Weekend Oasis at the Bell(e) of Middle Tennessee

February 22, 2022  |  Permalink

Weekend Oasis at the Belle(e) of Middle Tennessee. Montgomery Bell State Park©Tennessee Photographs

This guide was created in partnership with the Cumberland River Compact's Basin Field Guide. Learn more about this exciting partnership here.

When you think of the Nashville area, you’re probably flooded with images of lively honky-tonks, iconic country music stars, and mouth-watering hot chicken. It’s safe to assume remote green spaces are probably not top of mind. However, a quick 40-minute trip west of the hustle and bustle of Music City and you’ll end up in Dickson County, home to one of the largest parks in Tennessee. Winding backroads, over-flowing steams, picturesque farmland will lead you to Montgomery Bell State Park, a natural oasis spanning over 3,000 acres.  

If you think that being surrounded by all that natural beauty means you’re about to rough it, think again. Montgomery Bell is one of six state parks that offer resort-style lodges where visitors can enjoy a warm meal with a craft cocktail overlooking the lake or a comfortable night’s rest spent in one of the spacious lodge rooms.

 

Fuel up at the Lodge Restaurant

A raised patio with string lights and high-top tables sits under large trees with green foliage

Lodge at Montgomery Bell • 1000 Hotel Ave, Burns, TN 37029

Rise and shine to lakefront views on your room’s private balcony at the Lodge at Montgomery Bell. Take some time to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature waking up with the rising sun as you enjoy your first cup of joe. Then, head down to grab some fuel for the day’s adventures at the Restaurant.

Grab a seat with a view inside or head outdoors to enjoy breakfast on the raised patio. Lodge guests receive complimentary continental breakfast, but you can also go off-script and order southern favorites like country ham, hashbrowns, and biscuits with gravy from their menu.

Travel tip: The Lodge offers pet-friendly rooms!

 

Story-Book Trails, Ore Pits, and History

A small log cabin surrounded by a low wooden fence sits in the middle of a green plot of grass surrounded by lush trees

Montgomery Bell State Park • 1020 Jackson Hill Rd, Burns, TN 37029

Your belly is full, and your heart is screaming let’s go exploring! Lace-up those hiking boots and take a short drive down to the visitor center. Here you’ll find two trails to explore. The shorter option is the 7-mile Jim Bailey Nature Trail Loop that runs beside a peaceful creek that little ones will love to explore. Along the trail, you’ll also find larger-than-life storybook panels featuring the book One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me! by John Micklos, Jr., from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. 

Those who are ready to really stretch their legs and explore some historic buildings can hop on the Wildcat Trail. You’ll get a peek at the park’s campground as you hike a low ridge that follows its length. When the wildcat trail ends, take a right onto the Ore Pit Trail and follow the red blazes. Why’s it called that you ask? The park was once the center of the iron industry in Middle Tennessee, and the park's namesake, Montgomery Bell, formed one of Tennessee’s largest iron industries. So once iron was discovered in this area in the early 1800s, people began to dig for their fortune. Since the digging stopped at the onset of the Civil War, the remaining pits have been reclaimed by nature and are often filled with pools of water (the critters love this). Other remnants of the iron industry you’ll find include the remains of Laurel Furnace, one of the state's early manufacturing sites. 

Near the Ore Pit Trail’s halfway point, you’ll come across a clearing that holds some of the park’s historic landmarks including replicas of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the founding Reverend's log cabin. The church is still operational, and you can even step inside to check it out and bathe in the colors of the beautiful stained-glass windows.  

 

Cool off and Recharge 

A blue paddle boat with two passengers on a man-made lake surrounded by green follge under a sunny sky

Lodge at Montgomery Bell • 1000 Hotel Ave, Burns, TN 37029

Head back to the lodge to cool off and replenish some of your energy levels. Whether your style is hanging out by the pool with a cool drink and some salty snacks or hitting the sandy shores of the Lake Acorn swim beach, the park’s got you covered. Grab lunch to-go from the restaurant and head out to your ideal spot. If you’re up for something more active, rent some kayaks down by Lake Acorn and paddle the calm waters or cast a line down at Creech Hollow Lake.

