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The 15 Best Parks in Tennessee

Here's what you need to know...
  • Tennessee offers many wonderful state and national parks to explore
  • Parks offer a getaway from the world and a chance to see nature up close
  • Make sure you have comprehensive and other insurance coverage before you go for the unexpected

Tennessee is a beautiful state that many people enjoy visiting. With its picturesque landscapes and scenic driving routes, many people come to the Volunteer State each year to take in the natural beauty and breath in the fresh mountain air.

One of the most important aspects of Tennessee that people enjoy is the many beautiful state parks that are located in different parts of the state.

It will delight visitors or vacation planners to know that Tennessee has 56 state parks that you can visit including Johnsonville Historic State Park in Johnsonville, Tennessee, the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park in Greene County, Tennessee, and many others.

These fascinating state parks offer the best of history as well as a perfect place to retreat from the world.

In addition to the great state parks, there are also four national parks in Tennessee. Some of the better known national parks in Tennessee are the Shiloh National Military Park and Stones River National Battlefield Park, both historical parks that offer a great experience for visitors.

If you are looking visit Tennessee soon and want to get the best coverage beforehand, start comparison shopping today for better auto insurance rates! Enter your ZIP code below!

Why visit a state or national park?

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Visiting a state or national park is genuinely a rich experience that is both educational and relaxing.

Forbes Magazine recommends taking your kids to state or national parks due to the experience they’ll get with nature. This scientific study even describes evidence that shows how visiting parks may increase your lifespan.

The 15 Best Parks in Tennessee

With fifty-six state parks and four great national parks, you have many options to choose from when visiting the parks in Tennessee.

Below are fifteen of the best parks in Tennessee that you should put on your list to visit when you plan to visit the state.

#1 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Area: 816 square miles
Established: June 15, 1934
Highlight: Views of Mist Covered Mountains

Located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park stands out as one of the best park experiences in the Tennessee and North Carolina area.

The Smoky Mountains reach all the way to North Carolina from Gatlinburg, and people come in droves each year to take in the unique beauty they find in this pristine park.

There is fishing, hiking, camping, and bicycling to do in this park, and you can explore nature and take in the scenery while in the Great Smoky Mountain Park area. There is no entrance fee for national parks.

#2 — Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

Area: 19 acres
Established: June 1, 1996
Highlight: Historic Tours led by Rangers

The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is located in downtown Nashville and features some of the best of the natural Tennessee wonders.

It features a monument to Tennessee’s Bicentennial Celebration that was originally celebrated on June 1, 1996.

There are park tours that are offered daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. and the tours last around three hours each. There is no sign up required except for groups of 25 or more.

There is also hiking that you can do to explore the various aspects of the park.

#3 — Cummins Falls State Park

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Area: 211 acres
Established: 2011
Highlight: The Gorge and Cummins Falls

Cummins Falls and the adjoining State Park offers access to the Cummins Falls waterfall area and gorge, and it is a truly scenic experience that you won’t want to miss.

The park hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you are hiking around the waterfall, you should start walking back by 5 p.m. to return to the parking lot by 6 p.m. when the park closes.

The park is located at 390 Cummins Falls Lane, located just off of Cummins Mill Road. Coming up in April 2017, there is a spring waterfall tour that will take you on a waterfall tour of Burgess Falls, Cummins Falls, and others.

For the waterfall lover, this is a real treat that you won’t want to miss.

#4 — Rock Island State Park

Area: 883 acres
Established: 1969
Highlight: Great Falls and Caney Fork River Gorge

Rock Island State Park is a large park that includes over 880 acres and is located at Center Hill Lake in Caney Fork, Collins. The park is located close to Great Falls Dam and features several beautiful overlooks that offer some of the most beautiful views in Tennessee.

One of the most beautiful waterfalls is Great Falls, a 30-foot cascading waterfall, located near the old cotton textile mill. Rock Island became a Tennessee State Park in 1969.

People enjoy hiking near the Falls, camping, and a wide variety of outdoors activities in this park.

#5 — Fall Creek Falls State Park

Area: 26,000 acres
Established: 1944
Highlight: Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls State Park features more than 26,000 acres of natural space, waterfalls, streams, and lush landscapes.

