Responsible Recreation at Tennessee State Parks

April 21, 2021  |  Permalink

Two people hiking at Roan Mountain State Park during sunset

Time spent outdoors is priceless, and so are the public lands that we enjoy. Tennessee State Parks are free for everyone to enjoy and open 365 days a year. Whether you're looking to take a stroll around a lake or camp under the stars, we encourage everyone to be stewards of the lands they enjoy. By practicing responsible recreation, we can all work together to protect our public lands and leave them better than before.

Here's how you can practice responsible recreation:

Learn and Prepare Before You Go

The most important part of your visit happens before you arrive. Preparing for your time outdoors means setting yourself up for a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are a few things you can do before heading out:

  • Gather information about your destination and planned activities using the information on the park's page.
  • Stay up to date on weather and park alerts.
  • Find out how we're Keeping Visitors Healthy and how you can prepare for a safe visit.
  • Plan trip activities to match your skills and abilities.
  • Bring or obtain a map of the park from the visitor center. Downloading the Tennessee State Parks mobile app is a great option for those looking to carry maps, park contact info, and other important park info in their pocket.

Reduce Your Impact on Trails

Trails are built to reduce the impact on the natural environment. By sticking to designated trails and avoiding shortcuts you're protecting fragile plant life and respecting the home of the wildlife that inhabit our parks.

  • Stay on designated trails. Our parks protect some incredible plants and wildlife. Don't trample their homes!

A Woman cleaning up trash at South Cumberland State Park

Take Everything You Bring

When it comes to keeping Tennessee State Parks and natural areas trash-free, it's pretty simple. Everything you bring into the park or natural area must be taken with you or disposed of in the appropriate containers. A mantra that's commonly used is "Pack it in, Pack it out". We'd like to add to this mantra, "only pack in what you can pack out". That means if a heavy plastic cooler is only going to make it to the base of a waterfall, it's not a good choice to bring.

  • When you're packing, think to yourself, "can I carry this out with me"?
  • Whenever possible, remove items from their commercial packaging before packing.
  • Leave the outdoor areas you love better than you found them.
  • If you sit down for a meal, spend the night at a campsite, or hang out by a waterfall for a while, make sure the area is clean before leaving.

A person taking a Photo of a skink at Pickett State Park

Leave What You Find

"Take only pictures, leave only footprints." This loved quote should be put into practice each time you visit a park or natural area. While we encourage the removal of any unnatural items you find while outdoors, such as trash, we encourage you to leave all plants, animals, and artifacts you find.

  • Don't remove plants or wildlife from the park. Exceptions include legally caught fish.
  • Don't remove artifacts. You can always tell a park Ranger about your findings.
  • Don't move firewood. Only certified heat-treated firewood is allowed to enter the state park.
  • You may have come across a man-made tower of stacked rocks outside before. These structures can cause erosion, damage animal ecosystems, and disrupt river flow. Please refrain from building such structures.

A campfire outside of a cabin at Natchez Trace State Park

Practice Fire Safety

Fires should be contained within fire rings that are provided at most Tennessee State Park campgrounds and cabins. Practice these fire safety tips to make sure you're playing it safe:

  • Check for burn bans in the area you're in. If there is a burn ban in effect, don't have a fire.
  • Only bring certified heat-treated firewood into a state park. Most of our parks with campgrounds offer firewood for sale at the camp store or visitor center.
  • Keep your fire small.
  • Stay with the fire until it is completely out.

A deer in the forest at Radnor Lake State Park

Respect Wildlife

When you enter a Tennessee State Park or natural area you're entering the home of abundant wildlife. Encountering wildlife is an incredible experience and one of the things that make park visits so special. To help wildlife stay wild and keep yourself safe, follow these tips for respecting wildlife.

  • Keep your distance.
  • Don't attempt to touch or feed wildlife.
  • Keep your pets on a leash at all times.

A photo of a bird on the lake at Ranor Lake State Park

Share The Space and Be Considerate

People come to the outdoors to experience the sights and sounds of nature. Be respectful of others and try not to detract from another visitor's experience with your actions.

  • Thoroughly consider how your experience is affecting the way someone else enjoys the outdoors throughout your trip.
  • Let other hikers pass.
  • Help fellow visitors when you can.
  • Keep your pet on a leash at all times.


Spread The Message

Tell your friends and family about responsible recreation! Share this link with them or talk about the things you've learned the next time your outdoors.

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