Nature is calling. Scenery looks like a postcard and feels like a playground. Explore breathtaking views, overlooks, waterfalls and charming bed & breakfasts. Go fishing, hiking, biking or pitch a tent under the moonlight. Tennessee has 56 state parks, natural areas, lakes & rivers, campgrounds, scenic byways, wildlife and adventures.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S., home to flowering plants and a dazzling array of wildlife, including black bears. Landscapes open to stunning vistas. The park is laced by more than 700 miles of streams for fishing. Climb to the highest point in Tennessee for a breathtaking view at Clingman’s Dome. The 11-mile Cades Cove loop is dotted with historic churches, a working grist mill, log houses and barns. A 5-mile round-trip hike from Cades Cove to Abrams Falls is a bucket list destination. Gatlinburg SkyLift Park offers stunning views and brings riders up 500 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain. Walk across the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. Outdoor adventures abound at the magical Anakeesta. Stroll through the scenic Treetop Skywalk, play at Treehouse Village, immerse yourself in Vista Gardens or climb to the top of AnaVista observation tower, Gatlinburg’s highest point, to capture a photo. For more striking views, drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail on a Pink Jeeps Adventure Tour. Relax, recharge and reconnect with a stay at Treetop Grove. Go glamping at Under Canvas in one of their luxury safari tents complete with queen or king-sized beds, private bathrooms and wood stove.
TENNESSEE STATE PARKS
Tennessee is home to 56 state parks. Each offers unique outdoor experiences like biking, hiking, cabins, camping, waterfalls, bird watching and horseback riding. In East Tennessee, cool off in Hiwasee Ocoee Scenic River State Park’s clear waters, waterfalls, go fly or tackle fishing, hit hiking trails, go rafting or camping. Take in fresh mountain air, crystal clear streams, fishing, waterfalls and rock formations at Frozen Head State Park. Pickett State Park in Jamestown features towering bluffs and cliffs, caves, lakes and one of the darkest skies for stargazing in the country. In Middle Tennessee, Henry Horton State Park features golf, hiking, fishing in the Duck River and birding. Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage offers swimming at Bryant Grove, a designated beach area, boating, biking, hiking and fishing. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in Memphis features more than 20 miles of trails and 240 species of birds. Walk the 3.5-mile moderate Woodland Trail to stretch your legs or check out the 36-hole disc-golf course. Walk among the beehives and clover garden at Pickwick Landing State Park in Hardin County. Explore state parks on your own, join a group or experience a ranger or naturalist-led day, evening or overnight program.
In West Tennessee, cool off with a dip at Dry Creek Cove and explore the lake at Pickwick Landing State Park. Admire wildlife and open water on Center Hill Lake in Middle Tennessee. Head east to Cherokee Lake in Jefferson County, which offers recreational activities such as boating, fishing, camping, swimming and picnicking. Kentucky Lake is home to recreational boating, jet skis, ski boats and pleasure boating. Take in outdoor scenic beauty aboard a riverboat excursion, like Southern Belle Riverboat in Chattanooga. Nashville’s General Jackson Showboat is an entertaining cruise while chefs prepare delicious meals and music entertains along the Cumberland River. The Memphis Queen Riverboat boards at Beale Street Landing, transporting passengers along a historical, 90-minute cruise along the Mississippi River with food, music and fun.
FISHING & LAKES
Cast a line at 500,000 acres of lakes and 50,000 miles of streams and rivers in Tennessee. Pickwick Lake is a treasure because it’s three lakes in one. South Fork Holston River is home to an annual spring migration of white bass. Douglas Lake is rated one of the top five crappie fishing lakes in the country and top 10 in the nation for large-mouth bass. Norris Lake is one of the clearest lakes in the state. Cherokee Lake is surrounded by farmlands and rolling hills and reports greater fish densities than most other reservoirs. Nickajack Lake is where the world’s largest freshwater drum fish was caught, weighing in at more than 54 pounds. Chickamauga Reservoir is home to record-setting bass. In Middle Tennessee, Dale Hollow Lake is recognized as one of the country’s premier bass fisheries, known for its rare beauty, clear water and unspoiled shoreline. Percy Priest Lake, just 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, allows fishing for anglers of all ages. Center Hill Lake provides an abundance of fish from bass to trout. In West Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake is a natural habitat for waterfowl, bald eagles and 50 species of fish. Kentucky Lake is a magnet for fishermen, where bass fishing and tournaments occur year-round. Bring your boat, canoe, kayak or rent one. Water-skiers, wakeboarders and parasailers are also welcome.
Hiking opens doors to infinite displays of natural wonder. The Alum Cave Trail tops out at Mount LeConte, which, at about 6,400 feet, is near the pinnacle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some hikes have monikers as colorful as the scenery they traverse, like the challenging Fiery Gizzard Trail at South Cumberland State Park in Monteagle. Hike among the blooming rhododendrons in spring in the southern Appalachian forest at Roan Mountain State Park. Don’t miss The Wandering Llamas near Greeneville, where hikers are accompanied by these curious and gentle pack animals on the Evergreen and Hobbit Creek trails.
