Take it all in: The Beauty. The kind that takes your breath away, and reminds you what it feels like to be alive. Where adventure is calling around every corner. Just begging you to jump in and experience it all again and again.
America’s No. 1 most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the world. Its ancient mountains are frequented through Cades Cove, a lush valley that is one of the most popular destinations in the Smokies. The 11-mile loop has some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park and is dotted with historic churches, a working grist mill, log houses, barns and other 18th-19th-century structures. Visitors can get to Cades Cove early in the morning to walk or bicycle through the valley until 10 a.m. Saturday and Wednesday mornings from early May to late September. Take the five-mile roundtrip trail to Abrams Falls that originates in the cove, or the Cades Cove Nature Trail for a shorter route.
Tennessee has more than 60,000 miles of streams and 540,000 acres of lakes. You can cast a line anytime in the state to fish for trout, crappie, smallmouth and largemouth bass in the Nolichucky, Pigeon, Mississippi, French Broad and Tennessee Rivers. Some rivers and larger streams can be navigated by motor boats. For smaller waters, fishers can wade in canoes or john boats. Many of Tennessee’s state parks provide ample opportunities for fishing. For example, Big Hill Pond State Park in Pocahontas, Tennessee offers fishing on Travis McNatt Lake, a 165-acre spring fed with bass, bream and catfish. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Oneida is home to sunfish and largemouth bass. Cast in a fly fishing line to catch one or several. Tennessee’s lakes are perfect to launch a boat and spend the day on the water fishing, cruising and relaxing on the water. Visitors can head to Old Hickory Lake that spans 22,500 acres across several Middle Tennessee counties. A few full-service marinas are stationed around the lake for all your boating and fishing needs. Reelfoot Lake is one of Tennessee’s natural-made lakes, formed after the 1811-12 earthquakes when the Mississippi River flowed backward, creating Reelfoot and its famous sunken cypress trees where black crappie, largemouth bass and catfish are aplenty.
Tennessee is home to 56 state parks, each offering unique outdoor experiences including biking, hiking, bird watching and even horseback riding. In West Tennessee, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in Memphis is home to one of the largest disc golf courses in the Southeast. The 36-hole course is divided into 18-hole courses that offer challenging games to beginners and advanced players. Meeman-Shelby has more than 20 miles of trails that have more than 240 species of birds that has earned the park a designated Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. Walk the 3.5-mile moderate Woodland Trail to stretch your legs while enjoying beautiful scenery. The multi-use trail is 8.5 miles and is rated easy.
Travel to Chapel Hill, Tennessee in Middle Tennessee and enjoy the bountiful outdoor opportunities in Henry Horton State Park including disc golf on one of the best courses in Tennessee, swimming in the Olympic-sized pool, the trap & skeet range that includes rental guns, ammunition and ear protection, golfing on the Buford Ellington championship golf course, more than 10 miles of hiking, fishing in the Duck River that includes smallmouth and largemouth bass, redeye and catfish, and birding with more than 70 species of birds that can be observed year-round. Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, Tennessee offers swimming at Bryant Grove, the designated beach area, boating on the 14,000-acre J. Percy Priest Lake and the 110-acre Couchville Lake, 26 miles of hiking, biking, and fishing for white bass, crappie and hybrid striped bass.
The 2,037-acre Rocky Fork State Park in Flag Pond, East Tennessee can be found within the Appalachian Mountains, full of cold and clean mountain waters filled with native brook and wild rainbow trout; head to Blockstand and Rocky Fork Creek for fly-fishing heaven. Nearly 20 miles of marked trails range from easy to strenuous within the park. Rocky Fork trails provide the highest elevation overlook in any Tennessee State Park. Warriors’ Path State Park in Kingsport offers swimming, boating, 12 miles of easy to moderate hiking, golfing on the nationally-recognized Warriors’ Path Golf Course, fishing, birding and two miles of horseback riding trails. Warriors’ Path provides short rides for $18, long rides for $26 and pony rides for $5 for 10 minutes.
Take in the outdoors and the beautiful Tennessee scenery aboard one of Tennessee’s riverboat excursions. Music, food and sunsets can be enjoyed onboard. The Southern Belle Riverboat in Chattanooga where more than 100,000 visitors set sail each year offers daily sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises as well as private charters as it navigates the Tennessee River waters. Book the sightseeing tour for 1.5 hours as this must-do experience is narrated by a historian who shares the history and beauty of the city. Nashville’s General Jackson Showboat is hailed as one of the most entertaining cruises in the U.S. as chefs prepare delicious meals and toe-tapping entertainment in iconic Nashville style takes place while cruising down the Cumberland. It’s also one of the largest showboats ever built, decorated in lacy filigree and design to resemble the American Victorian era. The Memphis Riverboat boards at the new Beale Street Landing, transporting passengers to a different time during a historical, 90-minute cruise along the Mississippi River where the history of Tennessee and Mississippi River life is told. Evening dinner and music cruises are two-hours long and include a barbecue buffet, blues, jazz and R&B.
Pitch a tent or park an RV to take a snooze under Tennessee moonlight with a camping trip. David Crockett Birthplace State Park was named after one of Tennessee's most famous pioneers. The park has 115 camping sites with many equipped with a table, fire ring, electrical and water hookups. Community showers and restrooms are also available. So, whether you go fishing along the 35-acre Lake Lindsey or hike one of the 13 trails, you can lay your head comfortably in a natural setting. Book a stay at Stillwaters Farm in Henderson to experience the Airstream Glamper, decked out with high-efficiency heat and a/c, laminate floors, cooking and home comforts, green technology that includes a composting toilet and more. Make dreams come true with a stay in a Luxury Tree House at Camp LeConte in Gatlinburg. The open air bedroom offers breathtaking views of Mount LeConte and fresh Great Smoky Mountain air. With a queen bed furnished with sheets, blanket and pillow and sleeping loft for two kids with blankets, pillows and sheets, a full private bathroom, covered patio and more, it’s the family summer campout taken to a new level.