Tennessee Outdoor Recreation

If you like to camp, fish or hike, the middle Tennessee area holds countless opportunities for outdoor recreation.

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Cumberland Caverns
7 miles S.E. of McMinnville is the second largest cave in the United States. Dedicated a national landmark, the cave is open daily May through Oct. (931) 668-4396. Rt. 9 McMinnville, TN 37110. Group rates available.

Bledsoe Creek State Park
A 164-acre site next to Old Hickory Lake (Bledsoe Creek). Three hiking trails along shoreline, bluffs, and forested ridges form a 3.1-mile loop. 400 Zieglers Fort Rd., Gallatin 452-3706

Foster Falls
Hiking/Biking trails connect to the the South Cumberland Recreation area. (931) 924-2890. US Hwy.150. Kimball, TN

Dunbar Cave Entrance

Lake Nickajack
Nickajack Reservoir extends 46 miles upstream from the dam to Chickamauga Dam. The reservoir offers wide expanses of water and the spectacular scenery of the Tennessee River Gorge, known as the Grand Canyon of Tennessee. Boat-launching ramps and fishing berms are located on both sides of the river below the dam, and a concrete fishing pier is connected to the bank with footbridges and a wheelchair ramp. TVA camping and picnicking facilities are available at several location. One of my favorites is Shellmound Recreation Area. Picnicking, playgrounds, swimming area, campgrounds, boating. (931) 744-5300.

Dunbar Cave State Natural Area
A mineral-springs resort at the turn of the century, this natural area now offers diverse habitats for wildlife, a lake, a 2-mile trail network, a visitor center, and tours of the cave during most of the year. Clarksville (Directions: turn on Dunbar Cave Rd. from U.S. 79 between downtown Clarksville and I-24 Exit 4) (931) 648-5526

Nathan Bedford Forrest State Historic Area
Forty miles of trails--including the Polk Creek Wildflower Path and a strenuous 20-miler--ranging from easy to difficult, with six varied distances. Hiking permits required for longer trails. The park also includes the Tennessee River Folklife Center museum. P.O. Box 38333, Eva 38333 (901) 584-8356

The Perimeter Trail
A series of paths following the bluff around The University of the South. Trail includes sections built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the '30s. For a brochure, write to the Sewanee Outing Club, SPO, The University of the South, Sewanee TN 37375. Sewanee (Directions: follow Hwy. 64 to Old Cowan Highway, park at Morgan's Steep, Lake Cheston, or just beyond the stables)

Old Stone Fort State Archeological Area
732 Stone Fort Dr., Manchester 37555 (off U.S. 41) (931) 723-5073 A prehistoric site located where the two forks of the Duck River cascade off the Highland Rim. Features a 2,000-year-old early Native American earthen wall, and a 3-mile trail loop through an old forest, along bluffs, and past waterfalls.

Henry Horton State Park
A 1,135-acre park on the Duck River, on the site of the estate of one of Tennessee's former governors. Hiking (two easy loops; the longer is 2.75 miles), swimming, golf, canoeing, trap and skeet shooting, and other activities. The parks also includes a 72-room inn and a restaurant. Chapel Hill (931) 364-2222; (800) 250-8612

Laurel-Snow Wilderness
in Dayton, TN is a 710 acre wilderness area named for the two waterfalls within the park. Open daily. (931) 336-7424.

Ruskin Cave Park and Jewel Cave.
in Dickson has an Olympic size swimming pool. 2803 Yellow Creek Rd. (931) 763-2810.

Natchez Trace State Park
A 7,000-acre park with forests and the sites of homesteads and graveyards dating from the 1830s. Bike trails. Three large lakes feature boating, fishing, rowing and paddle boats, and swimming. 2845 Natchez Trace Rd., Wildersville 38388 (901) 968-3742; (800) 250-8616

Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness State Natural Area
A national recreation trail circles a 110' waterfall that originates deep inside a cave, then flows back into a cave at the bottom. Near the Caney Fork river, the 8 hour hike visits several caves, streams and a primitive backpacking camping area. Scott Gulf Rd. (931) 336-7424. Near Sparta DeRossett, White County (423) 336-7301 Bowater Southern Paper Corporation set aside a portion of its Cumberland Plateau timberlands to form this natural area, which includes trails to the Virgin, Big Branch, and Big Laurel falls, and Sheep Cave, on a 7.7-mile loop along bluffs and gorges above the Caney Fork River. Overnight camping is permitted at the designated campsite.

