COVID-19 UPDATES: Keeping Visitors Healthy

Late May Camping Adventures

May 4, 2020  |  Permalink

Edgar Evins State Park, photo by Seth Dortch

The weather is warming up, and everyone is looking for ways to connect to the outdoors. Many people are trying to find safe and responsible ways to get outside while preventing the spread of COVID-19. When done safely, camping can be a great social distancing activity that allows you to benefit from the positive mental and physical effects of the outdoors. You might be wondering how to make a camping trip happen while staying safe and close to home. 

To help, we’ve pulled together a couple of resources. First, there’s a list of safety tips for your camping trips. We also looked for parks near major cities where you can stay close to home and enjoy sleeping under the stars. Please keep in mind that the number of available campsites at each listed park is subject to change. Reservations can be made for dates May 15th and beyond.

 

Camping Safety Tips

Pre-Trip:

If you’re feeling sick, stay home.

  • Make sure to do a wellness check before heading out. If anyone is feeling sick or recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it’s best to play it safe and stay home. If you need to cancel your reservation, please call the park office.

Don’t plan to travel long distances.

  • Book your next camping trip at a park that is close to your home. Look for your city on the list further down in this article. 
  • People living in the Nashville metro area will have a hard time finding weekend campsite availability at nearby parks. Instead, consider camping Sunday through Thursday when occupancy is lower. 

Bring the gear you need.

  • Trash pickup and restrooms may be limited, so come prepared. Bring extra trash bags and hand sanitizer. We recommend creating a camping gear checklist to make sure you’ve got what you need before you leave. 
  • Get gas and visit the grocery store in your hometown to reduce trips to the store in park communities. 
  • Pack a mask. Bring a mask and wear it when around others or when using public facilities.
  • Bring only certified heat-treated firewood.

Stay Informed.

 

During your visit:

Park contact information.

  • If you need to reach our staff or need assistance from our Rangers, Visitors Centers will be open at limited capacity. You can also call the park office. 
  • Find phone numbers on the park’s page of our website, in our mobile app, or posted on Visitors Center doors. 
  • In the event of a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

Practice social distancing.

  • Maintain at least six feet of separation between you and other visitors at all times. Stick to your campsite and refrain from gathering at other campsites. 

Follow all park rules and regulations. 

  • You can find our rules and regulations here.

 

Parks Near Major Cities

The following list highlights parks with available campsites near major cities. Online reservations are active for May 15-May 31. Most parks are already sold out for Memorial Day weekend, but many of the parks below have weekend and weekday campsites available:

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

Memphis

T.O. Fuller State Park

Distance: 10 miles

About the Park: Just 13 miles north of Memphis, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park borders the Mississippi River and features two lakes and tons of towering Bald Cypress trees.

Social Distancing Adventures: Only 15 minutes from downtown Memphis, this park features eight miles of hiking trails covering terrain from flood plains to high and overshadowing bluff ridges, perfect for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. 

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

Distance: 16 miles

About the Park: The 13,476-acre park features bottomland hardwoods, swamps, lakes, and upland forest.

Social Distancing Adventures:  Launch your boat on the Mississippi River, bring your own kayak and paddle Poplar Tree Lake, fish for bass and bluegill, hike over 20 miles of trails, or observe birds and wildlife. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Fort Pillow State Historic Park

Distance: 61 miles

About the Park: Fort Pillow State Historic Park is a historically and archaeologically significant place full of natural beauty and steep bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Social Distancing Adventures: Launch your boat onto Sullivan's Pond, fish for bass and bream, take a hike on 20 miles of trails, or bring your own kayak and paddle. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Chickasaw State Park

Jackson

Chickasaw State Park

Distance: 10 miles

About the Park: 1,280 acres to explore situated on some of the highest terrain in West Tennessee, right on Lake Placid. 

Full Hookups: Yes

Social Distancing Adventures: Observe beautiful birds and wildlife, an 18-hole golf course (reservations required), paddling opportunities, hiking and biking trails, incredible fishing for bass, bream, and catfish. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay is May 30–31

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Big Hill Pond State Park

Distance: 50 miles

About the Park: Situated between two rivers with a lake at its center, Big Hill Pond State Park encompasses 4,138 acres of forests, river bends, and swampy areas perfect for fishing and wildlife observation.

Social Distancing Adventures: Observe birds and wildlife, bring your own kayak or canoe to paddle, explore one of the seven hiking trails or bring your mountain bike and to take on the biking trails.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Pickwick Landing State Park

Distance: 63 miles

About the Park: Located just south of Pickwick Dam, this park has amazing opportunities for boating and some of the best fishing for smallmouth bass and Tennessee River Catfish in the state. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Social Distancing Adventures: Relax on the water with boating or fishing, tee off at the golf course (reservations required), and explore hiking trails at the park.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Natchez Trace State Park

Distance: 37 miles

About the Park: This expansive park stretches over 9,000 acres featuring ample hiking trails and two beautiful lakes for water activities.

