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Ring of Fire Trail: Scenic Driving Trail in Tennessee

Jo is a longtime Tennessee resident who loves to travel. She shares her love for both in this article.

Highway 52 that runs across the northern part of Tennessee is listed as a scenic highway on maps. I travel Highway 52 often because it's very near my home, but I'm still impressed by how lovely it is. It's lovely in the spring when the redbuds and dogwoods are blooming, and it's lovely in the autumn when the leaves begin to turn.

This highway near my home is part of The Ring of Fire Trail in Tennessee, one of 16 such scenic trails across the state that have been developed by the Tennessee Department of Tourism.

I love to travel, but I'm not a fan of group tours. I've been on a few of these and they usually take you to the main tourist sites in a region where you stop for a brief tour and make the obligatory stop at a souvenir shop. And then you move on to the next tourist stop. I much prefer to plan my own agenda. In addition to seeing some of the main tourists sites, I also like to get off the beaten path and see some of the lesser known sites, experience the local culture, and sample local cuisine.

If I were not a resident of Tennessee and traveling here from out of state or out of the country, The Ring of Fire Trail in Tennessee is just the type of tourist attraction I would love to visit.. If you came to Tennessee on a tour you probably would not visit most of the sites on this tour. And even though I am a resident of Tennessee and live just a few miles off this trail, I still haven't visited all of the sites, some of them just a few miles from my home.


Beginning Your Tour on The Ring of Fire Trail at The Ryman Auditorium

Winding through Tennessee, out of Nashville and up along the Cumberland Plateau and back to Nashville, the Ring of Fire Trail is 334 miles long. It includes 112 historical sites, some holes-in-the-wall, eateries, farms and parks.

If you start your tour in Nashville, a great place to start would be the Ryman Auditorium, the mother church of country music. I was living in Nashville in the late '60s and early '70s and have very fond memories of this place. A friend had made reservations for us to attend the Opry on the night my fiance and I decided to elope. Johnny Cash taped his television show there from 1969 to 1971 and I stood in line in the snow and cold once to get us tickets to hear Arlo Guthrie.

But the Ryman only had a seating capacity of 3000 and was falling into disrepair, so in 1974 the owners decided to build a bigger, better building and move the Opry out of downtown Nashville. I've never been to the new building. I'm sure it's very nice.

In recent years the Ryman has been restored, and you can still see amazing performances there. The acoustics are great and there's not a bad seat in the house. I saw Arlo Guthrie there in the past few years. When he returned to perform in Nashville, this was the venue he choose. And I saw Joan Baez recently on her final tour.

A trip to the Ryman, in my opinion, would not be complete without a stop after the show at the nearby Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. This bar, though not one of the stops on the trail, is still worth a visit. It is located behind the Ryman and has a long history associated with the that site. Stars and fans would come here to hang out after shows when the Grand Ole Opry was still at the Ryman. It's a tiny bar but has a small stage and still hosts performers as it did in the past.

Just north of Nashville in Hendersonville you can visit Johnny Cash's tomb and eat at his favorite barbeque restaurant.

Historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

Visit Free Hill on the Ring of Fire Trail and Eat at Ollie's Restaurant

In 1816, over forty years before the Civil War, a slave owner named Virginia Hill, bought 2000 hilly acres in Clay County, Tennessee. She then freed her slaves and tuned the property over to them. This community, Free Hill, is one of many rural areas to visit along the Ring of Fire Trail. Not much is left of the original community now that once had as many as 300 residents. About 50 descendants of the original settlers remain in the area, and the original school built by the Rosenwald fund has been restored. You can still visit this historic site on the trail.

Just outside of Celina you can find wonderful soul food at Ollie's Place, A Little Taste of Soul, run by one of the descendants of the original group of settlers..

Visit Bell Witch Cave and Canoe the Red River

In the northern part of Robertson County near the Kentucky border is the small town of Adams, Tennessee, home of the Bell Witch Cave, one of the stops on the northern part of the Ring of Fire Trail.

In the early 19th century John Bell bought a farm and moved his family to this area, settling in the Red River valley. After moving to this farm, the family began hearing mysterious sounds in and around their home. The manifestations continued and became legend in the area. When the 'witch' finally vanished she was said to have taken up residence in this cave on the Bell property.

Today you can visit the cave to see for yourself if there are any manifestations of the Bell Witch. And afterward you can take a canoe trip on the Red River, also a site on the trail.

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Get Your Flu Shot and an Award-Winning Cheeseburger in One Stop.

We regularly go through the small, picturesque town of Cross Plains, Tennessee. Established in early 19th century, this small town is one of the oldest settlements in the area. Many of the older buildings have been restored and it is a very attractive small town. One of the restored buildings is a business called Thomas Drugs established in 1915. You can still get a flu shot here but you can also get one of their renowned cheeseburgers at the lunch counter.