Montgomery Bell State Park
offers 110 primitive campsites, fishing, canoe access, swimming, archery, golf and playgrounds for the younger set. A 3,782-acre park in Dickson County featuring 20 miles of trails through forests, streams, lakes, and historic sites linked to the region's iron industry and the founding of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Also offers boating, fishing, golf, tennis, swimming, archery, group campsites, and backcountry camping shelters (permit required), plus a visitor center, picnic area, arts & crafts shop, and an April wildflower festival. On US 70 north of I-40. P.O. 39, Burns, TN 37029. (931) 797-3101. Directions: off U.S. 70 between White Bluff and Dickson.

Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park
is one of the most popular parks in the southeast. Fall Creek Falls is the highest falls east of the Rocky Mountains. The park offers 227 campsites in three camping areas. All have grills, tables, water and electricity, with central bath houses containing showers. The park also has an olympic size swimming pool, rents canoes, pedal boats and fishing boats with electric trolling motors, cabins, hiking trails, nature center, and bike paths with rental bikes available. There are stables where you can rent horses to ride along the equestrian trails, a lovely inn and restaurant, a championship golf course, tennis courts, and several baseball fields. The park is located in Bledsoe and VanBuren counties, 11 miles east of Spencer. It may be entered from Hwy. 111 or Hwy. 30. Call (931) 881-3297 for information or you can write to Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park. Rt. 3, Pikeville, TN 37367.

Long Branch Campground
Corp of Engineers campground on the Caney Fork River, just below Center Hill Dam. The Caney Fork is a great trout stream, running cold enough that waders are recommended even in the summer. The stream is so thick with trout that you literally cannot walk into it without kicking fish. Located in the bottomland on a cold stream, Long Branch campground is usually 10-15 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. Great place to hang out in August. (931) 548-8002.

Edgar Evans State Park
The park offers unique hillside camping, with nearby Center Hill Lake available for water recreation. A 6,000-acre park featuring steep bluffs and high ridges on the Eastern Highland Rim at Center Hill Lake. Features fishing, boating (boats can be rented from the marina), picnicking, and hiking on the Highland Rim Trail, a 1.5-mile loop around the lower Central Basin ridge and down to the lake. Silver Point (on Tenn. 96 between I-40 Exit 268 and Center Hill Dam) (931) 858-2446; (800) 250-861


Rock Island State Rustic Park
(931) 686-2471, has 50 campsites with electricity and water, 2 bath houses and is open year round. There is a natural sand swimming beach on Center Hill Lake, an archery range, a general store, a hiking trail that includes a beautiful overlook over Great Falls. Located between Sparta, TN and McMinnville, just off US 70S. You can find a good desciption of the camping and facilities, along with some very good photos at Shelby's Camping Photos

The Harpeth Scenic River and Narrows Historic Area
are located off US Hwy 70 west of Nashville. The Harpeth Scenic River complex includes the canoe accesses at Hwy 100, the 1862 Newsoms Mill, and the McCrory Lane bridge at Hidden Lake. Downstream the Narrows of the Harpeth provide an upstream and downstream access, the Bells Bend five mile float and a unique .25 mile portage. A 100 yard tunnel hand cut through solid rock was one of the great engineering feats of the day and is today an industrial landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places. Group tours, hiking, camping and canoeing are available. Call 931-797-9052 for information.

Radnor Lake State Natural Area
This 1000 acre site is a popular sanctuary among birdwatchers and photographers. An 85 acre lake on the property is surrounded by six miles of easy to strenuous walking trails. The park is located six miles south of Nashville at 1160 Otter Creek Rd. Call 615-373-3467 for information and directions.

