Plan Your Trip to Erwin, TN

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A young hiker looks through her binoculars while standing on high ground in Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee (TN).

Are you planning a road trip through the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee or North Carolina? If so, you need to make Erwin, TN, a destination. Don’t drive past exit 37 on I-26 without taking a pit stop. This small town nestled in the Cherokee National Forest is worth visiting.

Let’s take a look at why.

How to Plan a Trip to Erwin, TN

Erwin, TN, is a Southern mountain town where you can spend a day or several. If you choose to visit Johnson City or Asheville, you could spend a week enjoying the outdoor recreation in the area or join the locals for a show downtown.

It’s less than a mile off I-26, so it won’t add any additional time to your road trip.

About Erwin, TN

Nestled in the mountains of Tennessee, the town of Erwin was officially established in 1903, although it existed before the 1900s. There are few records about the history of Erwin, TN, but the oldest business structure is the Chamber of Commerce building built in 1892.

The town hall in Erwin, TN.
Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cherokee people once hunted in this area and still live in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. In the early 1900s, the population was around 1,100. Today about 6,000 residents call Erwin, TN, home.

Traveler’s Tip: There’s a hidden entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park — it’s less than two hours drive from Erwin, TN!

Getting There

Located in eastern Tennessee, you can reach the town of Erwin by traveling along I-26. Highway 107 and Highway 395 will also take you into town.

It’s only about 15 miles south of Johnson City, the closest large city in Tennessee. Erwin, TN, is also only miles from the North Carolina border. The Cherokee National Forest surrounds Erwin, and the Appalachian Trail passes east of the town.

Join along in a drive through Erwin, TN.

Things to Do in Erwin, TN

When visiting Erwin, TN, you can easily travel north to the cities of Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, all of which are less than an hour’s drive. You’ll find all of the amenities and attractions of larger cities there.

However, there are a few things to do in Erwin, TN, to keep you occupied in this small town and make your trip an enjoyable one.

Tour the Erwin National Fish Hatchery

Address: 520 Federal Hatchery Rd, Erwin, TN 37650

About: Erwin National Fish Hatchery was established in 1894 before Erwin became an official city. You can view three strains of rainbow trout as you tour the facility.

This hatchery produces 13 million disease-free eggs annually and supports wildlife projects within Southern Appalachia. The Unicoi County Heritage Museum is also on-site.

A calm section of the Nolichucky River with the Appalachian Mountains in the distance. The river runs through Erwin, TN.
The Nolichucky River is 115 miles long and runs through Erwin, TN.

Jog Along the Erwin Linear Trail

About: If you’re looking to get outdoors, Erwin Linear Trail is an asphalt, mostly flat trail great for visitors of all skill levels. It’s about four miles long, with endpoints at Old Fishery Road and South Industrial Drive.

You can bike, walk, or jog the trail as it meanders parallel to I-26. You’ll walk through wooded areas and pass ponds along the route.

See a Show at The Gathering Place

Address: 123 N. Main St, Erwin TN 37650

About: The Gathering Place is a local venue in downtown Erwin. Community events and concerts are held here. In 2020, about $80,000 in renovations were completed.

You’ll find a fire pit with a brick patio, string lighting, covered stage, picnic tables, benches, and outdoor furniture to enjoy whoever is playing music that night.

A view down Main St. in downtown Erwin, TN
Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Swim At Rock Creek Recreation Area

Address: Erwin, TN 37650

About: Within the Cherokee National Forest is the Rock Creek Recreation Area. Bring a picnic lunch and take a swim in the stream-fed swimming hole. Enjoy the shade from the towering oaks, maples, and hemlocks. There are also campsites for RVs and tents, and they also have hiking and biking trails.

Did You Know? These 10 popular southeast destinations are overrun with tourists.

Where To Stay Near Erwin, TN

You could stay closer to the tri-cities if you want to be in the hubbub of city life, but Erwin, TN, also offers a few Airbnb accommodations for travelers. Below are three great options for solo travelers, couples, or families seeking to visit the area.

Modern Downtown Loft

Amenities: This unique loft is in the middle of downtown and comes equipped with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and new hardwood floors. It has historic charm while offering modern conveniences. The building was built in 1904 to provide two bedrooms and two bathrooms for visitors.

Mountain Chalet Retreat

Amenities: Another unique location is this cozy one-bedroom and one-bathroom chalet situated in the foothills of Erwin, TN. With a deck off the bedroom and a courtyard, you’ll love spending mornings drinking coffee in privacy.

It’s pet-friendly and offers a large, fenced-in space to walk your pets. Although it’s in a residential area, you’ll feel like you’re staying in a more rustic location.

Modern Farmhouse

Amenities: The largest home on the list is this farmhouse with three bedrooms and three bathrooms with sleeping space for up to six guests. If you have to work in Erwin, TN, you’ll have access to high-speed WiFi and a dedicated workspace. Enjoy cooking your meals in the chef’s kitchen and relax in the soaker tub after a day of exploring Erwin.

Is Erwin TN Worth A Visit?

Conveniently located close to larger cities in Tennessee, Erwin is in the perfect spot to enjoy a NASCAR race in Bristol or a quiet weekend visiting Rock Creek. It’s also an easy 50-minute drive to Asheville, NC.

But, if you want to stay in Erwin, TN, without visiting the surrounding area, there’s plenty to keep you as busy as you want. Or, if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, you can catch a show at The Gathering Place on Friday night and then take a stroll along the Erwin Linear Trail on Saturday afternoon.

The next time you’re traveling along I-26 in eastern Tennessee or western North Carolina, drop into Erwin, TN, for a short pit stop. Spend a day or a week enjoying the small-town charm of this Southern mountain town. When will you take a road trip to Erwin, TN?

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