COVID-19 UPDATES: Keeping Visitors Healthy

5 Lesser Known Parks for Summer Adventures

July 1, 2020  |  Permalink

5 lesser known parks for summer adventures in Tennessee state parks

Most of us kick off summer with a mental list of experiences we'd like to have before the warm weather fades. This year, your plans may have changed, but the outdoors haven't. Waterfalls are still rushing, new life is growing, and trails are still waiting to be explored. If you visit them responsibly, the open spaces at Tennessee State Parks can provide a socially distant way to recharge, find a new adventure, and check off some of those summer experiences. Outdoor activities like camping have been noted by experts as a low-risk activity when proper safety measures are taken. We created a list of safety tips specifically for overnight trips to help you safely prepare for your stay. Remember to recreate responsibly by preparing for your visit with the health and safety information on our website, bringing a mask, practicing physical distancing, and leaving no trace

If you're ready to experience the outdoors this summer, we've compiled adventures at five lesser-known parks to help you social distance, soak up the benefits of the outdoors, and admire the beauty of the summer season.

white water rafting at hiwassee Ocoee scenic river state park

1. Rafting, Waterfalls, and Camping at Hiwassee Ocoee

For those looking to “do it all” in one trip, Hiwassee Ocoee Scenic River State Park is a go-to destination. From fast-paced white water rafting to remote hiking in and around the park, you can create an adventure that fits your style. 

You'll find places to cool off in the Hiwassee River's clear waters and lots of waterfalls nestled in the surrounding Cherokee National Forest accessible by *hiking trails. During the Hiwassee River's low flow periods, fly and tackle fishing is a relaxing activity that many visitors enjoy. You'll find serene areas around the park perfect for a picnic or some solo time to decompress and take in the beauty of the area. If you're ready to explore the Hiwassee or Ocoee rivers with *white water rafting or paddling, there are outfitters in the area that guide these types of expeditions. While both rivers are exceptional white-water settings, users should be aware that even placid looking streams are potentially hazardous for those unskilled and unfamiliar with the basic techniques of floating or water safety.

Due to the size of the park and the numerous activities available, we recommend calling the park in advance to plan your trip and stopping by the visitor's center upon arrival for activity suggestions from our Park Rangers. Our park staff and Rangers can provide advice on the top activities in and around the park and how to access them.

Gee Creek Campground at the park features 48 spread out primitive sites and sits on the Hiwassee River banks, adding scenery and soothing sounds to an authentic camping experience. 

*Please be mindful of social distancing when hiking or engaging in water sports by keeping at least 6 feet of distance between you and other visitors.

RESERVE YOUR STAY

hiking to hazard cave at Pickett ccc memorial state park

2. Caves, Waterfalls, and Stargazing at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

Tennessee is home to some exceptionally diverse landscapes, and Pickett State Park does a great job showing it. An area with towering bluffs and cliffs, caves to explore, lakes to paddle, and one of the darkest skies for stargazing in the United States makes you feel like you've traveled hundreds of miles from Tennessee. 

When you need to cool off, there's a swimming area lined with sandstone bluffs and *paddling rentals to explore the lake. Hiking trails wind past natural bridges, rock shelters, and one of the park's main attractions, Hazard Cave. **Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area sits adjacent to the park offering ample hiking trails with waterfalls and even more astonishing rock structures. A 30-minute drive from the park will take you to Colditz Cove State Natural Area, where you'll find hiking and one of Tennesee's most stunning waterfalls.

Affordable cabins are available, ranging from deluxe and modern to rustic and historical. To take full advantage of the dark sky, you can grab a campsite equipped with water and electric hookups.

*Our parks are implementing additional safety and sanitation protocols for paddling rentals, and we encourage visitors to bring their own life jackets to improve wait times between sanitation. 

**When visiting natural areas, it's important to remember to leave no trace and stay on the trail to avoid disturbing protected plants and wildlife just as you would at a state park. 

RESERVE YOUR STAY

Kayak rentals at big hill pond state park in tennessee

3. Tranquil Hiking, Paddling, and Camping at Big Hill Pond

When visitors describe Big Hill Pond State Park, the most common word is tranquil. This park is off the beaten path but close enough to Memphis for a day trip. Hiking at the park provides a peaceful atmosphere where your chances of running into another hiker on the trail are slim. The impressive and challenging elevation changes along the trails put to rest the myth that West Tennessee is flat and offers beautiful views. When it's hot, *paddle rentals at the lake are always the right choice, or if you own a kayak, there are lots of great cypress swamps to explore. There's an observation tower to climb, offering views of the surrounding area and even more activities like mountain biking and fishing.

The park offers serene primitive campsites that are perfect for an overnight stay if you're traveling from Nashville. 

*Our parks are implementing additional safety and sanitation protocols for paddling rentals, and we encourage visitors to bring their own life jackets to improve wait times between sanitation. 

RESERVE YOUR STAY

Frozen Head State Park Mountain Overlook

4. Fresh Mountain Air at Frozen Head

Frozen Head State Park is located on a 3,324-foot peak in the Cumberland Mountains. The crystal clear mountain streams, serene wilderness, and crisp mountain air will envelop you in untouched mountain splendor. There's an incredible amount of hiking to do at the park with over 50 miles that meander by waterfalls, large rock formations, and impressive views. Flat Fork Creek flows through the park and is stocked with rainbow trout each spring for ample fishing opportunities. Don't miss the chance to climb the stairs of the observation deck boasting 360-degree views of the surrounding area.

You can enjoy the conveniences of car camp at the primitive main campground. The park offers backcountry camping sites with impressive views, only accessible by hiking in.

RESERVE YOUR STAY

Waterfall at David Crockett State Park in Tennessee

5. Beginner Friendly Camping at David Crockett

If you're traveling with kids or are looking to camp as a beginner, David Crockett State Park is perfect. Close enough to town to grab forgotten items or a quick bite to eat but surrounded by over 1,000 acres of forest for a serene experience. The park is centered around Lindsey Lake, offering *paddle rentals, fishing, and boating. There are multiple waterfalls at the park to explore and paved and natural hiking trails that pass scenic sandstone bluffs and abundant wildlife. Take a short 25-minute drive to **Stillhouse Hollow Falls State Natural Area and explore hiking to the 75-foot waterfall.

The park offers two campgrounds, both with water and electric hookups and central bathhouses. Campground #2 was recently updated with newly paved sites perfect for RVs and tents. The park also offers seven modern cabins near beautiful Lake Lindsey.

*Our parks are implementing additional safety and sanitation protocols for paddling rentals, and we encourage visitors to bring their own life jackets to improve wait times between sanitation. 

**When visiting natural areas, it's important to remember to leave no trace and stay on the trail to avoid disturbing protected plants and wildlife just as you would at a state park. 

RESERVE YOUR STAY

About the author