Top Tennessee State Parks for Fall Vacations
September 2, 2020 | Permalink
This fall, immerse yourself in the brilliant changing leaves from a mountain’s peak, warm up near a cabins fire, or gaze up at the clear night sky from a remote campsite. Tennessee State Parks are some of the most memorable and remote destinations to spend the fall season. With cabins, campgrounds, and lodges surrounded by thousands of acres of open spaces to explore, you can plan a socially distant vacation focused on all the incredible outdoor experiences fall has to offer. To help you plan your fall break vacation, we’ve categorized our parks by things to see and do: Mountains, waterfalls, lakes and rivers, and backpacking.
We know you may have questions about planning a trip to a Tennessee State Park during COVID-19. For information on what Tennessee State Parks is doing to keep visitors safe check out our Keeping Visitors Healthy page and for trip planning tips visit our COVID-19 and Travel Planning page.
There's nothing like observing fall colors from up above. Crisp mountain air and awe-inspiring views await outside of cozy cabins and campsites nestled in the East Tennessee mountains.
Roan Mountain State Park
Skip the overflowing crowds at the Smokies and head to Roan Mountain State Park. You’ll find Roan Mountain at the highpoint of the Unaka Range of the Southern Appalachian Mountains where the Cherokee & Pisgah National Forests converge offering extreme elevations and panoramic views. Peak color viewing falls around early October making fall break the perfect time to visit.
Norris Dam State Park
Norris Dam State Park sits on Norris Lake, which spans 800 miles of shoreline and puts on a spectacular color show during the fall. Visitors will find exceptional boating, fishing, and hiking only 30 minutes from Knoxville.
For overnight accommodations with easy access to the lake for fishing and boating and surrounding hiking trails. The park offers several campground and cabin rental options through our online reservation system.
Cove Lake State Park
If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of the classic Tennessee State Parks shield logo, you’ll recognize the iconic mountain scene that awaits at Cove Lake State Park. In the fall you’ll find those mountains draped in a quilt of fall foliage as far as the eye can see, only 30 minutes from Knoxville.
For overnight accommodations with lakeside views, reservations can be made at our RV and tent campsites.
Tennessee State Parks are home to more than eighty waterfalls, and the fall is a beautiful time to enjoy them. The captivating view of waterfalls framed by fall colors is a must-see. Our campgrounds and cabins are the perfect vacation base for hikes to waterfalls both in and around our parks.
Fall Creek Falls
Home to the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States, Fall Creek Falls is a destination known far and wide for its impressive views and waterfalls. This park is a highly sought after destination year-round and overnight accommodations go quick. If you’re looking for an alternative, check out nearby Cumberland Mountain State Park.
Parks like Fall Creek Falls and Rock Island can fill up quick year-round. If you were hoping to score a spot at one of these parks to view their impressive waterfalls check out Cumberland Mountain State Park less than an hour away. Ozone Falls, Stinging Fork Falls, and Piney Falls Natural Areas are also within an hour of the park.
Waterside destinations shine just as bright in the fall as they do in the summer. Vibrant reflections of changing leaves bounce off calm lake waters. Riverbanks are covered in warm hues of leaves. Whether you’re looking to take your boat out for a cruise or hop on a Ranger-led pontoon tour, our waterside parks are for you.
This classic Tennessee State Park is known for its bald eagle sightings, towering cypress trees, and eye-opening pontoon tours. White Pelicans steal the show in the fall as they settle into the park during their annual fall migration. Visitors can explore the flooded forest by boat, fish off the docks, or take in the fall colors by the water.
Pickwick Landing State Park
Sitting on the banks of Pickwick Lake, the park is an excellent waterside retreat offering fishing, boating, and lakeside accommodations. The on-site marina offers a variety of boat rentals for those looking to take in the fall colors from the water.
The newly renovated Lodge at Pickwick Landing offers an all in one vacation destination with private balconies overlooking Pickwick Lake and a new restaurant and lounge opening late September. Lakeside cabins and RV and tent campsites are also available for reservation.
Chickasaw State Park
Chickasaw State Park is a beautiful destination just 20 minutes outside Jackson, Tennessee. A pedestrian bridge spanning Lake Placid provides a beautiful focal point and backdrop for the changing foliage and the stars of the night sky. The park offers lakeside hiking trails and access to nearby forest and wildlife management lands. There are even horseback trails you can access from the park.
Visitors can rent cabins or stay in their choice of several campgrounds. The tent campground overlooks the lake. The newly renovated RV campground and the wrangler campground (for those camping with horses) both offer unique camping experiences.
The ultimate remote destination awaits after a rewarding hike-in. Our backpacking sites offer an immersive experience that advanced adventurers will love. The cooler temperatures in the fall make the hike-in pleasant, while the changing leaves provide a beautiful backdrop to any backcountry site.
Rocky Fork State Park
Rocky Fork State Park offers access to 2,076 acres of scenic wilderness in Unicoi County, in the southern Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee. The park, located near Johnson City, is 30 minutes removed from the more crowded destinations in Asheville, NC. The park even offers hiking access to the Appalachian Trail.
Three backpacking sites are available at the park tucked into the wilderness of the mountains. These sites offer rewarding views for advanced hikers and an authentic state park experience.
Frozen Head State Park
The untouched mountain splendor at Frozen Head State Park provides the perfect setting for a backpacking adventure. In the fall, the high elevation and rugged mountain terrain provide incredible views. Located just north of Crossville, this park is a great destination for backpackers coming from Nashville, Cookeville, or Knoxville.
Frozen Head State Park boasts over 50 miles of backpacking trails with 10 designated backcountry campsites available for reservation.
Bif Ridge State Park is located 30 minutes outside Knoxville in the Appalachian Ridge and Valley range. The park's diverse trails follow dry ridges, lush hollows, old roadbeds, lakeshores and remnants of early settlements. The backcountry sites require a 2 to 4-mile hike in.
Big Ridge State Park has over 15 miles of hiking trails with 3 designated backcountry campsites available for reservation.