Burgess Falls State Natural Area
just off State Rte. 135, is a stream side nature trail winding through lush woodlands, descending below limestone cliffs to Center Hill Lake. Falling Water River has beautiful cascades, the remains of historic waterworks and the plunging Burgess Falls. 4000 Burgess Falls Drive 38583-8456. Sparta (Directions: Tenn. 135 south from I-40's Exit 286 at Cookeville) (931) 432-5312

Long Hunter State Park
is located on the shore of J. Percy Priest Lake. the 2315 acre park offers a variety of day use recreation and protects a unique cedar glade environment. The park has 28 miles of hiking trails for day hiking and overnight backpacking. Couchville Lake is located withing the park. Rental canoes and fishing boats with electric trolling motors are available at the fishing pier on Couchville Lake. Canoes are $3.00 per hour, fishing boats are $8.25 per half day (app. 5 hours). Plan to arrive early, the rental office opens at 7 a.m. and will not reserve boats. A fishing license is required; one day licenses are sold wherever you would buy an annual license. Picnic tables, grills and a barrier free playground are available at the fishing pier area. 2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage, TN 37076. 615-885-2422.

J. Percy Priest Lake & Dam
located just east of Nashville off I-40E, offers many recreational facilities, including campgrounds, boat launching ramps, hiking trails, mountain bike trails, marinas, and swimming beaches with picnic areas. You can find a good desciption of the camping and facilities, along with some very good photos of the Seven Points Camping area on Priest Lake at Shelby's Camping Pages.

Cedars of Lebanon State Park
is the largest remaining red cedar forest in the U.S. (the forest is not a true cedar, but a close cousin, the juniper). Its open limestone glades peculiar to the cedar forest area host a broad array of rare wildflowers and other native plants and animals. the park has 9 modern 2 bedroom cabins available year round. The park also has 119 campsites all with tables and grills, (89 have electricity and water), three bath houses with hot showers, a camp store and laundromat. The campground is open year round and on a first come, first served basis. No reservations are accepted. The park also boasts an olympic size swimming pool for splashing summertime fun. Eight miles of hiking and horse trails make their way through cedar forests and glades. These trails take park visitors past wildflowers, sinkholes, caves and numerous natural and cultural features. The park is located six miles south of I-40 on US Hwy 231. 615-443-2769.

Cherokee National Forest
covers approximately 625,000 acres in 10 Tennessee counties. It is split into two sections by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are 105 hiking trails covering 540 miles, ranging from easy to extremely difficult. Three of the better known trail networks are the Citigo Creek and Big Frog Mountain systems and the Appalacian Trail. Two National Recreation Trails - The John Muir and the Warrior's Passage - are included in the system. Trails are designated for hiking, horseback or mountain biking. Offroad Recreation Vehicle use is allowed in designated areas only. Maps available from supervisors office in Cleveland and at six district offices. Cherokee National Forest, P.O. Box 2010, Cleveland, TN 37320. 423-476-9700

South Cumberland State Park Visitors Center.

South Cumberland State Park
Eight distinct park areas including 80 miles of trails, ranging from the 1.5-mile Greeter Trail to the 13-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail, plus overnight shelters. Call or write for great trail maps of Savage Gulf State Natural Area and Fiery Gizzard: South Cumberland State Recreation Area, Route 1, Box 2196, Monteagle TN 37356. (615) 924-2980/2956

Savage Gulf Natural Area
Over 11,000 acres of wilderness featuring The Great Stone Door, an amazing 150 foot crevasse at the crest of the Cumberland Plateau. It served as an ancient Indian foot trail to the valley below. The area contains 55 miles of beautiful hiking trails. Contact South Cumberland State Park in Monteagle at 931-924-2980.

Grundy Forest Natural Area
212 acres of wilderness, featuring the impressive Foster Falls. Primitive campsite and hiking trails. Contact South Cumberland State Park in Monteagle at 931-924-2980.

Fiery Gizzard Trail
follows Gizzard Creek as it descends the plateau through wildflowers, mountain laurel and cascades. Contact South Cumberland State Park in Monteagle at 931-924-2980.

South Cumberland State Park. The Visitor Center has information and trail maps to historic sights, nine beautiful primitive campsites and over 85 miles of hiking trails on the scenic Cumberland Plateau. The visitor Center is located on Hwy. 56 just 3 miles from Interstate I-24 East. Call 931-924-2980.