One of the highest waterfalls in the area is Fall Creek Falls. Other Falls can be viewed and enjoyed in this park as well including:

  • Cane Creek Falls
  • Cane Creek Cascades
  • Piney Falls

There are also several activities you can take in and enjoy in this park including:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Golf

The park is located 11 miles east of Spencer and about 18 miles west of the Pikeville area off of Highway 111 or Highway 30.

#6 — Burgess Falls State Park

Area: 350 acres
Established: 1971
Highlight: Four Different Waterfalls

Burgess Falls State Park is located on the Falling Water River and features four different waterfalls that plunge from over 250 feet in elevation.

The Native Cherokee Indians and other tribes originally lived there and used the land as a hunting ground until a sawmill opened on the river.

You can engage in many fun, and exciting activities in the park, and groups are welcome. There is no admission fee. Many people enjoy bird-watching, hiking, and fishing along the Falls and the Falling Water River.

#7 — Warrior’s Path State Park

Area: 950 acres
Established: 1952
Highlight: Patrick Henry Reservoir and Boundless Playground for Children With Disabilities

Warrior’s Path State Park features some interesting and historical aspects and is located on the shores of the Patrick Henry Reservoir on the Holston River.

One unusual feature of this park is that it is the only Tennessee State Park with a Boundless Playground, where children with disabilities can play together. There is a Braille Trail for blind people and eight sensory stations that tell people the story of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Warrior’s Path is an excellent and educational experience for kids with disabilities of any kind, and there are also many hiking and bicycle trails for adults as well. Take a ride on horseback through one of the trails and enjoy the view as you explore the beauty of the great outdoors.

#8 — Cumberland Mountain Park

Area: 1,720-acres
Established: 1938
Highlight: 140 Camping Sites and Cumberland Plateau

Cumberland Mountain has excellent accommodations for overnight stays.

There are 140 camping sites for tents and RVs if you want to stay overnight.

Activities you can enjoy at the Cumberland Mountain State Park include: 

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Bird watching, etc.

Admission to the park is free, as is the case with all of the state and national parks, though you may be required to show your pass at some national park locations.

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#9 — Red Clay State Historic Park

Area: 150 acres
Established: September 14, 1972
Highlight: Historical Location of the Beginning of the Trail of Tears

Red Clay State Historic Park includes 263 acres of valleys that were used by the Cherokee Indians before the 1838 Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Red Clay is the actual location of the Trail or Tears where the Cherokees learned that they had lost their mountains, streams, and valleys and were forced to move west with the U.S. territories were established.

Red Clay State Park features a 100-person picnic pavilion with several picnic tables that allow people to make reservations for their family events up to a year in advance.

There are other amenities as well including the water fountain and a grill and amphitheater that seats up to 500 people!

#10 — Roan Mountain State Park

Area: 8.12 square miles
Established: 1950s
Highlight: Miller Farmstead and the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival

Roan Mountain State Park is located on Tennessee Highway 143 at the base of Roan Mountain, a towering mountain that reaches 6,285 feet in height.

The Doe River meanders through the center of the park, and there are many trout that you can fish for there. There is a plethora of wildlife and wildflowers that you can enjoy too.

The Roan Mountain State Park is an excellent opportunity for hikers, photographers, and families alike and groups are welcome.

The accommodations are ideal with 30 comfortable cabins and RV and tent camping available. The cabins are all equipped with front porch rocking chairs and a fully stocked kitchen and full bath.

#11 — Long Hunter State Park

Area: 2,600 acres
Established: 1974
Highlight: J. Percy Priest Lake and Sellars Farm

Long Hunter State Park features a variety of recreational activities including fishing and hiking with two boat ramps that can be enjoyed on J. Percy Priest Lake, along with a visitors center and more than 20 miles of pristine hiking trails.

It is divided into four different areas:

  • Couchville
  • Baker’s Grove
  • Bryant Grove
  • Sellars Farm

You and your family or other groups can take part in the self-guided trail or five and half-mile walk that follows the lake shore.

Admission is free.

#12 — Old Stone Fort State Park

Area: 400 acres
Established: 1966
Highlight: The Old Stone Fort

Old Stone Fort State Park is one of the oldest parks in the state of Tennessee. It was built during the Middle Woodland Period that occurred around 2,000 years ago.

In 1966, Tennessee purchased 400 acres of the Chumley estate of what is now known as Old Stone Fort State that features the Archeological Park.

