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Parks and Recreation Areas in Tennessee
Tennessee is blessed with several beautiful lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. Head to Cherokee Lake in eastern Tennessee for a boating adventure around the Cherokee Reservoir. This area features almost 400 miles of shoreline and is a popular fishing spot. Percy Priest Lake encompasses 14,000 acres of land and is a popular destination for sailing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, and fishing.
You can also plan an exciting adventure around Ruby Falls, a beautiful underground waterfall where you can also explore Lookout Mountain. Take a guided tour to discover new grounds. The Blue Ridge Mountains provide plenty of opportunities to enjoy the lakes and discover the Great Smoky Mountains. Head here to explore the 500,000-acre recreational hotspots and visit historic sites around Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Appalachian Trail. This area boasts some of the best fly-fishing destinations in the state and is also a popular destination for white water rafting adventures.
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area
One of Tennessee's most scenic parks, the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area is a hub of historical landmarks and outdoor activities.
Stretched across 125,000 acres on eastern Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau, the park offers four-season outdoor activities, and shelters the historical Blue Heron Mining Community – which can be reached with the Big Fork South Scenic Railway.
World-class whitewater kayaking and canoeing await on the namesake Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. Scenic views of the surrounding mountains can be seen from more than 150 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback trails – leading to landmarks like Angel Falls, Twin Arches, Needle Arch, and Slave Falls.
Special events are also commonly held, from star gazing to kids' activities at the park's two visitors centers north of Knoxville and Crossville.
Fort Pillow State Historic Park
Travelers and history buffs make a beeline for Fort Pillow State Historic Park, an area steeped in archeological and military history. Overlooking the Tennessee side of the Mississippi River, this park features a museum covering the 1864 Battle of Fort Pillow, and several Civil War artifacts – including a canon.
Aside from its history, this 1,642-acre park is a designated Wildlife Observation Area, and remains a popular location for bird watching. A full-service picnic area with tables, grills, and nearby playground await visitors, so revel in history and natural beauty just north of Memphis.
Johnsonville State Historic Park
Plan your next trek through western Tennessee and head for the Johnsonville State Historic Park. Just across the water from Camden, the Johnsonville State Historic Park is neatly located on the banks of Kentucky Lake. With a total area of more than 2,000 acres, Johnsonville State Historic Park is a popular destination in the spring and summer for birding fans, anglers, and hikers.
Try to hike the Historic Johnsonville Trail on your adventure. At eight miles in total length, it's seen by most hiking fans as a moderately difficult trail, but nothing too over the top hard. The African-American Cemetery Loop Trail is much easier at just half a mile long. If there's time left in the day, check out the Civil War Forts Trail – only two miles and a mix of dirt and rock. Anglers have been known to land hauls of bluegill, catfish, and sunfish.
Bicentennial Mall State Park
Celebrating Tennessee's 200th birthday, Nashville's Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park welcomes visitors and park-dwellers to share in the preservation of Tennessee's history, culture, and natural beauty. Lying in the shadow of the Tennessee State Capitol, the 19-acre park features erupting geyser fountains representing Tennessee's rivers, large framing walls with historical facts etched into them, and a grass area.
For more in depth information, visitors can attended park ranger-led tours, or hold a friendly chat with a ranger about the wonders of Tennessee. The park also presents Tennessee's Struggle for the Heartland from 1861 to 1865, which is an informative Civil War exhibitions.
Big Ridge State Park
Located in the Appalachian Ridge, just north of Knoxville, Big Ridge State Park gets its name from inhabiting a topography of narrow ridges flanked by stream valleys. Many travelers come for the recreational opportunities of Big Ridge Lake and Norris Lake. Others like to explore the 15 miles of hiking trails spanning the 3,687 acres of this eastern Tennessee park.
Lush hollows, lakeshores, dry ridges, and remains of early settlements, including the Norton Gristmill, exist with the sandy beaches, picnic areas, and boat launches to provide a smorgasbord of recreation and natural beauty. Festival-minded folks enjoy the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Bluegrass Festival held in August, while park rangers lead ghoulish night hikes during the Halloween season.
Burgess Falls State Park
Hiking, water falls, kayaking adventures – your next visit to Tennessee will be full of outdoor fun. Make your way to the middle region of Tennessee and check out the always lush and vibrant Burgess Falls State Park. Found in the city of Sparta, Burgess Falls SP is a short drive from nearby Cookeville.
As you plan your day at Burgess Falls SP, be sure to include on the agenda any number of the excellent hiking trails and scenic overlooks. The half-mile long Ridge Top Trail is a can't-miss for those who enjoy hiking, and the Native Butterfly Garden is often a favorite for visiting families. Make the most of your next visit to Burgess Falls SP.
Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park
Those well-versed in history will appreciate the Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park in Byrdsville. Honoring eastern Tennessee's famous son, the park features the refurbished log cabin where Hull was born, and a museum detailing his life and time as the Secretary of State for the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.
The museum preserves a number of Hull's personal items, including the Nobel Peace Prize he received for his role in establishing the United Nations. The park hosts a number of annual events, including the Cordell Hull Folk Festival and the Roller Coaster Yard Sale.
Visitors can also explore the Bunkum Cave Hiking Trail located along the limestone-rich Highland Rim near the main complex. The park is located near Cookeville and Crossville.
Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park
See where the legendary American folkhero got his start at the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park, located between Johnson City and Newport in eastern Tennessee. Visitors are treated to a replica of Crockett's birth cabin, a museum dedicated to his memory, and 105 acres of surrounding wooded forests with fishing opportunities.
