Last Updated June 2, 2022 6/2/2022

11 Best Tennessee Parks for Camping

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A state steeped deep in history, Tennessee is one of the most exciting destinations in the U.S. With the sounds of the blues and country in the honky-tonks of Nashville, the Elvis-connected sites of Memphis, and the vibrant urban wilderness of Knoxville, there are so many great cities to visit here. But don’t worry camping aficionados, you won’t be disappointed. The state has an impressive range of national and state parks that give you the chance to spend an amazing time in nature. With stunning panoramas of the Great Smoky Mountains, some enchanting timberland in the southwest, three great rivers, and numerous lakes, “The Volunteer State” is a paradise for tenting up. Here are the best Tennessee parks for camping for an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend

A U.S. icon and the most visited national park in the country, the Great Smoky Mountains is a bucket list destination and one of the most beautiful natural attractions in North America. Although extremely popular, the whopping 522,419 acres of the protected area makes it easy to catch fresh air here among the forested hills, crystal-clear waterfalls, and picturesque meadows. Naturally, the park is a fantastic spot for camping. There are 10 designated frontcountry campgrounds, a possibility of backcountry camping (limited to 1 night only), and even horse camps. Reservations are required, so be sure to check out the NPS website to obtain a permit and enjoy a stress-free time in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Cosby Campground is a great combination of proximity to civilization and being right in the heart of the wilderness, with access to the famed Appalachian Trail.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Enter the fascinating world of water and rocks camping at Tennessee’s underrated gem that is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Miles of hiking trails await you along with phantasmagorical sandstone formations (called hoodoos), spectacular natural arches, and lots of pure air from the Smokies. The campgrounds here are among the best in Tennessee, praised by many campers for their comfort and amenities. Bandy Creek is one the most popular ones, loved for its closeness to the hiking trails as well as access to showers and restrooms. The Big South Fork’s musts include the 113-foot-high Yahoo Falls, the impressive Twin Arches, and the Leatherwood Ford that offers the best views of the grand river. 

Rock Island State Park, Rock Island
Rock Island State Park

Rock Island State Park, Rock Island

With gorgeous panoramas reminiscent of a mini version of the famous Norwegian fjords, plenty of outdoor activities to choose from on land and on the water, and spectacular rock formations along the rivers, Rock Island State Park should definitely be on your radar if you’re looking for some excellent Tennessee outdoors within driving distance of Nashville. The camping here is on point too. You’ve got two campgrounds with showers, toilets, and even WiFi. In other words, this park is a fantastic combination of breathtaking natural beauty and a civilized camping experience. And don’t worry, if your mission is to escape it all in the wild, there is a tent-only campground if that’s your preferred camping style. 

Tims Ford State Park, Winchester
Tims Ford State Park

Tims Ford State Park, Winchester

Fancy having prime lake views straight from your campsite? That’s what you’re getting by staying overnight at the outstanding Tims Ford State Park. Located at the edges of Cumberland Plateau, it is a small but very rewarding state park that is all about profiting from the water. Swimming will consume most of your active time here, along with fishing, boating, kayaking, and hiking. There are two campgrounds with a total of 152 campsites, as well as six backcountry sites scattered on the islands. If you’re into golf, there’s a treat for you. The Bear Trace is a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course overlooking the lake. 

Big Hill Pond State Park, Pocahontas
Big Hill Pond State Park

Big Hill Pond State Park, Pocahontas

Big Hill Pond State Park is an ideal pick for a superb timberland escape. With a rather boutique campground, you will have an easy and rewarding time in the outdoors. It would work perfectly for a family weekend away, filled with relaxed hiking along miles of forested and swampy trails, fishing, and paddleboarding. Travis McNatt Lake is where to go for quality time next to the water, and the 70-foot lake-adjacent observation tower to it provides a magnificent panorama of the surrounding nature. 

