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Tennessee State Park Road Trips

March 2, 2021  |  Permalink

Hit the open road with a road trip to Tennessee State Parks

Road Trips are great because they’re flexible, affordable, and full of activities that you choose. Everything can be customized, from where you stay to what you see and how far you go. That's why we've pre-planned five road trips packed with Tennessee State Parks, incredible outdoor adventures, history, and overnight stays. The trips we’ve put together can be cut short, added on to, or followed backward to craft your ideal vacation. Bonus: Here are some tips that will help you plan the best trip.

Mountains of East Tennessee

145 miles, five parks, sweeping mountain views, and historical sites.

Roan Mountain State Park

1. Warriors' Path State Park

North of Johnson City in East Tennessee, Warriors' Path State Park sits on the shores of Patrick Henry Reservoir. It's home to premier boating and fishing, hiking trails, an internationally-renowned mountain bike trail system, and a nationally recognized golf course. The RV and tent campground offers travelers a place to rest in the middle of it all.

2. Johnson City

Stop in Johnson City to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. Explore the local breweries or grab takeout and head over to Founders Park.

3. Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

Explore the location of several important historical events that occurred in the late 18th century. This park is home to Carter Mansion, the oldest standing frame house in Tennessee dating back to the mid to late 1770s.

4. David Crockett Birthplace State Park

Visit the birthplace of pioneer, soldier, and politician David Crockett. Explore the 18th-century living farmstead, replica cabin, limestone marker, and visitor center exhibits. Nearby is the Cherokee National Forest and his father’s Crockett Tavern Museum in Morristown. Camping for RVs and tents is available.

5. Roan Mountain State Park

Settle into a cabin or campsite surrounded by the Doe River, wildflowers, and rich hardwood forests at Roan Mountain's base. At the top of the mountain, take in sweeping views of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, discover vibrant blooms of Rhododendrons in mid to late June, and step foot on the iconic Appalachian Trail.

6. Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park

Amongst 2,076 acres of scenic wilderness in Unicoi County, in the southern Appalachian Mountains, you'll find clear mountain streams perfect for fly fishing, challenging mountain biking and hiking trails, and lots of peace and quiet. Backcountry campsites are available.

 

Tour The Upper Cumberland

210 miles, 8 parks, 1 natural area, rustic wilderness, canyons, dark skies, and history.

View of a trail at Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area

1. Frozen Head State Park

Experience rustic wilderness in the Cumberland Mountains. Hike to waterfalls and rock shelters, hit the mountain bike trails, explore Flat Fork Creek and the Stonecipher-Kelly House, one of the very first European homesteads in the area. Spend the night at the primitive campground.

2. Big Ridge State Park

Move east to the shores of Norris Lake at Big Ridge State Park. Rent kayaks, take a dip in the lake, hike the diverse trails, or cast a line. Spend the night at a cabin or campsite.

3. Norris Dam State Park

Centered around Norris Dam, this park offers access to over 800 miles of shoreline. Rent a pontoon boat, explore The Lenoir Museum of Appalachian history, hike ridgetops and lakeshores, fish, mountain bike, and more. Book a newly restored historic CCC cabin, standard cabin, or camp at one of the campgrounds.

4. Cove Lake State Park

Drive 10 miles northwest of Norris Dam to explore the beautiful mountain valley at Cove Lake State Park. The park offers paddling rentals, hiking, biking, fishing, and abundant wildlife. Make it a day trip or camp for the night.

5. Indian Mountain State Park

The park features a unique lake with edges that seem to fade from grass to water slowly. Rent a kayak and explore the lake, fish from the banks, or explore the hiking trails. Camping is available. Fun fact: The mountain that is visible from the park is actually located in Kentucky.

6. Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

Before settling into a cabin or campsite, take a few steps down to the sandy beach or cross the suspension bridge hanging across the lake. Rent canoes and paddle under the large rock arch, hike to Hazard Cave, find double falls along the Hidden Passage Trail, or enjoy a picnic along the lakeshore.

7. Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area

Located a few minutes from Pickett, this area has abundant, immense, sheer bluffs and cliffs that provide wonderous displays of exposed, reddish-orange, and yellow layers of sandstone. Multiple rock houses and sandstone formations occur along the hiking trail and provide astonishing, picturesque rock structures to marvel at and photograph.

8. Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park

Head west from Pogue Creek to explore Sergeant Alvin C. York State Park. The site pays tribute to one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I. Take a tour of York's two-story house, experience a World War I trench, walk across the swinging bridge to visit the burial site of Sgt. York and his wife, Miss Gracie, and explore the gristmill.

9. Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park

End your trip at the birthplace of Cordell Hull. Hike the beautiful Bunkum Cave Loop Trail that leads to an overlook and the actual entrance to historic Bunkum Cave, where Cordell Hull's father made moonshine in the 19th century. Tip: If you're looking for somewhere to spend the night, check out the cabins and campsites at Standing Stone State Park, only 35 minutes away.

 

The Waterfall Tour

130 miles, 6 parks, 8 waterfalls, 2 lakes, cabin getaways, incredible hiking.

Cummins Fall State Park

1. Standing Stone State Park

This first stop might not have a waterfall on-site, but it's the perfect home base for visiting Cummins Falls. Book a newly restored historic cabin, deluxe cabin, or campsite and explore the park's suspension bridge, hiking trails, paddling rentals, and fishing opportunities.

2. Cummins Falls State Park

Home to a 75-foot waterfall and swimming area, this park is ideal for a summer day. Note: The hike to the base of the falls is rugged and requires a Gorge Access Permit (which can be purchased online), so plan accordingly. 

