible to share all 340 trails with you today, so I’ll narrow it down to my top 10 favorites and share a mix of easy, medium, and hard trails as far as difficulty is concerned.

The names of the top 10 trails in the Great Smoky Mountains include:

  • Andrews Bald Trail – moderate difficulty, 3.6 miles, one hour to complete
  • Mount Cammerer via Low Gap Trail – hard difficulty, 11.9 miles, six hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Gatlinburg Trail – easy difficulty, 3.8 miles, one hour and 40 minutes to complete
  • Mouse Creek Falls via Big Creek Trail – easy difficulty, 4 miles, one hour and 35 minutes to complete
  • Ramsey Cascades Trail – hard difficulty, 8.1 miles, four hours and 45 minutes to complete
  • Myrtle Point and Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail – hard difficulty, 13 miles, six hours and 45 minutes to complete
  • Abrams Falls Trail – moderate difficulty, 5.5 miles, two hours and 25 minutes to complete
  • Laurel Falls Trail – easy difficulty, 2.4 miles, one hour and 15 minutes to complete
  • Rainbow Falls Trail – hard difficulty, 5.1 miles, three hours and five minutes to complete
  • Indian Flat Falls via Middle Prong Trail – moderate difficulty, 7.8 miles, three hours to complete

Roan Mountain State Park – Free Admittance, Donations Welcome

This beautiful state park, high up in Roan Mountain, is a phenomenal place to go the next time you feel like getting together with family members or friends for a little R&R and bird watching. Not only are there plenty of birds to see in the park itself, but there are also many walking and hiking trails that are filled with some of your favorite bird species. This is an excellent destination for hiking and bird watching.

Location:

Visitor Center

527 Highway 143
Roan Mountain, TN 37687
Phone: 423-547-3906

Park Office

1015 Highway 143
Roan Mountain, TN 37687
Phone: 423-547-3900

GPS: 36.1703° N, 82.1004° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open all year round, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week.

The visitor center is also open all year round from 8 AM to 4 PM every day.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJdNYmGS5UM 

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Winter Wren
  • Veery
  • Least Flycatcher
  • Wild Turkey
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Golden-Winged Warbler
  • Pine Siskin
  • Alder Flycatcher
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Black-Throated Green Warbler
  • Red-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Hiking Trails:

Like the previous location, I also enjoy going to Roan Mountain because of the amazing hiking trails. These trails are scattered all throughout the mountain and they present easy, medium, and hard difficulty as well as varying lengths and times to complete.

To learn about the best hiking trails in Roan Mountain, please check out the following list of named trails:

  • Peg Leg Mine Trail – easy difficulty, 0.5 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Chestnut Ridge Trail – moderate difficulty, 3.9 miles, two hours and 30 minutes to complete
  • Forest Road Trail (Cates Hole) – easy difficulty, 2.2 miles, one hour and 10 minutes to complete
  • Tom Gray Trail Loop – easy difficulty, 0.5 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Forest Road Trail from Gristmill Visitor Center – moderate difficulty, 5.5 miles, three hours and five minutes to complete
  • Roan Mountain Forest Road Trail – moderate difficulty, 3.3 miles, one hour and 55 minutes to complete
  • Moonshiner’s Run Trail Loop – moderate difficulty, 0.8 miles, one hour to complete
  • Blue 2 Trail – easy difficulty, 1.6 miles, 45 minutes to complete
  • Cloudland Nature Loop – easy difficulty, 0.6 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Fred Behrend Trail – moderate difficulty, 2 miles, one hour and 10 minutes to complete
  • Raven Rock Trail – moderate difficulty, 1.5 miles, 50 minutes to complete
  • SB6K, South Beyond 6000 and Roan Highlands – hard difficulty, 11.7 miles, six hours and 20 minutes to complete

Frozen Head State Park – Free Admittance, Donations Welcome

The lovely thing about Frozen Head State Park is it’s 24,000 acres long and located in the Cumberland Mountains. This gorgeous park is known as a great place to see and discover many nesting birds and it’s specifically loved because of its natural beauty. Visitors will have a great time checking out the Observation Tower at the top of the summit as they look upon the land and take in all of the stunning birds in the wild.

Location:

964 Flat Fork Rd.
Wartburg, TN 37887
Phone: 423-346-3318

GPS: 36.1253° N, 84.4918° W

Hours Of Operation:

This beautiful park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year unless the weather isn’t cooperating.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-PlS3vmuWQ 

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Hooded Warbler
  • Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
  • Wood Thrush
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Canada Warbler
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Broad-Winged Hawk
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Black-Throated Green Warbler
  • American Redstart

Hiking Trails:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Tennessee is an amazing state to visit if you plan on doing a lot of hiking and bird watching. Just like the other parks that I’ve reviewed so far, Frozen Head State Park has many wonderful trails along the birding paths that vary from easy, medium, and hard difficulty.