 

Fill up at the Fillin' Station

Three people playing two guitars and a bass stand on a small stage. Behind them a garage door is open, reavealing a summer night©fillinstation.net

Fillin' Station • 385 N Main St, Kingston Springs, TN 37082

After a full day of exploring the park, head to nearby Kingston Springs to empty your day’s worries and fill up on delicious food and drinks at the Fillin' Station. Owner Patrick Weickenand left his career as a musician– playing with names such as Willie Nelson and Vince Gill–  to give this old gas station a facelift. Today, the Fillin' Station is a favorite hang for locals and tourists alike. Along with fresh beer on draught and a menu full of delicious BBQ, burger, and pub food grub, Weickenand pays homage to his musical roots with live music almost every night.

Musicians travel from near and far to grace the stage at the Fillin' Station, creating an authentic, cozy atmosphere that can’t be beat. If you’re looking for glitz and glam you won’t find it at the Fillin' Station- what you can expect, though, is great food and an impeccable atmosphere. So order a burger, sit back, and enjoy the scene. 

 

A Free Show at the Park 

A pink sunset covers the sky over a lake©Lost In Tennessee Photography

Montgomery Bell State Park • 1020 Jackson Hill Rd, Burns, TN 37029

There’s a free show tonight at the park that you won’t want to miss. We’re talking about the sunset of course! There are a few incredible spots at the park for watching the vibrant colors melt across the sky. Two of our favorites include Creech Hollow Lake and the raised patio outside at the Lodge. The spot you pick will depend on the vibe you’re going for. If string lights, cold brews, and close access to the lodge fit your plans, head over to the lodge patio. If a picnic blanket by the lake under open skies is calling your name, take the short walk from the parking area down to Creech Hollow. 

 

Pizza for breakfast? Not quite

A pizza with lots of toppings is being pushed into a wood-fired oven©Skyking Pizza

Skyking Pizza • 385 N Main St, Kingston Springs, TN 37082

Rise and shine! After a restful night’s sleep at the Lodge, head back into town and grab some fuel for the road at Skyking Pizza. This local pizza joint doubles as a coffee shop in the morning, serving up delicious drinks and housemade baked goods to accommodate your breakfast needs. 

Grab a latte and a muffin for now, but you may want to come back later for woodfired pizza and house-made meatballs when the restaurant transforms into a pizza parlor at suppertime. In a rush? Not to worry- Skyking offers take-out options so you can bring the pizza to you.

 

Get Your Hands Muddy

A person is working with a piece of dark colored clay in their hands

Mud Puddle Pottery Studios • 462 US-70, Pegram, TN 37143

If you find yourself visiting the parks on a rainy day, stay dry while testing your hand at a new craft at Mud Puddle Pottery Studios. Located between Montgomery Bell and Harpeth River parks in Pegram, TN this ceramics studio and art gallery regularly hosts classes for wheel and handbuilt pottery, along with coppersmithing, jewelry making, sculpture, and painting. 

On a romantic getaway? Mud Puddle offers couples’ nights classes perfect for those looking for a unique date night activity during their weekend adventure. After you’ve learned a new skill, take a look around the studio’s gallery to find artisan goods made by local artists of all trades. Perhaps you’ll want to take home a souvenir or two as a reminder of your experience and the abundant local talent!

 

Exploring Ancient Native American Mounds

A river runs through the forefront of the image. Behind it on a ridge sits a lush plot of land with multiple Native American mounds

Mound Bottom State Archeological Area • Accessible only by tours

Known by kayakers for its put-in sites, Harpeth River State Park is a popular destination for anyone looking to float the Harpeth. However, an area that most people have never heard of sits right above the river called Mound Bottom State Archeological Area. This protected site contains at least 12 ancient Native American mounds dating back to the Mississippian period. In order to protect and preserve this unique resource, access to Mound Bottom can only be accessed by tours led by Harpeth River State Park and the Tennessee Division of Archaeology. Check out the upcoming events on the Division of Archaeology’s website or Harpeth River's website to register for a tour. If you’re lucky, you might be able to attend one of the unique full moon hikes to Mound Bottoms. You can continue learning more about the site back at Montgomery Bell visitor center where some of the relics discovered at the site are on display. 

 

Paddle the Harpeth

Mutliple canoes filled with people in lifejackets paddling down the Harpeth River during summer©Tennessee Photographs

Harpeth River State Park • Visit their website for addresses.

It’s time to head out on the water! Harpeth River State Park is best explored by boat, and there are several local outfitters who offer canoe and kayak rentals for those looking to spend their day on the water. 

