Summer is here! Time to get out and explore your Tennessee State Parks. Whether you’re looking to escape the heat in one of our indoor exhibits, spend some time on the water or stare into the night sky, we have the adventures that will make this a summer to remember.
Check out these 10 July activities and #findyouradventure today!
1. FISHING AT PICKWICK LANDING
Pickwick Landing State Park, and the areas above and below the dam, are known for great sport fishing. Numerous local and national fishing tournaments host events at Pickwick Landing. The summer is a great time to catch striped bass and catfish, while also angling for smallmouth, crappie and bluegill. This area of the Tennessee River crosses through three states – Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama – so make sure to ask about which fishing license you’ll need depending on where you plan to cast your line.
Even if fishing isn’t your preferred activity, Pickwick Landing State Park a great place to launch your boat for river access and have fun on the water. The park offers campsites, cabins and inn rooms for lodging. It is also home to a full-service marina, golf course, gift shop, and restaurant overlooking the water.
2. WHITEWATER RAFTING AT HIWASSEE/OCOEE
The internationally-recognized whitewater sites at Hiwassee/Ocoee State Park are well known for their scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. Floating, canoeing and rafting are major attractions on both the Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers. Based on the International Scale of River Difficulty, the rivers have Class I, II, III, IV, and V rapids. While private boats are allowed, this area has many commercial outfitters that provide whitewater trips for customers who are at least 12 years of age. The state park does not own or operate any outfitter services, but it does offer camping and river access at Hiwassee/Ocoee State Park.
3. PADDLING AT STANDING STONE
One of the central features of Standing Stone State Park, located in upper Middle Tennessee, is a stone dam that forms the 69-acre Kelly Lake. This picturesque body of water is an ideal place to spend a day paddling. Visitors are welcome to bring their own canoe or kayak to the lake, but can also rent standup paddleboards, canoes, kayaks and other non-motorized boats from the office/gift shop.
Standing Stone State Park offers cabin and campground rentals, and is a great spot for hiking, swimming, and enjoying the summer. Visitors who stay at the park can also drive to nearby day-use parks like Cummins Falls, Cordell Hull State Historic Park, and Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park for waterfall and historic adventures.
4. BIRDING AT SEVEN ISLANDS
It’s hard to describe the beauty of Seven Islands State Birding Park. This piece of land outside Knoxville, Tennessee, has been carefully cultivated to attract a wide variety of avian species. It feels like a scene out of a fairytale. The rolling hills, the picturesque barns, the fields of sunflowers bursting forth in the July heat all transport the visitor to some other world. One of the major intentions of this beautiful landscape is to attract a wide variety of bird species that pass through the area during migration.
Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking the trails and canoeing/kayaking on the river surrounding park. Whatever method one takes to see the park, one thing is certain: there are no shortage of beautiful birds to see and enjoy. The park is located just off I-40 in Kodak, Tennessee. It’s a perfect stop for fans of the nearby Double-A baseball affiliate Tennessee Smokies, or for those visitors getting off at the Kodak exit to head south toward Sevierville or Gatlinburg. Even if you just swing by on your way through Knoxville, it’s an ideal spot to stretch your legs after a long drive. (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)
5. STONE DOOR OVERLOOK AT SOUTH CUMBERLAND
The Stone Door Overlook has to be one of the most iconic overlooks on the Cumberland Plateau. Located at South Cumberland State Park near Monteagle, Tennessee, it provides a sweeping view of the valley from several perspectives. The overlook is really only half the story though. As the name suggests, the overlook sits atop the Great Stone Door, a crack in the cliff from top to bottom that looks like a door left slightly ajar. Visitors can descend the rock staircase of the Great Stone Door to access the trails in the valley below. Access to the Stone Door Overlook is relatively easy. It is less than a mile from the Stone Door Ranger Station to the overlook. However, the Great Stone Door provides access to many more miles of trails, overnight camping, and waterfalls.
While the park is known for its backcountry camping, the park operates the rustic Foster Falls Campground for tents and small trailers. It is the only area in the park where guests may park a car and/or pop-up next to the campsite. It even has a restroom and heated showers, though individual sites do not have electricity or water hookups. The park offers more than 90 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, and some of the best waterfalls you’ll find in the state. Visitors can stop in the park office and gift shop to grab a map and gain a better understanding of how this park is laid out.
