It might be difficult to imagine but Northeast Tennessee, known for its spectacular mountains and waterways, has plenty to interest paleontologists as well.

Discovered first by a road construction crew and then by geologists in 2000, the Gray Fossil Site & Museum, located just 15 minutes from Johnson City, offers visitors a firsthand look at the late Miocene period, dating back some 5 million years ago, when saber-toothed tigers, rhinos and short-faced bears roamed this region. It is also home to the world’s largest tapir fossil find and has yielded rare discoveries, such as the most complete skeleton of Teleoceras, an ancient rhinoceros, ever found in North America, and a new species of red panda.

The Gray Fossil Site and Museum also has some great experiences for children, such as the “Dig Pit,” which is full of fossil finds, as well as a guided tour of the actual excavation site.

The 33,000-square foot museum, which opened in 2007, features massive skeletons, life-sized murals, interactive displays, tours and an observation lab, where visitors can watch paleontologists examine their most recent finds.


1212 Suncrest Drive, Gray, TN 37615
(423) 439-3659


Find great places to eat, shop and play while you are on the Trail.