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Amazing 15 Best State Parks in Tennessee 

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Any map of Tennessee state parks will show you that you don’t have to go far to find plenty of parkland from west to east and north to south. Most parks offer typical activities such as hiking, environmental appreciation, and camping. In fact, 39 of the state parks have campgrounds. If you’re visiting the state capital, you’ll be glad to know that Nashville is a convenient starting place for visiting and camping at three state parks: Radnor Lake, Cedars of Lebanon, and Rock Island.

Because many state parks have water features such as lakes or reservoirs, rivers, and waterfalls, recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, and having fun on the water are available. Golf courses are available at nine state parks, including four on our list (Fall Creek Falls, Warriors’ Path, Cumberland Mountain, and Chickasaw). Mountain bike many of the park’s routes, and horseback three of our favorites: Panther Creek, Chickasaw, and Cedars of Lebanon.

Whatever your pleasure, our list of the greatest state parks in Tennessee will satisfy your appetite for outdoor fun and adventure.

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1. Rock Island State Park

Twin Falls in Rock Island State Park

Rock Island is a popular Tennessee state park located 14 miles north of McMinnville at the headwaters of Center Hill Lake. The Caney Fork Gorge, located beneath the Great Falls Dam, has breathtaking scenic overlooks. The 30-foot Great Falls, Twin Falls, and the Blue Hole are all popular attractions. Below the falls is a 19th-century textile mill that was once powered by the waterfall.

Observe the park’s rugged natural features carefully and from a distance. The main reasons to be cautious during your visit to the park are the slippery limestone, fast-moving currents, and fluctuating water levels. Some areas are not suitable for swimming, and visitors are advised to heed the warnings. Swimming enthusiasts are directed to a natural sandy beach with boat access. The park’s white water challenges excite world-class kayakers. There are 10 cabins and 60 campsites available for overnight stays.

Address: 82 Beach Road, Rock Island, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/rock-island

2. Cumberland Mountain State Park

Bridge over Byrd Lake in the Cumberland Mountain State Park

The scenic 1,720-acre park of Cumberland Mountain State Park is popular because there is so much to see and do. It is situated at an elevation of 2000 feet on the Cumberland Plateau. Begin with a leisurely stroll around Byrd Lake’s mile-long loop trail. There are 14 miles of hiking trails and four miles of biking trails in the park. Enjoy Byrd Lake’s 55-acres in your own boat or one rented from the park–kayaks and rowboats are available. Largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and rainbow trout can all be caught.

A wading pool for children and an Olympic-sized pool where you can swim laps are among the park’s amenities. The seven-arch sandstone bridge that spans Byrd Lake is one of the most photographed features.

In the 1930s, this was the largest structure ever built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The park hosts special events throughout the year, such as a rock-climbing workshop in April and “trunk or treat” at Halloween. There is never a dull moment.

Address: 24 Office Drive, Crossville, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/cumberland-mountain

3. Fall Creek Falls State Park

Golf at Fall Creek Falls | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Fall Creek Falls State Park is located in Eastern Tennessee’s scenic Cumberland Plateau and is a must-see for nature lovers. The 30,000-acre park has everything a visitor looking for natural beauty could want. Consider Fall Creek Falls, the 256-foot waterfall that inspired the park’s name. There are also Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, Cane Creek Cascades, and a nature center to promote education in addition to this showpiece. A 345-acre lake is another asset in this mostly wilderness setting.

Hike and bike the trails, go boating, and fish in Fall Creek Falls Lake for catfish, bluegill, and largemouth bass. Golf on a course rated as one of the best in America by Golf Digest. If you’re feeling daring, try the canopy challenge aerial course.

Accommodation options include 225 campsites, group camping, two group lodges, and cabins. Make yourself at home in a spectacular setting.

Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee

Address: 2009 Village Camp Road, Spencer, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/fall-creek-falls

4. Burgess Falls State Park

Burgess Falls State Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Burgess Falls State Park on Falling Water River is all about waterfalls–not just one, but four cascades that cover 250 feet of elevation. Because the falls are the main attraction at this 274-acre day park, take your time on the strenuous 1.6-mile loop trail. If you don’t mind a lot of stairs, you might find it fairly easy. Smaller cascades will be seen first, leading up to the largest, which drops 130 feet into a gorge.

Burgess Falls State Park was once home to Cherokee and Chickasaw indigenous communities. The park, which is located in central Tennessee south of Cookeville, has historic features such as a gristmill and a sawmill.

