5 Fall Family Getaways at Tennessee State Parks
June 29, 2021 | Permalink
It may seem premature to dream about fall travel in the height of summer, but those who plan early get to experience the season at its best. Families from across the country visit Tennessee each fall to catch a glimpse of the incredible colors and experience one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. It’s the perfect time to vacation with kids who are easing back into school and parents who want to take advantage of unused vacation time.
To help you plan your fall vacation, we’ve put together a list of five family-friendly getaways. Each experience offers a variety of crowd-pleasing activities and overnight accommodations that fit the needs of families.
Standing Stone State Park
Hike, Hunt Waterfalls, and Explore Bunkum Cave
Located amongst the rugged beauty of the Upper Cumberland, Standing Stone State Park is a go-to for families who want to split their time between relaxation and adventure. Standing Stone is often called underrated because of its minimal crowds, prime location, and expansive beauty.
Inside the Park
The park surrounds Kelly Lake, which offers paddling rentals, boating, and fishing. A colorblind viewfinder designed to alleviate red-green color blindness is available at the park’s scenic overlook for fall color viewing.
Explore Tennessee’s eighth tallest waterfall 30 minutes south at Cummins Falls State Park. Visitors can observe this 75-foot waterfall from an overlook, or they can make the rugged 1.5-mile hike to the base of the falls—Gorge Access Permits are required to hike to the base.
Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park is located a half-hour northeast. The historic park features the Cordell Hull Museum, a replica of Hull’s log cabin, historical gardens, and Bunkum cave. A 2.5 round trip hike takes you to the entrance of historic Bunkum Cave, where Cordell Hull's father made moonshine in the 19th century. Visitors can explore the large mouth of the cave and observe fall colors from underneath the rock shelter. *Spelunking is only open to the public from May 1 – August 31.
The park offers cabins that can accommodate a variety of family sizes. There are seven deluxe cabins with three bedrooms that can sleep 8 to 10 people. The recently restored historic cabins provide a cozy home base for families of 4 to 8 people.
The campground offers 36 tent and RV sites equipped with water and electric hookups in a peaceful, wooded loop. There are two bathhouses conveniently located at both ends of the campground.
Montgomery Bell State Park
Hassle-Free Outdoor Retreat Outside Nashville
Montgomery Bell is located 40 minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of Nashville. The recently renovated Lodge and restaurant inside the park offer hotel comforts while remaining completely removed from the sights and sounds of the city. The park encompasses over 3,000 acres of woods, three lakes, and abundant outdoor adventure.
Inside the Park
The Lodge is a great home base for the day’s adventures. The on-site restaurant offers a complimentary continental breakfast to guests, Monday through Friday. The floor-to-ceiling windows inside the restaurant provide stunning views of Lake Acorn and the surrounding fall foliage.
Lake Acorn is accessible by a footbridge right outside the Lodge and offers paddling rentals and fishing. The park has two other lakes that visitors can fish, paddle, and relax by. Kids will love exploring the creek that runs through the park and along the storybook trail. You’ll want to end at least one night of your trip by watching the sunset in front of the iconic spillway on Lake Woodhaven.
Take a 40-minute drive east to Nashville and explore some of the sights of music city! There are tons of family-friendly activities, such as the Frist Art Museum, the Adventure Science Museum, and the Nashville Zoo. Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is located downtown in the shadow of the state Capitol and tells the story of Tennessee’s history.
Harpeth River State Park is located 20 minutes east of Montgomery Bell and offers hiking, picnic areas along the river, and opportunities to paddle. While the park doesn’t offer paddling rentals, visitors can bring their own canoe or kayak, and staff often lead guided floats that you can register for online in advance. There are also outfitters in the area that rent paddling equipment.
Radnor Lake State Park is another natural area that offers incredible hiking and wildlife viewing just 40 minutes east of Montgomery Bell near Nashville. The paved 1-mile path offers views of the lake and is a great option for parents with strollers. The Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center allows up-close observation of non-releasable birds of prey during open house hours that require registration online.
The Lodge offers 117 spacious guest rooms and six suites with private balconies overlooking Lake Acorn. Pet-friendly rooms are available for rent by calling the Lodge.
The park also offers eight, two-bedroom cabins that can sleep up to eight people. The park’s campground offers 47 sites for tents and RVs equipped with water and electric hookups. The creek runs by several of the sites, and there are three bathhouses located throughout the campground.
If you’re looking for a fall vacation in the Tennessee Mountains, Roan Mountain State Park offers an experience that’s a little bit more laid back and low-key than the Smokies. The park sits 15 minutes from the top of the mountain, one of Tennessee’s tallest points, where you’ll find sweeping views and incredible hiking.