Since there are so many, I’m going to cut my list down to my top 10 favorites that you can read about below:

  • Thompson and England Mountain Loop – hard difficulty, 10.9 miles, six hours and five minutes to complete
  • Ross Gap via Rocky Fork Trailhead – moderate difficulty, 4.5 miles, one hour and 50 minutes to complete
  • Old Mac North, Spicewood, Judge Branch – moderate difficulty, 9.8 miles, five hours and 30 minutes to complete
  • Chimney Top and Lookout Tower West Trail Loop – hard difficulty, 13.6 miles, seven hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Bird Mountain and North Bird Mountain Loop – hard difficulty, 10.6 miles, six hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Debord Falls – easy difficulty, 1.2 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Emery Gap Trail – easy difficulty, 2.5 miles, one hour and 20 minutes to complete
  • North and South Old Mac Mountain Loop – moderate difficulty, 8 miles, four hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Frozen Head East Lookout Tower Trail – moderate difficulty, 6.1 miles, three hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Old Mac Mountain and Frozen Head Firetower – hard difficulty, 6.9 miles, four hours and five minutes to complete

Seven Islands State Birding Park – Free Entrance, Donations Welcome

I absolutely adore Seven Islands State Birding Park because it rests on 416 acres of land that was formerly used for agriculture. Even better, they manage it appropriately and restored it to a proper grassland and natural forest. And it’s now home to more than 200 bird species, which is an amazing sight to see.

Location:

2809 Kelly Ln.
Kodak, TN 37764
Phone: 865-407-8335

GPS: 35.9539° N, 83.6867° W

Hours Of Operation:

Seven Islands State Birding Park is open every day, 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFtMpXF7ldA 

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • American Kestrel
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Bald Eagle
  • Yellow-Breasted Chat
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Tree Swallow
  • American Pipit
  • Northern Harrier
  • Wood Duck
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Blue Grosbeak

Hiking Trails:

It’s my pleasure to tell you that there are 5 amazing hiking trails for you to enjoy when you visit Seven Islands State Birding Park. And the best thing about these trails? Each one of them is easy to navigate and easy to walk along because the people that run the park designed it that way.

The names of these beautiful hiking trails are as follows:

  • Upland Trail Inner Loop – easy difficulty, 1.9 miles, 55 minutes to complete
  • Kelly Lane Greenway – easy difficulty, 2.7 miles, one hour and 10 minutes to complete
  • Upland Trail Outer Loop – easy difficulty, 2.2 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete
  • Seven Islands Loop Trail – easy difficulty, 1.8 miles, 45 minutes to complete
  • Seclusion Bend Trail – easy difficulty, 5.1 miles, two hours and 10 minutes to complete

Reelfoot Lake State Park – Free Admittance, Donations Welcome

Vacationers and residents in the area will absolutely love this beautiful site because of its famous wildlife observation. The lake itself is 15,000 acres long, and the forest surrounding it has many beautiful cypress trees and other wonderful foliage. It makes a great place for many different bird species to live and congregate during the varying seasons of the year.

Location:

2595 Highway 21
Tiptonville, TN 38079
Phone: 731-253-9652

GPS: 36.4294° N, 89.3748° W

Hours Of Operation:

This state park stays open all year round from sunrise to sunset, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfNYiqPgYME 

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Golden Eagle
  • Osprey
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Northern Parula
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Bald Eagle
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Double-Crested Cormorant
  • Wood Duck

Hiking Trails:

I discovered six wonderful walking trails in and around Reelfoot Lake. These trails range from easy to moderate difficulty, and none are so long that they’ll be too difficult to complete.

The names of the hiking trails include:

  • Reelfoot Walking Trail – easy difficulty, 0.4 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Airpark Trail – easy difficulty, 1.6 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Black Bayou Trail – easy difficulty, 1.5 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Keystone Trail – moderate difficulty, 1.5 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Grassy Island Trail – easy difficulty, 1.1 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • Reelfoot Lake Boardwalk – easy difficulty, 0.4 miles, 10 minutes to complete

Bird Watching Destinations In Tennessee: Paid Destinations

A Walk in the Woods – Paid Bird Watching Guides

The great thing about A Walk in the Woods is that their expert guides have been taking happy bird watchers and tourists through the smoky mountains since 1998. They have more than 23 years of experience bird watching in this region, and their expertise and vast knowledge will help guide you along the way as they share information about culture, wildlife, genealogy, botany, and more for the Great Smoky Mountains.

