Vacation at Tennessee State Parks: Our Top 9 Favorite Trip Ideas

March 1, 2021  |  Permalink

Our Top 9 Trip Ideas at Tennessee State Parks

Wondering what vacation will look like for you this year?  Looking for trip planning inspiration in Tennessee?

If you're looking for something affordable, unique, and crowd-pleasing, start exploring the opportunities at Tennessee State Parks. Come discover a waterfall, summit a mountain, teach your child how to fish, lounge by the pool, explore a new city, or find rest among nature. Whether you want to camp in the fresh air or cozy up in a cabin or Lodge room, our parks have the accommodations that turn one-time vacations into traditions.

Here are our top nine favorite trip and vacation ideas when visiting Tennessee State Parks:

Road over bridge at Standing Stone State Park

The Road Trip

Who:  Families, recent graduates, solo travelers, RV owners, van-lifers.

What: Curated itineraries with adventures and campsites along the way.

Where: Create your own road trip visiting any of our 56 state parks or follow one of our pre-mapped trips.

Why: Affordable, customizable, see more of Tennessee, flexible.

Maybe you can’t take an international trip, but you still want to experience the thrill of exploring somewhere new for the first time. Road trips take you down new paths and allow you to pack lots of unique adventures into a couple of days. 

Curate your own or follow one of our pre-made road trips that map out overnight stays and points of interest.


Bonus Tip: Tennessee's Trails & Byways program offers themed adventures leading you to the hidden gems across the state. Tennessee State Parks are conveniently included in these road trips, offering places for you to stay while exploring the Screaming Eagle, Top Secret, and other Trails & Byways.


Roan Mountain State Park at sunset

The Mountains

Who: People looking to explore the mountains of Tennessee.

What: Cabins and camping destinations in the East Tennessee mountains.

Where: Roan Mountain State Park, David Crockett Birthplace State Park, and Warriors Path State Park.

Why: Bucket-list item, incredible views, and hiking opportunities.

Visiting the mountains of East Tennessee is a bucket list item for many people. There are multiple Tennessee State Parks that offer cabins and campsites along the eastern border of Tennessee. You can also enjoy backcountry camping at Rocky Fork and explore one of the state's true wilderness areas.



Car Camping Family at Mousetail Landing State Park on the River

The Family Car Camping Trip

Who: Families looking for affordable vacations with lots of activities.

What: Establish a home base at a campsite and explore nearby areas.

Where: Any Tennessee State Park with a campground.

Why: Affordable and accessible family vacation that can be planned near attractions.

Everyone deserves to rest and rejuvenate on vacation. Car camping at Tennessee State Parks provides an affordable and restorative vacation centered around outdoor activities that the whole family can enjoy. The summer months bring tons of park-hosted events and learning opportunities for the kids. Park staff are always introducing students to animals and reptiles, offering guided programs, and helping foster a love for the outdoors in visitors of all ages. 

With campgrounds located all over the state and camping gear available for rent, your options for activities are wide open. Choose from hiking the mountains of East Tennessee, kayaking a river just outside of Nashville, exploring historical sites in West TN, and much more.


Bonus Tip #1: Many of our campgrounds feature playgrounds. This is clutch for planning trips with kids.

Bonus Tip #2: As you explore campgrounds, pay attention to things like bathhouses, water, electricity, fire pits, picnic tables, and other amenities found at that site or within the campground. That information lives on park campground pages. Details about what particular sites have to offer are visible when you hover/click on sites within the reservation system. 


Twin Falls at Rock Island State Park

The Waterfall Chaser

Who: Anyone looking to knock some waterfalls off their list.

What: Lodging located near waterfalls.

Where: Cumberland Mountain State Park, Edgar Evins State Park, Rock Island State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park

Why: Turn your day-trip waterfall adventures into a multi-day vacation.

If you're looking to visit some Tennessee waterfalls this summer, why not make a vacation out of it? You can stay overnight at one of the parks listed above and visit multiple waterfalls nearby. 



Pool at Lodge Montgomery Bell at Montgomery Bell State Park

The Inclusive Lodge Vacation

Who: Couples and families.

What: Resort-style vacation surrounded by outdoor activities.

Where: Montgomery Bell State Park, Pickwick Landing State Park, Henry Horton State Park, Natchez Trace State Park.

Why: All-in-one vacation, minimal planning required, convenient for families.

Indulge in a resort-style vacation surrounded by outdoor activities at one of our Lodges. A lodge stay is similar to a hotel offering on-site restaurants, lounges, pools, comfortable rooms, and access to the outdoor activities you love. The convenience our lodges offer is great for families and couples looking to get away without lots of planning or the need for outdoor gear. You can roll out of bed, grab some food from the restaurant, and hit the trails or the water. 



Front porch of a cabin at Meeman Shelby State Park facing Poplar Tree Lake

The City and Nature Combo

Who: Those who want the best of both for an affordable price.

What: Establish a home base at a cabin, campground, or lodge located near a city: Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville.

Where: Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville.

Why: Affordable lodging, explore both the city and the natural surroundings, rest peacefully.

Why not have the best of both worlds? If you’re looking to explore a city during the day, why not retreat to a peaceful and affordable cabin, lodge, or campsite at night. Tennessee State Parks offers accommodations within an hour from Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville. Find a park with overnight accommodations near a city you're interested in by using our Find a Park Map.



Woman Rock Climbing on an Exposed Rock Face

The Adventurer

Who: Experienced adventurers looking to enjoy the outdoors.

What: Backcountry camping, white water rafting, rock climbing.

Where: Parks with backcountry camping, climbing, and white-water rafting.

Why: Find overnight accommodations with easy access to specific activities.

Tennessee State Parks offer opportunities for adventures like backpacking, white-water rafting, rock climbing, and more. If you’ve got the skills, we’ve got the outdoor spaces for you to put them to the test.


If you’re not skilled in these activities, but you’d like to learn, make a trip out of it! Check out our upcoming events calendar to find an outdoor workshop you’re interested in.

Bonus Tip: If you have the skills but lack the camping gear, we can help! We have a partnership that helps you rent camping and backpacking gear online for your next visit to a Tennessee State Park. 


View of Tims Ford Lake at Tims Ford State Park

The Boaters Paradise

Who: Boaters looking for easy access to the lake.

What: Cabins right on/near the lake with ample boating and fishing opportunities

Where: Pickwick Landing State Park, Tims Ford State Park, Paris Landing State Park, Norris Dam State Park.

Why: Stay on the lake with easy access to boat ramps.

Can't get enough of the lake life? Stay right on the water at a cabin and enjoy easy access to state park boat ramps. Tennessee State Parks offer access to some of the most pristine lakes for fishing, boating, and watersports.



Dirt Road at Natchez Trace State Park

The Wilderness Retreat

Who: Hunters, fishers, horse owners, ATV riders.

What: Campsites, cabins, and lodges near WMA/forestry lands.

Where: Natchez Trace State Park, Chickasaw State Park, Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tims Ford State Park

Why: Access to fishing, hunting, ATV riding, horse trails, and camping.

If you’re looking to spend a couple of days hitting the ATV or horse trails, fishing some of the top lakes in Tennessee, or hunting on WMA/forestry land, let Tennessee State Parks provide the overnight accommodations. Explore RV, tent, and wrangler campsites as well as cabins and lodges. 


Note about ATVs and OHVs: The use of these vehicles is not allowed in Tennessee State Parks but may be allowed on nearby or adjacent public lands. We ask that you obey all applicable public land rules. Staff in the park offices listed above can provide that information in person or over the phone about where to ride and the rules you would need to follow.


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.
  • 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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