This is just one of many places along this tourist route where you can sample the local cuisine. If a drugstore is not idea of a great place to eat, how about a grocery store, like the one at Pleasant Shade. Here you can find delicious catfish or ribs and hear bluegrass music on Saturday night. If inclined, you can participate in the show.

Relax and Have Fun in Tennessee's Hideaways

Much of this trail winds through rural areas where you can visit Civil War Sites, wineries, farms, and open air markets. You can hike, swim or fish in state parks then spend the night at Armour's Hotel in Red Boiling Springs where you can bathe in the legendary healing waters of the mineral baths just like customers did back in the early 1900's.

Enjoy your visit.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jo Miller


Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on November 01, 2020:

Thank you for your positive comment, and 'hello' from Sofia. We visited your city once and loved it.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 31, 2020:

Nicely described and well presented.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on September 15, 2020:

Thanks, John. Hope you get to visit some of these sites soon.

John Murphree from Tennessee on September 15, 2020:

This is a great article. I agree with you about not particularly liking tours and traveling on one's own, much more agreeable to me.

The particular places which you mention beginning with the Ryman Auditorium are really interesting, as I assume that the others not discussed are interesting too. I would like to visit some of them sometime.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on July 19, 2020:

It was a common thing in the past for pharmacies to also serve food and drinks. Mostly gone away now.

Ann Carr from SW England on July 01, 2020:

This is great! Like you, I prefer to wander off track and see the 'real' side of any place I visit. This trail is wonderful. The flu-jab and cheeseburger experience took me by surprise!


Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on May 21, 2020:

Thanks, John. The Ryman is a tremendous place.

John Murphree from Tennessee on May 20, 2020:

This is a really enjoyable and fact-filled discussion of interesting looking places along the Ring of Fire in Tennessee. I have been to the wonderful Ryman Auditorium for the Grand Ole Opry and concerts. It is a truly wonderful place.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on April 24, 2020:

Hope you get to make it to Tennessee some time, Patricia, to see some of these sites and taste the food.

John Murphree from Tennessee on April 24, 2020:

Thank you for this wonderful fact-filled posting on the Ring of Fire trail near where you live. You have given us a great deal of information here, in a lively and informative way.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on April 23, 2020:


Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on April 23, 2020:

This was so well done that my mouth is watering after reading of the food possibilities and made me curios to experience the often missed spots of interest. Those are the little jewels I enjoy so much when I travel. Many Angels headed your way. Stay safe. ps

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 27, 2020:

I enjoyed the historical information facts that I learned for the first time.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 24, 2019:

As I am reading this, I remember that the Philippines is part of the Ring of Fire.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on February 01, 2019:

I wish you could visit some time, Dora. Tennessee is a very friendly and scenic place.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 01, 2019:

The only thing better would be to visit this Fire Trail in person. Johnny Cash and Virginia Hill are on my admiration list. Thanks for the historical and fun facts. Enjoyable read!

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on January 26, 2019:

Thanks, Tim. Hope you get to visit. Be sure visit Ollie's Restaurant. We haven't been there, but it's on my list.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 25, 2019:

Wonderful article, Jo. This sounds like a place we will visit. My wife and I love the mountains, and this is a superb "rambling" opportunity for us.

We are fond of shooting the old "Rosenwald schools." We also love out-of-the-way restaurants.

Much appreciated,



Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on January 23, 2019:

Hi, John. Thanks for the kind words. If you ever make it to the States, Tennessee is a nice place to visit.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on January 23, 2019:

Thank you so much, Flourish, for the help. On my list of things to learn more about is this promotion stuff. I do so little of that.

I do hope you get to do some trekking in Tennessee. I'm not native to this state but I do love it, and it's home now. I love visiting those little out of the way places.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 23, 2019:

I've also Flipped this. Hoping it helps with traffic. Great article.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on January 23, 2019:

Thanks, Liz. Hope you can visit some day.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 22, 2019:

This was an interesting tour of the Ring of Fire Trail. I am sure I will never have the opportunity to visit so articles like this are a great way to learn about other parts of the world. thanks for sharing, Jo.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 22, 2019:

This sounds like so much fun and you’ve tempted me to do a little road trip with my nephews and nieces who live in Tennessee. I’m sure they haven’t been to these places, and although I’ve been to the Ryman and Tootsie’s the rest of the locations are calling my name. I’m pinning this!

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on January 22, 2019:

I think you'd love Tennessee, Bill. Come in the spring or fall. It's lovely.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on January 22, 2019:

I hope you get to visit again sometime soon, Alexander.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 22, 2019:

This looks like a good trip well-documented.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 22, 2019:

I've never been to Tennessee, but would love to see it. Thanks for the mini tour.

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on January 21, 2019:

I love TN. I would enjoy visiting again someday soon.

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