You don’t have to go far for a weekend vacation in Tennessee’s great outdoors. The Volunteer State offers a variety of activities for all interests — not surprising, as there are 56 Tennessee state parks in total. Here are some things you can do:
Cyclers have their choice of trails in Tennessee state parks, whether it’s paved, gravel or soft and hilly (perfect for mountain-biking). All have beginner to advanced ratings between them, and you can look for specific bike trails across 19 parks. Their distances range from Natchez State Park, with a 50-mile multipurpose fire trail; to Tim’s Ford, with a seven-mile paved trail connecting the property.
Hiking is popular for a reason, and every park in Tennessee offers hikes for different levels of difficulty. History buffs can go to David Crockett State Park, exploring six full miles of trails featuring Crockett Falls, Shoal Creek scenic views, canopied forests and of course some native animals, too. For a bigger challenge, head to Frozen Head and trek the seven-mile trail to the observation deck, where you’ll see the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee Valley in every direction. The park has an additional 50 miles of trails.
Park visitors are in for a treat if they’re prepared to go bird-watching. Look for the state bird, the Northern Mockingbird, as well as other beauties like the Barred Owl, White Ibis and the rare Cerulean Warbler. The Audubon Society has dubbed Frozen Head an official Important Bird Area. More than 130 bird species visit this park each year, some to breed and some as a migratory stop.
Bring your clubs! There are nine golf courses across the dozens of Tennessee State Parks, including six traditional courses and three of the state’s five Bear Trace courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. These courses are known for their incredible scenery, and the Cumberland Mountain course is continually rated in the top 10 in America — number one in Tennessee.
Need a breath of fresh air? Find more outdoor activities to enjoy in Tennessee.
Galloping these trails is a great way to explore each park’s beauty. Luckily, ten Tennessee State Parks have riding facilities. Try Big Hill Pond, with 14 miles of trails taking you on many old logging roads and gravel roads. Although Chickasaw State Park has only five miles of trails, feel free to use the property as a launching spot to ride into Chickasaw State Forest, which has hundreds more.
It’s exhilarating to fly through the woods with the wind in your face, and Tennesseans know firsthand. The Fall Creek Falls State Park ZIPStream adventure course has more than 70 aerial obstacles to complete, including rope swings, cargo nets, tree climbs, balance beams, ladders, bridge crossings and, of course, zip-lining. This is possibly the most fun you’ll have while challenging your body in new ways.
Tennessee state parks have a number of beautiful waterfalls, as well. Whitewater kayakers enjoy the Caney Fork Gorge near Rock Island State Park’s impressive wide falls all the time when taking a break from a tough paddle downstream. And Fall Creek Falls has this name that for a reason: It has the highest freefalling waterfall east of the Mississippi, and you don’t have to hike far from the parking lot to see it.
Red Clay State Historic Park’s natural water feature isn’t a waterfall, but it’s a gorgeous deep pool called Blue Hole Spring, formed under an ancient limestone ledge. This fresh water source was especially important to the Cherokee Indians.
Plan a day to bike, hike, gallop, golf, zip or paddle one of 56 incredible frontiers right in Tennessee. You never know what may become a family tradition.
Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.