DATE:
3-14-2021

LOOP
~ 4 miles

ELEVATION GAIN:
~ 1020 ft

LOCATION:
Johnson City, TN

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For those of you who live in Johnson City, this trail is a great choice for days when you are looking for something close by. For those who are concerned about cell service on a trail, we had service the entire time with T-mobile. There are multiple routes to choose from on Buffalo Mountain that interconnect. This park is practically in our back yard. We come here quite often when we need a quick adventure so we have lots of pictures from different visits . You may notice the outfit changes and foliage variance. On this particular trip we combined the Fork Knob trail with a section of White Rock Loop to get to Tip Top. This made an approximately 4 mile loop. 

When you enter under the “Buffalo Mountain” sign you will see the ranger station ahead and probably some cars parked near it. There is a trailhead down here that will connect to White Rock Loop, but we started at the trailhead by the picnic pavilion. Take your first right at the Ranger Station.

When you reach the top, the road is a one way loop with multiple picnic tables and parking sporadically along the loop. Stay to the right and continue around the loop until you see the pavilion on your left. The trailhead is directly across from the pavilion parking.

At the beginning of the trail, you will go right at the first fork toward White Rock Loop. 

There is nice signage at every intersection to help navigate. If you scan the QR code on the sign you will get a trail map as well. This is just a basic web map though and does not mark you location along the way. Continue to loop along the trail to the right following the White Rock Loop/Huckleberry Knob route.

The beginning is a pretty decent climb for about .3 mile but the boys manage it well. You will soon reach a spot where you can go right to Huckleberry Knob and left to White Rock Loop.

Huckleberry Knob is just a short distance, maybe 100 feet, to the right. It’s a nice overlook with multiple benches to take in the view. (Some pictures below are old before they put the benches in.) It is not far from the previous sign, so it’s worth going over to check out. It’s a popular spot and many will just visit the lookout and head back down. In fact, that is usually what we do for those quick adventures mentioned above. On this particular day, we continued on following the White Rock Loop trail.

In about .3 mile you will come to an opening with another bench and overlook. This one is a little more private than Huckleberry but not quite as open for viewing.

Across from the second overlook, to the left you will see another sign giving you the option to get on the “Fork Knob” trail. We chose to get on Fork Knob to make it a little bit shorter of a trail to get to Tip top. The blazes switch to blue at this point.

Before you know it you will come to the next fork and a sign that says “Lady Slipper Loop” to the left. This is just a short offshoot that connects back to Fork Knob. We skipped it this trip and stayed right on Fork Knob.

In just a tenth of a mile, you will pass the Lady Slipper Loop reconnection. Continue on Fork Knob for a little over half a mile. It is quite the climb in parts so we took a few breaks. There are several great views along the way although they may be obscured in the summer when the foliage comes in. Just stay the course until it reconnects with White Rock Loop. The sign is on the backside of the tree from the direction you are approaching. Follow the arrow on this sign to Tip Top.

The final fork is just another .1 mile, (make a mental note of this spot for the way back down). Continue to follow the sign to Tip Top for an additional .3 mile.  This is the last big climb with views on both your left and right. Finally, you arrive at the overlook that even has a picnic table!

I have no idea how someone managed to get a picnic table 2 miles up the mountain, but it’s nice to have it there! What a lovely place to get some “forest schooling” in or have a picnic. The views just before you get to the overlook are just as good if not better!

The trees were still pretty bare when we went so we had beautiful views of the mountains in multiple spots.

On the way back down, we followed the White Rock Loop the entire way. When you come down from Tip Top just hang a sharp left, almost a u-turn, at the first fork (refer to that mental note from above). Pictured below is the signage for White Rock pointing to the right. This will be a 2 mile route back down the mountain to where you started.

The way back is all downhill and goes by quickly. It is pretty narrow in some spots with a pretty steep slope to one side. The boys did not have trouble navigating it but it might slow you down if it were muddier. It would also get tight passing other hikers. We did not see very many people on this trail at all, but it was before busy hiking season.

Overall, it is such a great place to go to feel like you are getting away, yet you are still right near town. We come here often because it is literally less than 10 minutes from our house. The first overlook is quick to get to, yet still allows the boys to get some energy out. The picnic tables and pavilion are great spots to come work on school activities or have a picnic together.

We are thankful to have such a great spot so close to town. With so many intersecting trails, there are countless paths to explore here!!

Find out more about Buffalo Mountain Park here ==>

WJHL “Sydney on the Trail”  covered this path in 2020.