Address: 4000 Burgess Falls Drive, Sparta, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/burgess-falls

5. Cummins Falls State Park

Cummins Falls State Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Cummins Falls, Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall, is the star attraction of this 282-acre day use park, which has been designated as the state park of 2021 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Access to the gorge and base of the falls on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River requires a permit. Expect to spend two to three hours hiking the three-mile loop trail. Take photos, cool off in the old swimming hole, and marvel at the 75-foot waterfall’s grandeur. The cascade is divided into two drops, the first of which plunges 50 feet into a pool. Take caution as you navigate the trail and hike through the gorge. Because of the slippery surfaces, multiple stream crossings, and deep pools, it is rated strenuous. Take your time and enjoy the scenery. Access to outstanding natural attractions such as Cummins Falls is not without risk or difficulty, but it is well worth the effort.

Address: 390 Cummins Falls Lane, Cookeville, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/cummins-falls

6. Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park

Old Stone Fort Museum | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park is one of Tennessee’s two archaeological parks. The 51-site campground is a world away in spirit and history, despite being only one mile away from the public pool in nearby Manchester.

The site is ancient, dating back 2,000 years, and its original purpose remains a mystery to this day. Early settlers misidentified it as a fort. Visitors today see a 50-acre hilltop enclosure made up of mounds and walls built into limestone cliffs. According to one theory, Indigenous people used this space for hundreds of years as a ceremonial gathering place. Access the easy to moderate 1.4-mile loop trail with interpretive signage from behind the stone museum. From the trail, you can see three tiers of beautiful falls as well as the foundation of an old paper mill. Several other walks branch off the main interpretive trail, which explains how sawmills, gristmills, and even a Civil War gunpowder mill developed during the 1800s. Visitors to the park can hike the trails, camp, paddle, and fish on the Duck River.

Address: 732 Stone Fort Drive, Manchester, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/old-stone-fort

7. Warriors’ Path State Park

Warriors’ Path State Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Take a cue from the park and trail names to confirm that Warriors’ Path State Park is a jumping off point for outdoor adventure. Hike the 1.1-mile Devil’s Backbone Trail to get to the beautiful Devil’s Backbone State Natural Area. Aside from hiking and mountain biking, you can also go horseback riding, fishing, and boating (you can rent a boat from the marina if you don’t have one). There are 134 campsites at the campground, as well as a seasonal swimming pool.

Visitors to Warriors’ Path can also play a round of golf on the 18-hole course. The 978-acre park is located along the Holston River on the Patrick Henry Reservoir. Kingsport, Tennessee’s closest community, is located just south of the Kentucky state line in the northeast corner of the state.

Address: 490 Hemlock Road, Kingsport, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/warriors-path

8. Panther Creek State Park

Picnic with a lake view at Panther Creek | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Begin your Panther Creek State Park visit with a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. The Point Lookout Trail, a 2.7-mile loop, provides the best view of Cherokee Lake and the Cumberland Mountains. This is just one of 17 hiking trails totaling 30 miles in length. Mountain bikers can enjoy the scenery on 15 miles of trails. This is part of the Cherokee Nation’s traditional homeland.

Bring your own boat if you want to explore the reservoir. There are no rentals in the park, but there is a boat ramp where you can start your fishing or paddling adventure. Expect to see osprey and eagles overwintering in the winter, and songbirds at other times of the year.

Visitors exploring the Holston River valley on horseback will find seven miles of riding trails, including Hunt Knob Hill. Every rig and tent style is accommodated in modern camping facilities. The playground and seasonal swimming pool will delight young children. Everyone will find something they enjoy.

Address: 2010 Panther Creek Road, Morristown, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/panther-creek

9. Radnor Lake State Park

Autumn colors at Radnor Lake State Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Some consider Radnor Lake State Park to be Nashville’s Walden’s Pond. This is due to the fact that this 1,368-acre day use park is a protected nature preserve with a diverse range of plants, animals, and birds. Despite its proximity to Nashville, bringing your binoculars and camera is likely to be rewarded.

Dogs, bikes, and swimming are not an issue for the birds and wildlife here because they are not permitted.

Because the park is popular, avoid going during peak hours. The best times to visit the park, located eight miles south of Nashville, are at the start and end of the day. When the weather permits, enjoy a luxurious float on the 85-acre lake.

Six miles of hiking trails range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. When you’ve finished the 1.3-mile loop around Radnor Lake, check out the gift shop and educational programs that are available all year.

Address: 1160 Otter Creek Road, Nashville, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/radnor-lake

10. Dunbar Cave State Park

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

Six miles of hiking trails range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. When you’ve finished the 1.3-mile loop around Radnor Lake, check out the gift shop and educational programs that are available all year.

