Hiking Fitness Trail & Harmon Loop Trails

The series on Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary continues. This month’s article highlights two hiking trails at Norris Dam State Park, the Fitness Trail and Harmon Loop. These two trails are located on the West Side of the park and connect to one another. While you can hike them separately, you also have the option to extend your time in nature and hike both of them.
When you enter the west side of the park you will drive down a short hill, at the bottom is a small parking lot. Turn here to enjoy the cool hours of the morning. There are two trailheads at the back of the parking lot. I always start at the trailhead at the back right of the parking lot. Hike along the short access trail to reach the two trails. WATCH FOR POISON IVY!! The access trail is narrow and lined with poison ivy. I suggest wearing long pants when you hike these trails. In a few minutes you will come to a four way, to the left is Harmon Loop (blazed purple) and straight ahead and to the right is the Fitness Trail (blazed white). Turn right.
The Fitness Trail (.9 mile) offers a pleasant stroll through the woods, but it is also a chance to get some exercise. The exercise begins when you turn right to climb a steep hill. When you get to the top and catch your breath you encounter the first of fourteen stations. Each station focuses on a different aspect of a good workout and gives specific directions to get the best results from your exercise program. The first section, warm-up, has seven station and follows along the wide and flat part of the trail. The second section, cool-down, is also comprised of seven stations and begins as the trail veers to the left and gradually descends down the hillside.
As you meet your calorie burn for the day, notice the sugar and red maples, tulip poplars, sassafras, and beech trees. Below these trees you will find Christmas, bracken, and maidenhair ferns. If you are by yourself songbirds, woodpeckers, and crows will keep you company.
You will soon arrive back to the four way. If you want a short hike continue straight back onto the access trail. However, my faithful hiking companion always likes to turn right and continue our hike by taking Harmon Loop (.4 mile). Turn right and you hike down a steep hill descending into the valley. At the bottom the trail veers to the left. At this point you can rest at the bench overlooking a couple of sink holes.
Notice the difference of terrain from the ridge top from the valley. At the ridge top, along the top section of the Fitness Trail, the hillside is covered with trees, but still offers a view of how steep the terrain is. Along the valley it is flat and appears to have been cleared at some point. Prior to the park’s establishment families made their homesteads in the area, much like the Harmon Family which Harmon Loop is named. Families cleared the land to farm, when they moved the land was left to be reclaimed by trees.
The trail narrows as you begin to climb up the hill. While both trails are shaded, a part of the last stretch of Harmon Loop opens up allowing sunbeams to make their way to the forest floor. Soon you will reach the parking lot. After a good morning of stretching your legs and getting your heartbeat racing sit down for a healthy lunch at one of the picnic tables and grills.
As always, let someone know where and when you going hiking and bring plenty of water; the hill is steep and covered with loose rock so wear sturdy shoes. I hope you enjoy these two short trails as much my friend and I do. From us to you, Happy Hiking!

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