Tennessee is home to more than 500 waterfalls. Ruby Falls is the largest underground waterfall in the U.S., plunging 145 feet within Lookout Mountain. You can also tour it by lantern. Admire rock formations and hear the roar of Twin Falls at Rock Island State Park. Stop by Machine Falls in Tullahoma to capture the picturesque landscape. Discover Jackson Falls while road-tripping along the Natchez Trace Parkway. The highest waterfall in Tennessee is Fall Creek Falls, which plunges 256 feet.
Experience an adrenaline rush with ziplining throughout Tennessee. Enjoy a thrilling zip line course, ropes challenge course or horseback riding through the mountain foothills at Adventure Park at Five Oaks in Sevierville. Fly like an eagle over Dollywood with the premium adventure, SkyZip. Zipline above majestic woodlands revealing some of the Smokies’ most spectacular scenery at Wahoo Ziplines in Kodak. Get your adrenaline pumping at Ruby Falls as you soar through the treetops on Lookout Mountain. High Point ZIP Adventure features of 700 feet of rushing ziplines with breathtaking views of the Tennessee Valley and a 40-foot climbing tower. Go Ape! with a treetop adventure at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis and Adventureworks, with locations in Pigeon Forge and in Kingston Springs near Nashville.
Tennessee scenic beauty and natural wonders stretch below ground with more than 10,000 caves, more than any other state. The Caverns in Pelham is a world-renowned destination for underground live music, home of the Emmy-winning PBS television series, Bluegrass Underground. Guided tours offered daily navigate an underground room 3 football fields long and end on the stage of the iconic music venue. Marvel at stunning rock formations and waterfalls 333-feet underground at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville. Take a boat ride on the Lost Sea, the country’s largest underground lake. Check out Jackson Cave and eight miles of hiking trails through cedar forests and glades within Cedars of Lebanon State Park. Step beneath the surface at Bunkum Cave near Byrdstown, where Cordell Hull’s father made moonshine in the 19th century. Listen to the ghost stories on a spooky adventure at Bell Witch Cave near Adams.
Challenge and excitement abound hunting for treasures. Participants follow specific GPS coordinates to find the geocache, or container, hidden at a specific location. Discover fascinating stories, spectacular views and great food as your GPS guides you on an adventure with the Bledsoe County Geocaching Tour. As part of this tour, 44 geocaches are hidden at sites across the county, the Sequatchie Valley and Fall Creek Falls State Park. Also check out the South Central Tennessee GeoTour, Tennessee Valley Geocachers, the Middle Tennessee Geocachers Club and the Jack Trail GeoTour, as well as in the 56 state parks.
Tennessee has beauty for all to see. Visitors with red-green color blindness are now able to enjoy fall leaves bursting with color and spring’s beautiful flowers with special viewfinders at 12 scenic locations across the state, including Ober Gatlinburg in the Smoky Mountains, the Cherohala Skyway Lake View Overlook and Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park near Memphis. The viewfinders, which have innovative EnChroma® lenses, let travelers see the bold colors of the changing seasons.
Biking opportunities abound with various challenges along the state’s vast terrain. Find adventure at Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park, within riding distance from downtown Johnson City’s shops, restaurants and breweries. Don’t miss the Bikeways of the Scenic South that crisscross seven counties surrounding Chattanooga, winding through small towns and picturesque landscapes in the Sequatchie Valley and Three Rivers Way. Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is also bike friendly. Shelby Farms Park offers a variety of trails for cyclists. Hop on the 10.85-mile Shelby Farm Greenline that runs from the Park to Memphis' Midtown area. Other cityscapes welcome riders with designated greenways and bike routes. Many state parks offer quiet biking trails, as does Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Dover.
Hit the open road, explore scenic byways, national and state parks, attractions and camping sites. In West Tennessee, learn about one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War at Shiloh National Military Park. Roll into Green Acres RV Park for easy access to other destinations in the area. Land Between the Lakes in Dover has campgrounds equipped with RV hookups, restrooms, showers, bike and canoe rentals, beaches and electrical outlets. Explore trails, go boating, biking, fishing, hiking and learn about pioneer life at the Homeplace 1850s Farm. David Crockett Birthplace State Park, named after one of Tennessee’s most famous pioneers, has 115 camping sites. Standing Stone State Park has 36 tent and trailer sites each with a picnic table, charcoal grill, water and electrical hookups. Explore hiking trails, wildflowers and streams. Rent a kayak, canoe or rowboat. Henry Horton State Park has 56 RV campsites with fire rings, cabins, an inn and diverse ecosystem with ample fishing opportunities. Check out Anchor Down RV Resort in the charming town of Dandridge. Enjoy fireplaces and fire pits, a pool with water slide and kiddie play area, boat ramp with slips, a fishing trail, golf cart rentals and more. Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomes RV campers with plenty of amenities, ample space, running water, picnic tables and shower facilities. Take in panoramic views, rushing streams, rivers, wildlife and history along Cades Cove.
For more Tennessee’s Outdoor Leisure destinations, visit www.tnvacation.com/experiences/outdoor-leisure.