3. Cookeville, TN

Take a coffee break in Cookeville and explore the town's restaurants, stock up on some gear at Outdoor Experience, or visit the Cookeville Depot Museum.

4. Edgar Evins State Park

Book a cabin with views of sparkling Center Hill Lake or camp on one of the unique wooden platforms. This park is ideal for visiting Burgess Falls, Window Cliffs State Natural Area, and Cummins Falls. 

5. Burgess Falls State Park

Another iconic waterfall destination, Burgess Falls State Park, has four waterfalls that cascade down from over 250 feet in elevation. The last of these falls is the most spectacular, plunging more than 130 feet into the gorge. Eight miles from the park is Window Cliffs State Natural Area, where you can take a strenuous 2.7 mile through multiple creeks to a prominent geological cliff-top.

6. Sparta, TN

Stop in Sparta to take in the view at Sunset Rock, grab something to eat, or explore Historic Liberty Square.

7. Rock Island State Park

This park is home to some of the most scenic and significant overlooks along the Eastern Highland Rim. Don't leave without visiting the 30-foot Great Falls, located below the 19th-century cotton textile mill that it powered over 100 years ago. Book a cabin, grab a campsite or stay at Edgar Evins a little longer.

8. Fall Creek Falls State Park

End your trip by visiting the tallest waterfall in Tennessee along with three other magnificent falls. Book a cabin on the lake or a campsite. Explore the views at Millikan's Overlook, cross the swinging bridge at the Cane Creek Cascades, fish on Fall Creek Falls Lake, and more.

 

Nashville

95 miles, 6 parks, cedar glades, lakes, Nashville, a new lodge, and the Harpeth River.

View of the Nashville skyline over Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

1. Cedars of Lebanon

Start off the trip wandering through cedar glades and enjoying a relaxing cabin or campsite stay at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, 45 minutes east of Nashville.

2. Long Hunter State Park

Take a day trip to walk the loop around Coucheville Lake or take Percy Preist Lake's views from the 4-mile Volunteer day loop.

3. Radnor Lake State Park

Next, view the wildlife at Radnor Lake State Park. This is a favorite of Nashville residents because of the natural habitat it preserves so close to the city. Keep in mind this is a natural area, so stay on the trails and read up on park rules before visiting.

4. Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

Located in the shadow of the Capitol in downtown Nashville, this park is a must-see. Walk on top of the 200-foot granite map of the state, visit the World War II Memorial, listen to the 95-Bell Carillon, and make a splash in the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains. (Operation of the fountains may be temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

5. Montgomery Bell State Park

Pack up and head over to the newly renovated Lodge at Montgomery Bell. Book a private room overlooking Lake Acorn and enjoy exploring the park's lengthy hiking trails, paddling and fishing the three lakes, golfing at the 18-hole course, and dining at the park restaurant. The park also offers cabins and campsites

6. Harpeth River State Park

End your vacation with a day trip exploring the Harpeth River. Enjoy the scenic drive out to the park, hike to the overlook, visit the falls, or put in your kayak to float the day away. 

 

Nature To Memphis

220 miles, 7 less-trafficked parks, 5 lakes, and Memphis BBQ.

View of a creek on a trail at Big Hill Pond State Park

1. Chickasaw State Park

Start your trip off relaxing under the pines around Lake Placid in West Tennessee. Book a cabin or grab a campsite and then head out to explore hiking, paddling, fishing, swimming, and more.

2. Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park

Take a day trip to visit this archaeological site that features at least 15 Native American Mounds. Make the 100+ step climb to the top of Saul's Mound and visit the museum's exhibits on Tennessee’s prehistory.

3. Pickwick Landing State Park

Pack up and head southeast to the newly renovated Lodge at Pickwick Landing on the shores of Pickwick Lake. Grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, rent a pontoon boat, enjoy great sport fishing, play a round of golf, and take in the view from your room's private balcony. The park also offers villas on the water, standard cabins, and lakefront campsites.

4. Big Hill Pond State Park

Take a day trip or camp under the stars at Big Hill Pond. Climb up the fire tower to get a 360 view of the area, fish and paddle on Travis McNatt Lake, and hike the boardwalk through Dismal Swamp.

5. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

Drive east all the way to Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, where you can cozy up in a lake-front cabin or set up camp for the night. Tulip Poplar Lake offers paddling, boating, and fishing and the park's hiking trails are some of the most popular near Memphis.

6. Memphis

On your way to T.O. Fuller State Park, make a pit-stop in Memphis for some famous BBQ or to see some of the historical sites.

7. T.O. Fuller State Park

Explore the history of T.O. Fuller State Park, just 15 minutes from downtown Memphis. Located along the shores of the Mighty Mississippi River, the park is located on a site where American Indians flourished. Visit the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa to celebrate and discover the vibrant and sophisticated culture of these ancient people. RV and tent camping is available.

 

While you're planning, keep these things in mind:

  • All Tennessee State Parks are free to enter.
  • Cabins at Tennessee State Parks have a two-night minimum (and may have additional minimums at peak times).
  • Campsites must be reserved at least one day in advance. Reservations can be made online or by calling the park.
  • All parks with cabins offer camping as well.
  • All of our campgrounds are pet-friendly and all parks with lodging have a number of pet-friendly cabins and lodge rooms.
  • If cabins are full at a park you’re interested in, consider camping there instead. We’ve also noted which parks offer overnight accommodations so if a park you’re looking into is full you have options.
  • You don’t have to own gear to go camping. We have a partnership that helps you rent outdoor gear online such as camping, backpacking, and hiking gear.
  • When you’re visiting our parks, please remember to practice responsible recreation to reduce your impact.
  • Additional resources for trip planning can be found on our website.

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