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Bird Watching

Bird Watching


From backwoods trails to paved scenic byways there are excellent vantage points from which to see everything from Sandhill Cranes, Blue Herons, and other lowland birds to the colorful Warblers that skirt the mountaintops of the high country in the Cherokee National Forest. For those who crave the solitude of the deep forest, there are hiking trails galore. Explorers who prefer the comforts of an automobile will find scenic overlooks where they can sit in the car and spot warblers, woodpeckers, and an occasional eagle.

For a FREE Birding in the Tennessee Overhill brochure, call 877-510-5765.


Mudflats, croplands and ponds near the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers offer outstanding views of large numbers of waterfowl, but the real wildlife spectacle here is migrating Sandhill Cranes. From November through late March, up to 7,000 of these regal, slate gray birds rest and feed on the refuge, the only sizeable gathering of cranes between Florida and their northern nesting grounds. Twenty waterfowl species may also be observed here in winter; most abundant are mallards and black ducks and Canada Geese.

Viewing Information: During the site’s open months, travel on foot along gravel roads and pastures toward Chickamauga Lake. Look for cranes feeding and resting on Hiwassee Island, in cornfields or in flight. Please observe cranes from a distance. An observation tower is here for year round viewing. Area open only to hunters during limited small and big game seasons; inquire with TWRA for dates.


This National Scenic Byway climbs to over 5,000 feet in elevation as it connects Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, NC. Winding across high peaks in the Cherokee and Nantahala national forests, birders will find numerous overlooks for parking and viewing as well as trails to hike on for a closer look.

Viewing Information: On the trails that lead off the Skyway, hikers can observe such northern birds as Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Winter Wrens. Other species to watch for are the Broad-winged Hawk, Common Raven, Wood Thrush, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting and Eastern Towhee.


The Cherokee National Forest is home to 262 known bird species! The best time to spot a wide variety of birds is, of course, during the spring migration, which reaches its peak in mid April. Black-capped Chickadees, Ravens, Woodpeckers,and Warblers are in plentiful supply then.

Tips: During late spring and early summer, warblers are in their breeding plumage — their boldest, most vivid colors — and males are actively singing to proclaim their territory. Great places to spot warblers are the Cherohala Skyway, the Chilhowee Overlooks on the Ocoee Scenic Byway, and the Hood Mountain (Big Bend) Overlook on the Hiwassee River


Site of the early capital of the Cherokee Indian Nation, Chota Peninsula today provides ideal conditions for wintering waterfowl, including geese, mallards, widgeons, loons and horned grebes. Spring and fall are good times to spot osprey, double-crested cormorants and black tern. Ringed billed gulls are common in the winter. Year round, view white-tailed deer, wild turkey and muskrat.

Viewing Information: Tanasi Memorial and Chota Memorial provide convenient scenic views of the lake and bottomlands. Refuge area closed mid October through mid February. Use caution during small game hunting seasons.


Located on FS 108, a paved road that follows the Hiwassee River, upriver from Reliance, TN. Good spot to see Eagles and Warblers.

Viewing Information: The drive alongside the Hiwassee River from the Hood Mountain Overlook to the end of the paved road at the Apalachia Powerhouse is known for Blue Heron, Kingfishers, and more. Eagles have been spotted along this route for the past several years.


Located on FS 77, near Benton, TN. FS 77 is a paved road that is part of the Ocoee Scenic Byway. The overlooks and surrounding forest provide good places to spot Warblers and other species that are found in high places. Located near Chilhowee Lake (Lake McCamy) and campground, this Cherokee National Forest recreational area offers more than good birding and beautiful views — it is also a good place to camp, hike, swim, and bike.

Viewing Information: During spring and fall migration and summer breeding season, watch and listen for migratory birds like Scarlet Tanagers and Blackthroated Green Warblers. During the winter months, listen for residents like Golden-Crowned Kinglets, Pine Warblers, and Carolina Chickadees.

What People Are Saying


Road trip

Linda, NC.

This was a very beautiful drive. It had a lot of overlooks and the trees were very beautiful. We also rode over to Joyce Kilmer Forest. This was a very nice hike and was amazing to see all the older trees. I would advise to take a bathroom break before the trip across the mountain.

Unbelievable beauty

dbauman, TN

Incredible drive through the Cherokee National Forest. Lots of hiking, waterfalls and mountain streams. Areas of the skyway are rather curvy, so beware. Some like to speed through this area either in road rally’s or on motorcycle. Have seen several severe accidents. A MUST visit for all the beauty!

Gorgeous views

Mike, AL.

We were surprised at how beautiful this route is. Sadly, our trip was cut short from annual undergrowth burning. We will definitely come back this way.

Awesome road and view


Nice smooth road that’s a lot of fun with beautiful sights. There’s plenty of pull offs for photos and small hikes and it makes a really nice scenic drive.


Bruce, MS.

We were in town to view the fall foliage. We hit it just right. This drive is magnificent. Several viewing sights along the way. Take advantage of all if possible.

See For Yourself

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Places to stay near here


The Tennessee Overhill region covers several areas that are full of wonderful places to stay. No matter where you end up, you can rest easy knowing days full of fun and adventure await!


Comfort Inn

If you'd like to book a room or find out more information, please click here.
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Hampton Inn

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Super 8

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Over-Niter RV Park

If you'd like to book a room or find out more information, please click here.
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Days Inn

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America’s Best Value

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Scottish Inn

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Econo Lodge

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I-75 Campground

If you'd like to book a room or find out more information, please click here.