In the Park
The park encompasses more than 2,000 acres of rolling meadows, hardwood forests, and rugged ridges. The clear Doe River winds through the park, providing a place for trout fishing and creek stomping. There are plenty of kid-friendly hiking trails inside the park. Visitors can also tour the century-old Miller Farmstead and explore 2.25 miles of mountain bike trails.
There are lots of hiking trails and overlooks to explore around the park, such as those found at Carver’s Gap, eight miles past the park. Here you can explore mountain views you won’t find in the Blue Ridge or the Smoky Mountains. The high mountain balds are large fields that extend across the mountain tops and provide 360-degree views of the surrounding hills of Tennessee and North Carolina. You can also step onto the Appalachian Trail from this site and explore multiple overlooks.
Visit attractions and restaurants in Johnson City, 35 minutes from Roan Mountain. The historic downtown area features shops, restaurants, and The Hands-On! Discovery Center for kids.
The park offers 30 comfortable cabins with a front porch, rocking chairs, and a wood-burning stove. The cabins can sleep four to six people and offer one private bedroom and a loft with two beds.
The campground at the park offers 106 RV and tent sites. RV sites are equipped with water and electric hookups, and tent-only sites are equipped with water. Tent campers can book RV sites but should be aware that RV sites are paved. There are six bathrooms located throughout the campground and a centrally located playground.
Natchez Trace State Park
This unique park offers a private wilderness experience with family-friendly amenities such as an on-site restaurant, boat rentals, and a camp store. The 48,000-acre area is located halfway between Nashville and Memphis on I-40.
Inside the Park
Watch fall colors dance on the waters of Pin Oak Lake, cruise the shaded park streets from the seat of a bicycle, or enjoy the cool temperatures while hiking a portion of the park’s 40 miles of trail. The park offers fall color pontoon tours throughout the season and a variety of other family-friendly educational programs led by park staff. Most of these events are free or low-cost and offer online registration in advance.
Take a day trip to Pinson Mounds State Archeological Park, 40 minutes southwest of the Natchez Trace right outside of Jackson. The park is home to the largest collection of Native American Middle Woodland Period mounds in the United States, including the 70 foot Sauls Mound. Grab a bite to eat in Jackson and explore the heart of the music highway.
Along the bank of the Tennessee River, just 15 minutes from Natchez Trace, you’ll find more opportunities for boating and fishing at Mousetail Landing State Park.
Hunters will want to take advantage of easy access to nearby wildlife management land during their stay. There are also opportunities for ATV riding on designated trails in surrounding forestry land. *Hunting and ATV riding is prohibited inside the state park.
Let the crisp autumn air and the fresh smell of pine surround you from the porch of a remote Natchez Trace cabin or the fireside seat at your campsite. The deluxe cabins are two stories and can sleep up to six, perfect for families with teens who need their own space. Camping cabins are an affordable option for families who want the feel of camping without the need for equipment. The park also offers traditional campsites for tents and RVs.
The beauty of the Cumberland Plateau shines through every corner of Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville, TN. Plenty of outdoor recreation is available within the park, in addition to comforts like an on-site restaurant, camp store, and cozy cabins.
Inside the Park
As a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal after the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the park. Visitors can engage with park history throughout their visit inside the CCC museum and through the architecture found throughout the park.
Byrd Lake offers fishing, paddling rentals, and prime picnic spots. The iconic CCC bridge serves as a dam for the lake and creates a gorgeous waterfall and area for wading. The hiking trails at the park wind past the lakeshore and creeks with fun features along the way like a swinging bridge and storybook trail. An 18-hole Bear Trace golf course and four miles of mountain bike trails also await the adventurous.
It’s well worth the one-hour drive to Fall Creek Falls State Park, one of the most popular parks in Tennessee and home to the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi. The park offers a variety of hiking trails that show off waterfalls, cascades, and impressive overlooks. In addition, there is also a lake, golf course, snack bar, and nature center.
Ozone Falls State Natural Area is home to another impressive waterfall, located 20 minutes from the park. The hike to the base of the falls is moderate and short, ¾ mile long. Surrounding the 110-foot waterfall is an incredible rock house amphitheater. The area is so beautiful it was a filming location for the 1994 Jungle Book movie.
Spend some time checking out portions of Cumberland Trail near the park. Areas such as Devilstep Hollow Cave at the Head of Sequatchie or Black Mountain make great day trips and allow you to see more of the rugged beauty on the Cumberland Plateau.
The park offers a variety of cabin types to accommodate families of all sizes. The recently renovated historic CCC cabins have one king bed in the common area and one twin bed in a separate room. For larger families, the Deluxe two-bedroom cabins or Timber Lodge three-bedroom cabins are a great choice.
The campground offers 145 tent and RV sites equipped with water and electric hookups.