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Tennessee's Best State Parks: From Rolling Foothills to Hidden Waterfalls

As of 2021, Tennessee offers 56 State Parks as part of the Tennessee State Parks System. Created in 1937, the Tennessee State Parks System was "established to protect and preserve Tennessee's unique natural, cultural and historic resources."

Tennessee features incredible opportunities for outdoor adventure from professionally designed golf courses to epic waterfall hikes to the rolling Appalachian Mountains to sacred Native American sites to backcountry campsites to paddling on beautiful lakes to whitewater adventures on Tennessee rivers.

Best State Parks in Tennessee

1. Norris Dam State Park

Located north of Knoxville in East Tennessee, Norris Dam State Park presents 4,000 acres and 800 miles of shoreline along the beautiful Norris Reservoir. This State Park features campgrounds (some with hookups), cabin rentals, and a fully stocked marina with a boat ramp and boat rentals.

Additional activities at Norris Dam include swimming, fishing, hiking trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, and historic structures dating back to the 1830s.

2. Tims Ford State Park

Nestled in southern Tennessee on the edges of the Cumberland Plateau lies one of the most idyllic lakes in the entire state. Tims Ford State Park boasts some of the best bass fishing in the southeast part of the country!

Tims Ford provides a marina for boating, lodging (cabins and tent camping), and golfing at Bear Trace (a part of the Jack Nicklaus-designed collection).

3. Rock Island State Park

Approximately 90 miles east of Nashville, where the Caney Fork and Collins Rivers merge, you will find the hidden oasis of Rock Island State Park. This park presents miles of hiking trails, expert-level whitewater kayaking spots, picnicking, and camping at one of the two campgrounds.

4. Fall Creek Falls State Park

The perfect pick for a weekend getaway, Fall Creek Falls State Park is home to one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States.

This 29,800-acre park is situated on the eastern edge of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. It offers an outdoor wonderland with rocky gorges, streams, virgin hardwood timber, the Cane Creek Cascades, and Fall Creek Falls.

5. Roan Mountain State Park

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Centered around Roan Mountain, this 2,000-acre park is sprinkled with dense hardwood forest and rugged alpine ridges. Towering at 6,285 feet, Roan Mountain offers excellent opportunities for hiking and biking, birding, and fishing in the Doe River. This area is also abundant with wildflowers and wildlife, especially in spring and summer.

6. Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

Nestled near the Kentucky border 2 hours from Knoxville, the Pickett CCC Memorial State Park is part of the Pickett State Forest adjacent to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The CCC, who developed the park in the 1930s, created the hiking and biking trails, rustic cabins, a lodge, a ranger station, and a 12-acre lake. There is a swimming hole, campgrounds, playground, tennis, volleyball, boat rentals, picnic areas, and more!

7. Reelfoot Lake State Park

Located 2 hours north of Memphis in the state's northwest corner at the Missouri border, Reelfoot Lake State Park is the ideal place to see golden and American bald eagles. This 15,000-acre lake was created after intense earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, making it a rare flooded-forest landscape. Fish, swim, and view wildlife here!

8. South Cumberland State Park

Sprawled over four counties (Grundy, Franklin, Marion, and Sequatchie), South Cumberland State Park boasts 30,845 acres over nine distinct areas. Hikers will find some of the best trails and camping in the area at South Cumberland.

9. Henry Horton State Park

Created on the estate of former Governor of Tennesee, Henry Horton, this State Park sits on the shores of the Duck River. This unique river features one of the most diverse ecosystems around the entire globe. You can check out the remaining structures of a mill and bridge used by the Horton family. Visitors can also stay overnight in the lodge, cabins, or campgrounds at the park.

Other Notable Tennessee Parks

- Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

- Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville

- Edgar Evins State Park in Silver Point

- Burgess Falls State Park in Sparta

- Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce

- Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville

- Cherokee National Forest

- Paris Landing State Park

- Montgomery Bell State Park

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