While this hike is not an easy undertaking, hikers will be rewarded for their efforts with views from Holston Mountain and Flint Mill Rock.
The starting point is in a small field just off John Alfred Loop (US-91). The hike begins with a modest climb up Hinkle Branch Trail
, gaining 2,000' in the first 3 miles. The next 1.3 miles are an easy hike along Panhandle Road, passing the memorial for the two airmen killed when their Phantom jet crashed on the mountain.
Turn left onto the Morrell Trail #47
and enjoy the next 2 miles of switchbacks descending the other side of Holston Mountain. The views are nice heading down this trail. The trail intersects the Flatwoods Horse Trail and then comes out on Big Creek Road about a half mile further. Turn right onto Big Creek Road and continue 0.4 miles to an intersection.
Turn right onto Flatwoods Road. The next 3 miles are easy miles along the gravel road. Be on the lookout for the Flint Mill Trail
on the right. If you come to another intersection in the road, you've gone about a quarter mile too far. Turn right onto Flint Mill Trail
. The next 1 mile is a doozy of a climb, gaining 1,200'... the first half mile is a gradual climb (20% grad max), but the next half mile is very steep. Flint Mill Rock is a good resting spot after the strenuous climb and offers and incredible view of South Holston Lake!
Continue about 0.4 miles on Flint Rock Trail, and it will intersect the Holston Mountain Trail #44
. Turn right onto Holston Mountain Trail and follow it along the top of the mountain for 2 miles (seems so much longer than two miles!). The trail leads to the fire tower.
From the tower, follow Panhandle Road for 2.3 miles and turn left onto Taylor Ridge Trail #2025
(directly across from Morrell Trail). The next 4 miles are a steady descend off the mountain. There are a few creek crossings near the bottom. The trail comes out at an open field, but it's not the same field of the course start. Take the connector trail to the right, and it will continue about 1 mile and get you back to the starting point.
Not only is Holston Mountain the location of the Phantom jet crash in 1976, it is the transmitting site for five televisions stations in the Tri Cities, three FM radio stations, and several amateur radios. Many of the towers can be seen along Panhandle Road.