The beauty. The kind we didn’t think existed anymore. Mountains rolling in like waves. Rivers sculpting the landscape. Fog so thick you can’t tell where the world ends and heaven begins. Finally, a reason to put down our phones. And experience a moment of complete awe that can only be Made in Tennessee.
Tennessee State Parks, celebrated 80 years in 2017, capture the breathtaking beauty of rhododendron gardens and splendid vistas from the grassy balds on Roan Mountain. Preserved rustic stone buildings and bridges built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration during the 1930s remain at Pickett State Park in Jamestown, Cumberland Mountain in Crossville and Standing Stone in Hilham. They protect scenic areas such as Cookeville’s Cummins Falls, where clear waters cascade 75 feet into one of the prettiest swimming holes anywhere in the country.
And, that’s just for starters.
Other state parks offer shimmering lakes dotted with scenic coves and small islands perfect for get-away-from-it-all canoeing, kayaking, fishing, houseboating and water skiing. Find your special spot on Cherokee Lake at Panther Creek, Center Hill Lake at Edgar Evins, J. Percy Priest Lake at Longhunter or Old Hickory Lake at Bledsoe.
At the southern and northern ends of Kentucky Lake enjoy full-service marinas, waterfront inns, golfing, restaurants, cabins and camping at Pickwick Landing and Paris Landing. Climb high and pitch your tent in some of the most serene camping spots in the country as you escape into the Cumberland Plateau.
Nine state parks feature golf, including Bear Trace Course at Harrison Bay along the shores of Chickamauga Lake near Chattanooga, winner of national recognition and Golf Digest’s top environment award for its innovative, wildlife-friendly management complete with a bird’s-eye-view of nesting bald eagles via an eagle cam.
Henderson’s Chickasaw State Park and the Natchez Trace State Park map an unmatched escapade along more than 1,000 miles of hiking, biking and horseback trails, a cherished pursuit as old as the legends told around Tennessee campfires.
Ready to cover lots of ground? Hike, paddle, hop on an off-road vehicle or saddle up to crisscross the 650,000-acre Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee, 125,000 acres at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the Cumberland Plateau or 160,000 acres at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Discover 32 miles of caves, underground passageways and waterfalls at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville.
East Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in America. Find a quiet spot you didn’t know existed on forest paths and lush nature trails. Discover ranger-led programs, workshops and long-distance hikes sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Field School from spring through fall and Wildlife Wilderness Week’s winter activities.
The splendid views here lift our spirits and leave us spellbound as changing seasons come to the mountaintops creating an unbroken march to the distant horizon in this 500,000-acre International Biosphere Reserve.
It’s where adventures happen in places worthy of postcards. Where beauty is unlike you’ve ever seen. It’s a gift from Mother Nature that can only be made in Tennessee.