This 6.1 mile loop is located in Hungry Mother State Park. It follows the perimeter of the lake and has about 830′ of climbing along the loop. The developed side of the lake, where the hike begins, is flatter and often paved, while the backside of the lake is wooded and has more rugged terrain.
If you’re looking for a scenic-but-easy hike that’s longer than five miles, check out the Lake Loop at Hungry Mother State Park! We decided to tackle it as a bit of a recovery hike on our vacation to the area last June. The day before, we had hiked a piece of the Appalachian Trail from Damascus, VA to the Tennessee state line. It had been a significant uphill climb on a very hot day, so we wanted a hike that was a bit easier.
We’ve only visited Hungry Mother once before – to hike Molly’s Knob. If you’re interested in hiking Molly’s Knob as a longer loop with the Lake Trail, there are two junctions along the far side of the lake that will allow you to create this loop. You can download a copy of the Hungry Mother trail map from the park’s website.
For this Lake Loop hike, we paid our entrance fee at a self check-in station and parked in a large lot along the waterfront. The trail can be started in different places, but we set off counter-clockwise from the busy, developed part of the park, where picnic shelters, guarded swimming, boat rentals, a snack bar, and restrooms are all located. Because we visited on a Monday, the park was really quiet and lightly trafficked. We ended up only seeing several people along the entire loop.
The trail began on paved, flat walkway following closely along the shoreline. The entire loop is open to foot and bike traffic, but you’re probably most likely to see bikes on the flatter. easier developed side of the lake.
At the end of the lake, we passed a spillway/dam before reaching Camp Burson – the RV campground run by the state park. There is also a tent/yurt campground called Royal Oak at the other end of the park. After passing the campground, the trail crossed a bridge into the woods.
On the far side of the lake, the trail is a bit more rugged with many small ups and downs. The trail departs the lakeshore, and you only get glimpses of the lake through the trees for much of the way. On this side, we passed an old shed used by the CCC to store dynamite when the park was being built.
As we reached the end of the lake, the trail descended and began to follow the shoreline more closely, giving us lake views again. Eventually, we reached the park’s cabin area and found ourselves on flat footing back to our car.
All in all, this was a pleasant, easy walk in the woods. There are definitely more scenic and impressive hikes in the area, but this was a fun way to spend a recovery day.