Davy Crockett's entire story – from his hunting-heavy childhood to political career to death at the Battle of the Alamo – is told through the museum's exhibits. Further exhibitions detailing Appalachian frontier life can be found near the birthplace cabin, and visitors can experience a taste of frontier life themselves by hiking along the Nolichucky River.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
The highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River, Fall Creek Falls lends its name to Tennessee's most visited state park. The park is set near cities like Dayton, Mcminnville, and Cookeville.
More than 26,000 acres stretched out over the Cumberland Plateau await visitors of all dispositions. Hikers, horseback riders, and bikers can choose from miles of trails to reach overlooks of centrally-located Cane Creek and Falls Creek.
Bird watchers can sneak a peek at buzzard hawks and various songbirds while anglers can catch bass, catfish, and bluegill at Fall Creek Lake. A challenging 18-hole golf course among dense forests rewards golf enthusiasts, while mountain bikers embrace 24 miles of rolling trails.
Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park
Tennessee's 53rd state park, the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park is located in eastern Tennessee, just north of Knoxville. Cumberland Trail State Park features 150 miles of trail ready for exploration. Hikers trek the Tennessee River Gorge Segment in Prentice Cooper State Forest, and the Grassy Cove Segment on Black and Brady Mountain – among others.
Once the Cumberland Trail is completed, it will extend to 300 miles and pass through 11 Tennessee counties. The trail follows sections of the Cumberland Mountains, so be sure to bring your camera for the only "linear park" in Tennessee.
Montgomery Bell State Park
Covering 3,782 acres, the Montgomery Bell State Park is located in the western Nashville metro area, just east of Dickson. Established in 1943, the park is found easily by Highway 70, and attracts over one million annual visitors.
Operated by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, Montgomery Bell State Park features year-round recreation, and is known as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church birthplace. Try boating and fishing at Acorn and Woodhaven lakes, 19 miles of hiking trails, the Montgomery Bell Golf Course, and events like the Dogwood Classic.
Natchez Trace State Park
As you plan your next excursion across Tennessee, be sure to head west and check out Natchez Trace State Park. Found in Wildersville, not far south of Camden and a short drive from Hurricane Mills, Natchez Trace State Park is more than 10,000 acres of pristine western Tennessee outdoor fun.
Be sure to explore as much of Natchez Trace State Park as you can – you'll find a bounty of exciting and memorable things to do. Don't miss Browns Lake or Maples Lake for fishing and a wide array of aquatic adventures. Pine Oak Lake is another popular destination for families and anglers at Natchez Trace State Park. Cub Lake, the smallest lake at Natchez Trace, offers boat ramps, swimming holes, and nearly 60 acres of fun.
Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park
Plan for an outdoor adventure when you visit Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park in western Tennessee. At nearly 2,600 acres in total area, Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park is named for Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
On your visit, you'll find a wealth of birding, fishing, and hiking opportunities. NBFSP is a popular spring and summer destination for locals and western Tennessee visitors alike. Visit from nearby Camden.
Throughout the summer, you'll land a good amount of catfish along the shores of the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake. Keep an eye out for Pilot Knob, a large obelisk constructed in the memory of the Battle of Johnsonville.
There's also an authentic cannon at Pilot Knob. If hiking is your joy, head for the Polk Creek Wildflower Trail or the Beech Grove Trail – both under a mile long and yield excellent views of the Tennessee's natural beauty.
Radnor Lake State Park
Set a course for Tennessee and enjoy all the best of its outdoor recreation. Make your way into Nashville and explore the always vibrant and ever-popular Radnor Lake State Park. Found just south of downtown Nashville, Radnor Lake State Park is 1,332 acres of lush landscapes, exceptional lakeside fun, and so much more.
Also known to some as Radnor Lake State Natural Area, this site was developed as a recreation site for visitors and locals in 1973. Protected as a Class II Natural Area, Radnor Lake SP features the Historic Valve House Trail, which opened in 2011. Be sure to also check out the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center. Hikes, edifying experiences, and fishing – you'll find it all at Radnor Lake SP.
Blue Ridge Recreation
National Parks & the Appalachian Trail
Eastern Tennessee is home to the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains – part of the expansive Appalachian Mountains range covering large portions of eastern America.
With so much stark, outdoor beauty in eastern Tennessee, an endless supply of outdoor recreation await vistiors of the Smoky Mountains.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to two national parks: the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the eastern border of the Volunteer State. This massive park neighbors cities like Gatlinburg, Newport, and Townsend – all just east of the Knoxville metro area.
A 500,000-acre playground, Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be reached along U.S. Highway 441 in Gatlinburg near the Sugarlands Visitors' Center, and features hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding, nature viewing, and cycling.
During your time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, trek a down a number of hiking trails – totaling 850 miles inlcuding 70 miles of the legendary Appalachian Trail. Make your way down the Alum Cave Trail to the Mount Le Conte, or hike to the head of the iconic Chimney Tops.
Enjoy sightseeing along the Laurel Falls Trail, or get a great view of the park and the Blue Ridge Mountains at the Clingman's Dome observation deck. As for anglers, look forward to a day of reeling in brown and rainbow trout throughout the park.
Other outdoor activities in the Blue Ridge Mountains include white water rafting on the Ocoee River and Nantahla River, horseback riding in the Tennessee River Valley, and even golf courses in Sevier County.