Full Hookups: Yes

Social Distancing Adventures: Bring your own kayak or launch your boat on one of the lakes, go fishing, hike on over 40 miles of trails, observe birds and wildlife, and bring your mountain bike to explore one of the multi-use trails.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay is May 30–31

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Mousetail Landing State Park

Distance: 53 miles

About the Park: This park is perfect for those looking to soak up the sun by water with ample opportunities for fishing, paddling, and boating.

Social Distancing Adventures: Fish from the banks of the Tennessee River, bring your own kayak and paddle the Mousetail water trails, and explore several hiking and biking trails. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Paris Landing State Park

Clarksville 

Paris Landing State Park

Distance: 46 miles

About the Park: Situated on the widest section of Kentucky Lake, Paris Landing State Park is perfect for a day out on the water.

Social Distancing Adventures: Launch your boat onto Kentucky Lake, observe fantastic water birds from the shoreline, play a round of golf (reservations required), or hike your choice of three trails.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Henry Horton State Park

Nashville

Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Distance: 33 miles

About the Park: Explore beautiful red cedar forests, natural rock gardens, and limestone glades.

Full Hookups: Yes

Social Distancing Adventures: Hop on your choice of six hiking trails, observe birds and wildlife, or just kick back at your campsite around the fire.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Campgrounds in Middle Tennessee have already reached occupancy for weekends in May. Consider visiting on a weekday.

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Henry Horton State Park

Distance: 53 miles

About the Park: Located just off the Duck River, Henry Horton features diverse hiking trails and beautiful campsites.

Social Distancing Adventures: Take a bike ride on the smooth paved roads that wind through the park, play a round of golf (reservations required), hike on over 10 miles of trails past rivers and through cedar glades, and fish from the banks of the duck river.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Campgrounds in Middle Tennessee have already reached occupancy for weekends in May. Consider visiting on a weekday.

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Standing Stone State Park

Cookeville

Standing Stone State Park

Distance: 23 miles

About the Park: Standing Stone State Park features beautiful hiking trails and opportunities for fishing and wildlife viewing on Kelly Lake.

Full Hookup: Yes (campsite 21 only)

Social Distancing Adventures: Take a hike on more than eight miles of trails, bring your own kayak and paddle on the lake, fish for bass and bluegill, and observe magnificent wildlife. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Edgar Evins State Park

Distance: 29 miles

About the Park: Nestled in the hills near the shores of Center Hill Lake, Edgar Evins State Park features beautiful campgrounds and access to water activities. 

Social Distancing Adventures: Launch your boat onto Center Hill Lake, cast your line for bass and crappie, take a hike on the Hillside Storybook Trail, or observe the wildlife in and around the park. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Edgar Evins has already reached capacity for May weekends. Consider visiting on a weekday.

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Hiwassee Ocoee Scenic River State Park, @pacific_o_ocean

Chattanooga 

Hiwassee Ocoee Scenic River State Park

Distance: 55 miles

About the Park: Surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest, the primitive sites at Gee Creek Campground allow you to camp near the beautiful rushing river.

Social Distancing Adventures: The park features multiple hiking trails and offers access to surrounding hiking areas. You can fish in the Hiwassee Scenic River and observe wildlife right from your campsite. If you’re planning to paddle the Hiwassee or Ocoee rivers, please be aware that even placid looking streams are potentially hazardous for those unskilled and unfamiliar with the basic techniques of floating or water safety.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Cove Lake State Park

Knoxville

Big Ridge State Park

Distance: 27 miles

About the Park: Big Ridge is a heavily forested, 3,687-acre park featuring a beautiful lake and surrounding scenery.

Social Distancing Adventures: Explore the park by water by bringing your own kayak or launch your boat at nearby Norris Lake and fish for bass and bream. You can also hike over 15 miles of trails and observe migratory birds.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay is May 30–31

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Norris Dam State Park

Distance: 28 miles

About the Park: With 4,000 acres to explore right on Norris Reservoir, you can explore the park by land and the other by boat.

Social Distancing Adventures: Soak up some impressive views of Norris Lake with over 21 miles of hiking trails, or speed things up on one of the eleven mountain biking trails. Launch your boat on Norris Lake and cast your line for Largemouth, Spotted and Smallmouth Bass. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Cove Lake State Park

Distance: 32 miles

About the Park: Pitch your tent or park your R.V. in a beautiful mountain valley at Cove Lake. The park is just 30 minutes from Knoxville.

Social Distancing Adventures: Bring your own kayak or canoe and set out for a peaceful paddle on Cove Lake, hike more than seven trails, fish for bass and bluegill, sit back and observe the wildlife, and bring your bike for a ride on 3 miles of paved trails. (Just make sure you have your license before fishing.)

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay are May 16–17 and May 30–31

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Frozen Head State Park

Distance: 50 miles

About the Park: Tap into the unspoiled mountain splendor that once encompassed the entire Cumberland Plateau.

Social Distancing Adventures: Hike through 50 miles of trails that meander past waterfalls and giant mountaintop cap rocks, bring your mountain bike to take the nine-mile fire road up to the park's high point, and fish for trout in Flat Fork Creek.

Optimal Reservation Dates: Weekdays are always lower in occupancy. Your best chances for a weekend stay is May 30–31

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