6. DARK SKIES AT PICKETT AND POGUE CREEK CANYON
(Natural Wonder Adventures)
What if you could go somewhere so dark that you could actually observe distant planets, far-off galaxies, and countless stars through your telescope? What if you could stand in a place and instantly have an expansive celestial blanket engulf you? Well you can do just that at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park. Located north of Crossville, Tennessee, this park is one of the best destinations in the Southeast to view the night sky.
While one can find this type of night sky visibility in places out West, it’s hard to find deep darkness this close to Nashville, Knoxville and Lexington. The park, along with an adjacent state natural area, gained International Dark Sky Association Silver-tier recognition in 2015. They worked with local communities and governments, as well as park facilities, to actually limit the amount of light the area emits at night. This keeps the light pollution down and makes it possible to see deep into the night sky. On July 15, the park is hosting a Star Party at 9:30 PM Central Time. Scientists and astronomers will set up in the field at Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area and give visitors the opportunity to view a variety of celestial bodies.
Visitors to Pickett CCC Memorial State Park can enjoy camping and cabin accommodations and some of the most unique hiking in Tennessee. The park’s trails will lead visitors through areas of diverse plant life, towering rock faces, natural bridges, waterfalls and expansive overlooks.
7. SEE “LIBERTY!” AT SYCAMORE SHOALS
Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park protects the site of several important historic events that occurred during the 1700s. The museum and replica fort tell the story of Tennesseans who settled here and the important role they played in American history and the Revolutionary War. Walking into the re-creation of Fort Watauga guarantees some surprises, coupled with audio stories and sounds shared along the journey.
One of the best ways to experience Sycamore Shoals and its rich history is through the annual outdoor theatrical performance, “Liberty!”. Come see the story of the Revolution as told by the Overmountain Men: colonists who defied British law and settled on Cherokee lands. These settlers formed an independent government, made treaties with the Cherokee, defended their homes, and fought a British army at the epic battle of King’s Mountain. The play runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from July 13 – July 29.
8. VISIT THE MILLER FARMSTEAD AT ROAN MOUNTAIN
While you’re in upper East Tennessee visiting Sycamore Shoals, you should definitely make a trip to Roan Mountain State Park. The park is one of the most beautiful locations you will find in Tennessee. It sits at the base of Roan Mountain, the top of which is famous for its access to the Appalachian Trail. Visitors can ascend the road to Carver’s Gap and step right on to the famed foot path.
One of the culturally significant pieces at Roan Mountain State Park is the Miller Farmstead. The farmstead was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 due to its role in preserving the history of Appalachian agriculture and settlement. The property remains relatively unchanged from its early 1900s design and provides a glimpse into the hardy and self-sufficient lifestyles of our mountain ancestors.
In addition to all of the hiking at the top of the mountain, Roan Mountain State Park offers 12 miles of hiking trails and 2.25 miles of mountain bike trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
Overnight visitors will enjoy the campgrounds and rustic cabins. Each cabin has a front porch with rocking chairs, fully outfitted kitchen, full bath, wood burning stove and gas/electric heat. Each campsite has a grill and picnic table and is located near a bathhouse with hot showers. Visitors should check out the park office and gift shop. It’s one of our more unique buildings and a great place to get information about all there is to do at the park.
9. NATURE CENTER AT CEDARS OF LEBANON
The Nature Center at Cedars of Lebanon State Park is a great place to take kids to beat the heat and learn about the ecological and cultural significance of the park. A volunteer runs the center, so call the park to make sure it’s open before you head out. The butterfly garden and Jackson Cave are located behind the center and are also worth checking out.
The park offers hiking, disc golf, and an Olympic-size public swimming pool. There is a $5 fee for the pool for ages two and older, but admission is half price for camper and cabin guests. The park has ten cabins available for rent along with 87 campsites. More information about the park is available online or by stopping into the park office and gift shop onsite.
10. INTERPRETIVE CENTER AT DAVID CROCKETT
In 1817, at the age of 31, David Crockett moved to Lawrence County and served as the justice of the peace, a colonel in the militia, and as a state representative. Along the banks of Shoal Creek, in what is now his namesake state park, he established a diversified industry consisting of a powdermill, gristmill, and distillery. Today, David Crockett State Park’s interpretive museum honors the stories and the legends surrounding the famous Tennessean. The museum is staffed during the summer months and includes exhibits depicting Crockett’s life in Lawrence County.
Visitors to the park can also enjoy biking, hiking, swimming and boating. David Crockett State Park has campground and cabin rentals for those who want a scenic getaway. It is especially convenient for visitors from northern Alabama cities like Florence, Decatur and Huntsville.