Raccoon Mountain
just outside Chattanooga is a quick 1.5 hour drive from Nashville. Area attractions include the Raccoon Mountain Adventure Park, where you can ride the United State’s only hang gliding simulator, the Alpine slide, hot air balloon rides, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, tandem skydiving and the Raccoon Mountain Caverns. You can picnic at the beautiful Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant. This man-made lake high atop the mountain offers excellent fishing and breathtaking views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River Gorge below. Camping is available at the Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground. The campground has a swimming pool, go carts, bathhouses/showers, electricity and water. Sites are $15.25 per night. The 45 minute tour of the cave showcases the beautiful natural cave formations, accented by over 6000 lights. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $3.75 for children ages 6-12, and under 6 are free. Remember to bring a sweater or light jacket, it stays a cool 58° underground year round. Nickajack Lake offers water recreation and fishing. Located off I-24 E. and Hwy. 41. Camping, marinas, boat ramps and rentals available. Call 931-266-0772.

a waterfall
A waterfall spills into the Buffalo River.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
is administered by the National Park Service, covering 105,000 acres of rugged, river gorge environment on the Cumberland plateau. The park offers camping, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, mountain biking, canoeing and white water paddling.. There are more than 150 miles of beautiful hiking trails and 130 miles of horseback riding trails. There are two trails for mountain biking, Maps are available from the park office. Write the park at Rt. 3, Box 4001, Oneida TN 37841 or call 931-879-3625 for more information.

Tennessee Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
A 19-acre state park and outdoor state history museum near downtown Nashville, with a 2,000-seat amphitheater, a 200-ft. granite map of the state, a 1400-ft. wall of history, fountains, a botanical garden, and the adjacent Farmers Market. Between 6th & 7th avenues, James Robertson Pkwy., and Jefferson Street 741-5280

Mammoth Cave National Park
Primitive camping along the Green River is free with required permits. Explore beautiful Mammoth Cave (admission is $3-6, depending on the tour selected.) Nearby Diamond J Stables offers scenic trailrides through 70 miles of the park. Rates are $15 for one hour and $20 for two hours. Kentucky Action Park has bumper boats, go-carts, a chairlift and an Alpine Slide. Several canoe liveries serve the Nolin and Green rivers offering peaceful canoe trips down these serene rivers. Published rates are $15-75 per canoe. Write the Kentucky Dept. of Travel Development, 500 Mero St. Ste. 22, Frankfort, KY 40601-1968 for a full color booklet detailing these and other vacation destinations in Kentucky.

Land Between the Lakes
This National Recreation Area covers 170,000 acres in western Tennessee and Kentucky. The Land Between the Lakes lies on an inland peninsula between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. The network of trails is vast and varied, including overnight backpacking and camping trails and an off-road vehicle area. Pick up maps at the visitors center along The Trace.) Located on the Tennessee/Kentucky border between Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River and Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River. This United Nations-designated International Biosphere Reserve features The Nature Station environmental education center, an elk and bison prairie, The Golden Pond Planetarium & Observatory, and camping areas with hookups and showers; 200 miles of hiking trails; bike trails (mountain bike trails include Energy Lake and Jenny Ridge); hunting; fishing; canoeing; horseback riding (including campground with stalls and tack shop); a retreat center; and an off-highway all-terrain vehicle area. The Homeplace-1850, a living history museum and working 19th-century farm, hosts special events and festivals. Beware of hunters in hunting season. Write to Land Between the Lakes, 100 Van Morgan Drive, Golden Pond, KY 42211 or call (800) LBL-7077 (Directions: follow Route 12 through Clarksville to 79 W.)

The seven lakes and their surrounding land managed by the Corp of Engineers in the Tennessee portion of the Cumberland River watershed add up to about 300,000 acres available for public recreation. Several of the public recreation areas have nature trails. primitive and developed campgrounds (some with electricity and water), boat ramps, picnic areas and swim beaches. Information on individual lakes in Tennessee is available by writing Corps of Engineers, Natural Resource Management Branch, P.O. Box 1070, Nashville, TN 37202.

For information on these and other Tennessee State Parks, Wilderness Areas, Natural Areas and Historical Areas, call 615-532-0001 or 800-421-6683, or click for the Tenn.State Parks Phone Listings.

Material on this page was researched and assembled from Tennessee State Parks and Dept. of Tourism publications.

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© 2003/2007 by Cindy.

All material contained within this electronic or its corresponding print publication is copyrighted 1999/2007. Any reproduction must be with specific written permission. Comments gladly accepted; send via e mail to Cindy
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