Erik and Vesna Plakanis, the founders and owners, have many different bird watching tours taking place throughout the year. Even better, they have shorter tours and overnight trips going into the Smoky Mountains, North Carolina, and other interesting locations.

Feel free to visit their website to learn more about them and to book your adventure.

Popular Bird Watching Day Tours In Tennessee:

  • Short Guided Walks through the Smoky Mountains
  • Guided Half Day Hikes through the Smoky Mountains
  • Guided Full Day Hikes through the Smoky Mountains
  • Driving and Step On Tours

Popular Bird Watching Overnight Trips In Tennessee:

  • Camping and Glamping – Camp Atagahi
  • Guided Backpacking through the Smoky Mountains

To find out detailed information about pricing for their day tours and overnight trips, visit the individual tour pages on their website for more information.

Location:

Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Phone: 865-436-8283

Email: [email protected]

Tennessee Birdwatching Clubs 

Tennessee residents are in luck because there are a few great bird watching clubs to join in this wonderful state. After signing up, you and your new friends and compatriots will have a chance to see so many wonderful birds like the Canada Goose, Wild Turkey, Pied-Billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron and more together. Connect with other people who enjoy your hobby and take your birding experiences to the next level by joining one of these great groups.

Tennessee Ornithological Society

The TOS is an exciting organization focused on preserving the environment and connecting a great group of people that can get together and go on field outings and watch birds while improving their birding skills. They also collect important bird data, support education and conservation efforts in Tennessee, and much more. Join this exciting group of experts and become the best birder that you can possibly be.

Past and Future Events

  • Virtual Tennessee Ornithological Society Fall Meeting – this year, the fall meeting is going to be held virtually on a Zoom call. It too will take place on October 4 at 6 PM central time. To find out more about the virtual for meeting, please contact Cyndi Routledge via email – [email protected] 
  • Annual Tennessee Ornithological Society Spring Meeting – the spring meeting of the TOS is going to be held on April 22 through April 24, 2022. The Memphis Chapter is hosting the event next year. Check the events tab on our website to learn specific details about this event as we get closer to the date. This is an in-person event, which is certainly a nice change of pace.

Membership Fees

  • Individual Membership – $18
  • Family Membership – $22
  • Institutional Membership US – $25
  • Institutional Membership Foreign – $35
  • Student Membership K-12 – $5
  • Sustaining Membership – $30
  • Lifetime Membership – $450

You can join the TOS by visiting this webpage and following the on-screen instructions. Or if you prefer, you can fill out and print the online form and mail your check to the following address:

Pam Lasley, TOS Treasurer
5886 Wilshire Drive
Nashville, TN 37215

Chattanooga Audubon

The Chattanooga Audubon Society has a simple mission. Their overall goal is to promote protection and preservation of the environment while teaching others to understand that this responsibility falls upon us, the people that occupy the land. This club is also about birding and members enjoy participating in many birding events together throughout the year. To become a member of the society, you should follow the instructions that I’ll share in the membership fees section.

Past and Future Events

  • Avian Discovery Days – this event took place from April 12 to April 14 in 2021. It was a program for happy Chattanooga Audubon members to join in on, which lasted 2-3 hours per day. They had stations that allowed students and participants to explore a wide variety of different habitats. They learned about eggs, bird habitats, birds of prey that they got to see in real life, and they even created replica bird eggs. It was a fun and educational event for all involved.
  • Nature Journaling Series with Jim Greenway – this series took place throughout April in May in 2021. There were three sessions that lasted for an hour each, where Jim taught the group proper ways to enhance their nature journaling skills. This was an eye-opening course for all involved and many participants had a fun time becoming skilled at nature journaling.
  • Summer Camp in July 2021 – the Jr. Explorer Camps at Audubon Acres are opening up real soon. Remember, spaces at camp are definitely limited, so remember to register early to make sure you’ve reserved a spot for your Junior Explorer. Spaces are filling up fast and July 2021 will be here before you know it.

Membership Fees

  • Individual Membership – $35
  • Family Membership – $45
  • Senior Membership 55+ – $25
  • Student Membership 18+ – $25

To become a member of the Chattanooga Audubon, you should click this link and follow the on-screen instructions. Or if you’re already a member and you need to renew, please click this link and follow the instructions on the screen to renew your membership.

You can only sign up to become a member of this organization online because they do not accept applications by mail at this time. Just follow the on-screen prompts and you’ll have no trouble signing up to join this wonderful and exciting organization.

I hope you enjoyed this list of birding in Tennessee locations and clubs! If you come across more, please send us an email with the information so we can add it to this page!