Roan Mountain State Park, Roan Mountain
Roan Mountain State Park

Roan Mountain State Park, Roan Mountain

Irresistibly romantic, filled with wildflowers in bloom in the springtime, to die for foliage in the fall, and gentle mountain vistas, the accessible campgrounds in Roan Mountain State Park make it the place to choose for the quintessential experience of Tennessee’s greener side. The charming hardwood forests will provide shelter, multiple hiking trails will keep you busy exploring the terrain, and countless picnicking spots will ensure the fun part of being outdoors. Add the mountain biking, river fishing, and wildlife watching to the mix and you have the ultimate camping trip in Tennessee that is among the best the state has to offer. 

Cedars of Lebanon State Park, Lebanon
Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Cedars of Lebanon State Park, Lebanon

There is no better place to camp in the vicinity of Lebanon, TN than this wonderful state park. The pretty cedar trees rule here, creating a scenic backdrop for your adventures into nature. But, it’s much more than that. Cedars of Lebanon State Park has four hiking trails where you can observe wildlife. It is here that you find many fascinating natural sinkholes and caves that beckon you to explore them. Jackson Cave is an essential visit among the known 18 caves found in the state park. Reserve your campsite beforehand directly from the Tennessee State Parks website. The great news is that the park’s campground is modern and has almost a glamping allure with showers, laundry, grills, and picnic tables. Come here and get the most out of your time in nature. 

Frozen Head State Park, Wartburg
Frozen Head State Park

Frozen Head State Park, Wartburg

Forget about the city noise and embrace the wilderness at Frozen Head State Park, one of the most scenic outdoor destinations in Tennessee. A beautiful kingdom of mountain peaks, it is located in Crab Orchard Mountains and offers magnificent views and an abundance of hiking trails. 24,000 acres of territory provide innumerable exploration possibilities and three campgrounds allow you to stay overnight surrounded by the peaks. The camping here is more on the primitive and rustic side, so keep that in mind. Lookout Tower Trail is the one journey you are advised to embark on to get to the very summit of Frozen Head and enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the untouched greenery. 

Warriors' Path State Park, Kingsport
Warriors' Path State Park

Warriors' Path State Park, Kingsport

Close to Kingsport, Warriors’ Path State Park honors the ancient war trail that the Iroquois used against the Cherokee tribes, Warriors’ Path State Park. Bikers love it for the 8-mile-long mountain bike trail here, one of the best in Tennessee. Apart from that, you’ve got forest and wetlands hiking paths as well as horseback riding, canoeing, and boating opportunities next to the picturesque South Fork Holston River. Camping is easy and you can choose from 134 campsites that all feature the welcome amenity of tables and grills. 

Chickasaw State Park, Henderson
Chickasaw State Park

Chickasaw State Park, Henderson

Situated at a comfortable driving distance from Memphis, the 14,384-acre Chickasaw State Park is a natural playground that has everything needed for a fun outdoor trip. Beautiful forest, Lake Placid, and miles of hiking trails provide an awesome retreat in the heart of western Tennessee. There are three campgrounds in this state park, so you’ll have a variety of choices for spending the night and the picnic tables and grills come included. Also, Chickasaw is known for having great horse rental options, so if you’re an equestrian or would love to embark on such an adventure, this is the place. Apart from riding, you can go kayaking, paddleboarding, and rowing, thanks to the Lake Placid’s proximity to the park. Overall, this state park is the ultimate family destination. 

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Spencer
Fall Creek Falls State Park

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Spencer

As Tennessee’s answer to the elven realm of Lothlórien from Lord of the Rings, Fall Creek Falls State Park boasts an equally majestic ambiance, complete with numerous waterfalls, creeks, streams, and rivers. It is here that you find the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River, the gorgeous 256-foot Fall Creek Falls. But, that’s just the start. By coming to the park, you’re entering a sublime land of natural beauty. No wonder it is among the most popular state parks in The Volunteer State and probably the best one to go camping in. The campsites are found in five different areas of the park, so you can reserve one closer to the attractions you’d like to experience. Follow the Gorge Trail to access the lookout points that invite you to marvel at the expansive rocky panoramas. Fun Fact: the Fall Creek Falls State Park has a cinematic background too. It was used as a location for Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie and the recent Disney’s Jungle Book live adaptation. 

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