The route over the Southern Appalachians known as the Unicoi Turnpike was used as an artery of trade and warfare before written history. The old path extended from the Overhill Cherokee settlements in eastern Tennessee to the coastal ports at Savannah and Charleston. In 1999, as an outgrowth of the Blue Ridge Initiative and the Cherokee Heritage Trails Project, the section of the old path that runs from Vonore, Tennessee to Murphy, North Carolina was designated a National Millennium Flagship Trail by the White House Millennium Council. Since then, organizations, government agencies, and private citizens have worked to study, preserve, interpret, and promote the trail. The Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association conducted historical research, produced a trail guide, installed highway markers, published a book about the history of the Unicoi Turnpike Trail, and created an online trail guide, TOHA recently produced visitor orientation signs to be placed at strategic points along the trail.
The Unicoi Turnpike Trail is designed primarily as a driving tour that closely follows the original route, but there is also a 2 1/2 mile pedestrian section of the original path in the Cherokee National Forest at Coker Creek, Tennessee that is open to hikers. An exciting development of the Unicoi Turnpike project took place in 2006 when the Cherokee National Forest acquired the site of Fort Armistead, a historic federal fort located on the trail at Coker Creek. The Cherokee National Forest is currently researching the site with the ultimate goal of opening it to the public.
Millennium Trails Green Ribbon Panel, Rails to Trails Conservancy, White House Millennium Council, North Carolina Arts Council, Tennessee Arts Commission, Humanities Tennessee, North Carolina Trail of Tears Association, US Department of Transportation, American Express, East Tennessee Foundation, Cherokee National Forest, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Partners of the Cherokee National Forest, Coker Creek Economic Development Group, Benton-MacKaye Trail Association, Cherokee Hiking Club, Fort Loudoun State Historic Area, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, Charles Hall Museum, Cherokee County Museum, University of North Carolina Division of Archeology, and State of Tennessee.