If you want a park that has plenty of opportunities for adventure, this park can deliver. The main hiking trail offers beautiful and dramatic scenery that feature the original entrance of the fort. There are twelve interpretive panels and several area waterfalls near the Old Stone Fort.

Admission, like the other state and national parks, is free but you may be required to show your pass.

#13 — Radnor Lake State Natural Area

Area: 1,332 acres
Established: 1973
Highlight: The Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center, a Plethora of Wildlife and Plants, and Trails

Radnor Lake State Natural Area is a 1,332-acre park that is protected by a Class II Natural Area. The park includes plenty of hiking opportunities and environmental education programs, making it a perfect opportunity for families or school groups.

This park is open during the daytime hours only with more than six miles of hiking trail that are restricted for hiking, photography, and wildlife observation.

For the wildlife lover, this is a perfect opportunity to see a variety of wildlife species and take in the true beauty of Tennessee nature.

Pets, bikes, and joggers are only allowed on the Otter Creek Road Trail, so you’ll want to keep this in mind if you bring pets. The Lake Trail is handicap-accessible with all-terrain wheelchairs.

#14 — The Warner Parks

Area: 4.163 square miles
Established: January 20, 1984
Highlight: Equestrian Center and Horse Trails

The Warner Parks are managed by the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation of Nashville and Davidson County. 

Together, they encompass over 2600 acres of beautiful fields and forest ranges nine miles from downtown Nashville, Tennessee.

There are hiking trails, an equestrian center, and horse trails, golf courses, and many other facilities to enjoy and activities that you can take part in.

#15 — Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area

Area:  195.8 square miles
Established: March 7, 1974
Highlight: Sandstone Bluffs, Natural Bridges, and the Cumberland River Gorge

The Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area features beautiful scenes of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.

Big South Fork has scenic views of gorges and sandstone bluffs and is full of natural and historic aspects.

Admission to the park is free, but you will have to pay fees for rentals of the camping sites, pools, and other facilities.

Driving Safely in State and National Parks

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As you can see, there are plenty of great parks in Tennessee that you can enjoy. Although, it’s important to drive safely as you venture through the parks and to remember that the environment of the parks is different than what you typically experience on the roads.

– General Safety Tips

Some of the things you should look out for include:

  • Cyclists/Runners/Hikers
  • Wild animals
  • Fallen debris
  • Unsafe roads

– Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

When planning your visit, motorcyclists should follow some important tips as well:

  • Watch for animals on the road
  • Watch other drivers’ behavior
  • Be aware of changing weather conditions
  • Secure your valuables

– Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car

Why should you keep an emergency kit in your vehicle? For one reason, you will have the assurance that the things you need will be there if something unexpected happens.

Your car could strand you in a strange place, the weather could turn bad, or you might have an accident requiring emergency First Aid.

Whatever the case, you should always keep the following items available:

  • Food that won’t spoil
  • Water
  • Blankets
  • First Aid Kit
  • Simple Toolkit

This site offers other tips for travelers that will keep you safe while traveling in and around state or national park areas.

It is also important to know the policies of the parks so that you won’t violate the rules. Know what is allowed and what is not allowed and keep in mind that this will vary depending upon the location of the park.

Car Insurance for Driving through State and National Parks

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When it comes to car insurance, you should consider the following types of coverage:

  • Collision – Collision insurance covers any accident regardless of fault and allows you to have your car fixed if you have an accident. There is a deductible involved.
  • Comprehensive – Comprehensive insurance is crucial when traveling as it covers other damage or loss not due to an accident such as theft, vandalism, bad weather (hail damage, floods, or fire), and other risks that you may specifically encounter in parks.
  • Rental Reimbursement – This coverage offers you compensation if you have to have a rental car due to an accident.
  • Roadside Assistance – Roadside assistance may be a good idea if you are traveling and offers you help from a wrecker within about a 50-mile radius.
  • RV Insurance – RV insurance gives you coverage for any RVs that you may use while on vacation in the event of damage or incident.

This site gives you more information on the types of coverage you may want to consider. You should always carry adequate insurance when driving.

Visiting the state and national parks creates the need for a reevaluation of your insurance coverage since there are unique situations you may encounter there.

Part of preparing for your journey includes checking out your vehicle to make sure it’s safe and making sure you have the right insurance before you go.

Start by comparing and shopping on our site for the best coverage and have a safe and memorable trip with Tennessee parks!

Enter your ZIP code below to start comparison shopping for better insurance rates today!

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