National Parks in Tennessee.
Tennessee national parks and recreation areas spotlight history, geology, and rugged natural beauty.
Visited by more than 12 million people annually, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Tennessee’s marquee national attraction. But Tennesseans know that the eastern mountains are just an introduction to what awaits adventurous and inquisitive travelers. More than a dozen national trails, historic sites, and wild rivers explore the state’s unique geologic features and itsRead more...
Visited by more than 12 million people annually, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Tennessee’s marquee national attraction. But Tennesseans know that the eastern mountains are just an introduction to what awaits adventurous and inquisitive travelers. More than a dozen national trails, historic sites, and wild rivers explore the state’s unique geologic features and its pivotal role in the history of the United States. Camp near Civil War battlefields, Native American sites, a once-secret military base, and striking geologic features, from untamed rivers and waterfalls to the steep gorges and cliffs flanking the Cumberland Plateau.
Where to go
Great Smoky Mountains Region
With its thickly forested slopes, photogenic waterfalls, burbling streams, and abundant wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is deservedly popular. The busiest of its nine campgrounds border mountain-climbing US 441, which links Tennessee and North Carolina. For tranquility, campers beeline to more far flung corners of the park. The Appalachian Scenic Trail (AT) runs along the lofty spine of the park. Its overnight shelters are about a day’s hike apart on the AT. Outside the park borders, campgrounds, RV parks and glamping destinations are plentiful in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
The Cumberland Plateau and the Smoky Mountain foothills are river-laced playgrounds for paddlers. History buffs have a range of distractions too. Campers who kayak, canoe, and rock climb can get their adrenaline fix at Obed Wild & Scenic River. Budding scientists and World War II enthusiasts can explore the grounds of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge, where scientists secretly developed the atomic bomb. Campgrounds dot the outskirts of Oak Ridge and nearby Knoxville. The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail examines the forced migration of the Cherokee. Their tragic journey is memorialized at Ross’ Landing in Chattanooga.
The Cumberland Plateau cuts a dramatic north-south path across Middle Tennessee. Its rugged terrain holds dramatic gorges, sandstone bluffs, and powerful rivers. Whitewater paddlers and rock climbers can overnight in one of five campgrounds in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. To the south, the Natchez Trace Parkway and its Scenic Trail follow a historic footpath. Roadtrippers and cyclists on the Parkway can camp at the Meriwether Lewis Campground, near where the famous explorer died. Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro traces events during one of the bloodiest clashes of the Civil War. Look for campgrounds between Mufreesoboro and Nashville. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park outside Chattanooga share more Civil War history.
The most famous of Tennessee’s Civil War military parks and battlefields, Shiloh National Military Park spotlights the largest battle in the Mississippi Valley, a two-day engagement with more than 23,000 casualties. Campsites and RV parks are scattered across the rolling hills nearby.