Canoe Music City offers 2, 5, and 7-mile trips down the Harpeth River, while Tip-a-Canoe – the oldest family-owned canoe rental location in Tennessee– offers 5, 8, and 10-mile trip options. Foggy Bottom Canoe is another option for kayak and canoe rentals, offering expert advice on the river for those of all ages looking to paddle it.

Disclaimer: Paddling on the Harpeth is a popular activity, especially during the hot Tennessee summer. Be sure you call the outfitters ahead of your trip to the river to ensure you have the best experience possible and don’t contribute to the overcrowding of the park that often happens during its busiest months. If you have your own canoe or kayak, Harpeth River offers 10 canoe access points along 40 river miles. If you’d rather hike, head over to Hidden Lake. This area features hiking trails, majestic bluffs, and abundant wildlife. 

 

Find Your Next Knitting Project

Multiple shelves with brown paper bags filled with colorful bundles of yarn©Ewe and Company

Ewe and Company • 407 N Main St, Kingston Springs, TN 37082

On your way back to Montgomery Bell, take a trip back into downtown Kingston Springs to visit the self-proclaimed “fun and funky knitting community” at Ewe and Company. This yarn shop features fibers and accessories from independent and handpainted dyers, creating a unique selection of knitting supplies for your next project. 

The yarn at Ewe and Company ranges from more traditional fibers to those of a more exotic variety- you can pick up alpaca, yak, and even possum yarn at the shop! If you’re new to knitting, you need not worry. The eclectic store offers needles and hooks, bags, and other accessories to get you started. If you’re looking for something they don’t have in stock, the friendly staff at Ewe and Company is happy to place a special order just for you, too. 

 

Exploring the Spillway 

A lake under a blue sky falls off down a staircase waterfall

Montgomery Bell State Park • 1020 Jackson Hill Rd, Burns, TN 37029

Before your trip is over, you must visit the spillway on Lake Woodhaven. The spillway is an iconic feature of Montgomery Bell State Park and the subject of countless photos each year. You can drive to Lake Woodhaven and then get out and explore. Functionally, the spillway exists to provide a controlled release of water for the lake. However, it also happens to look like a gorgeous staircase waterfall. If you’re in the mood for a quick walk in the woods, a trailhead for the .55-mile Spillway Trail is located to the right of the parking area. This trail runs alongside the most rapid areas of the creek. The large flat rocks that stick out of the rushing waters make for some exciting rock hopping opportunities. There are also some calm creek sections where you can soak your feet. 

 

S’more Fun back at the Lodge 

Two adorondack style chairs are placed around a rectangular fire pit at night time during summer©Aerial Innovations Southeast

Lodge at Montgomery Bell • 1000 Hotel Ave, Burns, TN 37029

After a long day out in the sun, it’s time to kick back around the fire with a sweet treat. There are two fire pits at the lodge perfect for roastin’ mallows. This is a bring your own s’more supplies situation but that means you can get creative! Try melting peanut butter cups instead of plain chocolate or opt for an ice cream cone instead of a graham cracker. You’ll feel like you’re camping but rest easy knowing there’s a comfortable bed waiting for you inside the lodge. 


Ready to Plan Your Trip?

Montgomery Bell State Park offers multiple overnight accommodations including camping, cabins, and the newly renovated Lodge at Montgomery Bell. Click the button below to book your stay online!

BOOK AT THE LODGE

BOOK A CAMPSITE

BOOK A CABIN

About the author

This guide was written in partnership with the Cumberland River Compact.

There are more than 20 Tennessee State Parks within the Cumberland River Basin, each with its own unique history, features, and opportunities for outdoor recreation. All of these parks rely on clean water to support the humans and creatures that visit and call them home. Tennessee State Parks has partnered with the Cumberland River Compact to bring you guides that highlight the best features of parks around the basin, along with the communities that surround them. We hope these guides will encourage you to support the vision of clean and abundant water for our Cumberland River Basin by visiting these parks whose vision is to protect and preserve the unique natural, cultural, and historic resources of Tennessee.

About Erin O'Farrell

Erin O'Farrell is an Americorps member at the Cumberland River Compact in Nashville, TN. Aside from serving for the Compact, Erin enjoys spending time outdoors and exploring the Cumberland River Basin throughout Tennessee and Kentucky.

About Brenna Sharpe

Brenna Sharpe is the Digital Marketing Manager for Tennessee State Parks, based in Nashville, TN. When she's not indoors hanging out with her two cats, you'll find her out exploring the beauty of Tennessee.

Return to Top