The Benton MacKaye Trail stretches nearly 300 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Davenport Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lower 200 miles (closest to Chattanooga) follow the western crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The trail is named for Benton MacKaye, the forester, conservationist, and co-founder of the Wilderness Society who originally envisioned this route for the Appalachian Trail (AT). Passing through GA, TN, and NC, it forms a giant figure-8 loop with the AT, a total distance of over 500 miles.
Although there are many access points along the 290 miles of trail, the most convenient access point from Chattanooga is at Thunder Rock Campground, adjacent to TVA Powerhouse No. 3 (hydroelectric) on US HWY 64, a half-hour east of Cleveland, TN or a mile west of the Ocoee Whitewater Center.