The cave’s ancient art has been preserved, and visitors who want to explore it and see the pictographs must sign up for a seasonal guided tour.

The 2.4-mile Dunbar Cave Recovery Loop allows visitors to walk their dogs. This moderate forested trail skirts Swan Lake, a 20-acre body of water that attracts wildlife and birds, including swans.

Address: 401 Old Dunbar Cave Road, Clarksville, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/dunbar-cave

11. Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

This 21,000-acre park honors the efforts of Civilian Conservation Corps workers who completed many projects during the wartime years of the 1930s and early 1940s. Pickett’s legacy includes hiking trails, a recreation lounge, five cabins, and a 12-acre lake.

This park is noteworthy because it was the first in the Southeast to be designated as a “dark sky park.” There is little human intrusion with only 26 campsites, 16 of which have electric service. Bears live here, and if you’re lucky, you might see one from a distance.

Pickett is located on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky, next to the 120,000-acre Big South Fork National River.

Address: 4605 Pickett Park Hwy, Jamestown, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/pickett

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12. Reelfoot Lake State Park

Reelfoot Lake State Park at dawn

Despite its remote location in northwest Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake State Park is only a two-hour drive from Memphis. Whether you’re preparing for or recovering from a city visit, try to include Reelfoot on your itinerary. It is Tennessee’s only natural lake.

This massive 18,000-acre body of water is also only three miles from the Mississippi River, which means flyway for migrating birds and bird-watching for tourists. In the fall, white pelicans migrate through Reelfoot. Eagles (both bald and golden) are so plentiful that they are celebrated with a festival.

Visit Reelfoot to see the 240 species of birds and admire the towering bald cypress trees that perch above the shallow water. Hike along easy hiking trails. Rent a kayak or canoe and enjoy a peaceful paddle. Anglers may be enticed to cast a line by fifty different species of fish.

If you want to stay for more than a day, book a deluxe cabin or a campsite in the campground. Bring your inquiries to the visitor center, as well as your curiosity to the heritage center and museum.

Address: 2595 Highway 21E, Tiptonville, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/reelfoot-lake

13. Chickasaw State Park

Boardwalk at Chickasaw State Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Chickasaw State Park is higher in elevation and culturally significant to members of the Chickasaw Nation who once inhabited this part of West Tennessee. Begin your explorations with a leisurely stroll across Lake Placid on the 700-foot pedestrian bridge. Rent a rowboat or pedal boat and enjoy bird and wildlife sightings.

Hiking trails range from easy to strenuous, with the most popular nature trail a 1.75-mile walk around the lake. Horseback riding is another option for exploring the park. Bring your own horse or rent one for the day or by the hour. Equestrian campers stay in a specifically designated campground with horse stalls. There is also an RV campground, a tent campground with water views, a group lodge, and lakeside cabins. Chickasaw has a golf course as well.

Address: 20 Cabin Lane, Henderson, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/chickasaw

14. Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Cedars of Lebanon State Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Cedars of Lebanon State Park is a popular option for visitors looking for a camping base near Nashville in a state park with all the amenities. It is 32.5 miles from the park to the city. Three campgrounds are available, each with restrooms, showers, and paved camping pads. A group lodge and ten cabins are also available as lodging options.

Hiking at Cedars of Lebanon is exciting because you never know what you’ll come across. Tree burls, drop-offs, sinkholes, and caves will captivate you. The 4.2-mile Hidden Springs Trail, which leads to a couple of deep sinkholes, is one of the best hikes. In season, marvel at limestone glades and rare wildflowers.

If you enjoy horseback riding, there are 12.5 miles of trails to explore.

Address: 328 Cedar Forest Road, Lebanon, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/cedars-of-lebanon

15. David Crockett Birthplace State Park

Nolichucky River at David Crockett Birthplace State Park | Photo Copyright: Colin J. McMechan

Davy Crockett, one of America’s most well-known folk heroes, was born in 1786 near Limestone, Tennessee. Crockett died at the Alamo, fighting for Texas’ freedom as a pioneer, politician, and soldier. A few miles southwest of Johnson City is a 105-acre state park dedicated to his birthplace. At the historic park, you’ll see people dressed up and weathered buildings, including an 18th-century homestead.

The park is more than just Davy Crockett. You can camp here, explore the natural world, and look for bird and wildlife sightings. Smallmouth bass and catfish are caught by anglers in the Nolichucky River, which runs through the park.

Address: 1245 Davy Crockett Park Road, Limestone, Tennessee

Official site: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/david-crockett-birthplace

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