Road trips are great because they’re flexible, affordable, and full of activities that you choose. Everything can be customized, from where you stay to what you see and how far you go. That’s why Tennessee State Parks pre-planned road trips packed with incredible outdoor adventures, history, and overnight stays. The trips they’ve put together can be cut short, added on to, or followed backward to craft your ideal vacation. We’re sharing three of their pre-planned road trips, but they have many more that you can read about here.
1Nashville Road Trip
95 miles, 6 parks, cedar glades, lakes, Nashville, a new lodge, and the Harpeth River.
Take a day trip to walk the loop around Coucheville Lake or take Percy Preist Lake’s views from the 4-mile Volunteer day loop.
Next, view the wildlife at Radnor Lake State Park. This is a favorite of Nashville residents because of the natural habitat it preserves so close to the city. Keep in mind this is a natural area, so stay on the trails and read up on park rules before visiting.
Located in the shadow of the Capitol in downtown Nashville, this park is a must-see. Walk on top of the 200-foot granite map of the state, visit the World War II Memorial, listen to the 95-Bell Carillon, and make a splash in the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains. (Operation of the fountains may be temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Pack up and head over to the newly renovated Lodge at Montgomery Bell. Book a private room overlooking Lake Acorn and enjoy exploring the park’s lengthy hiking trails, paddling and fishing the three lakes, golfing at the 18-hole course, and dining at the park restaurant. The park also offers cabins and campsites.
End your vacation with a day trip exploring the Harpeth River. Enjoy the scenic drive out to the park, hike to the overlook, visit the falls, or put in your kayak to float the day away.
2The Waterfall Tour
130 miles, 6 parks, 8 waterfalls, 2 lakes, cabin getaways, incredible hiking
This first stop might not have a waterfall on-site, but it’s the perfect home base for visiting Cummins Falls. Book a newly restored historic cabin, deluxe cabin, or campsite and explore the park’s suspension bridge, hiking trails, paddling rentals, and fishing opportunities.
Home to a 75-foot waterfall and swimming area, this park is ideal for a summer day. Note: The hike to the base of the falls is rugged and requires a Gorge Access Permit (which can be purchased online), so plan accordingly.
Take a coffee break in Cookeville and explore the town’s restaurants, stock up on some gear at Outdoor Experience, or visit the Cookeville Depot Museum.
Book a cabin with views of sparkling Center Hill Lake or camp on one of the unique wooden platforms. This park is ideal for visiting Burgess Falls, Window Cliffs State Natural Area, and Cummins Falls.
Another iconic waterfall destination, Burgess Falls State Park, has four waterfalls that cascade down from over 250 feet in elevation. The last of these falls is the most spectacular, plunging more than 130 feet into the gorge. Eight miles from the park is Window Cliffs State Natural Area, where you can take a strenuous 2.7 mile through multiple creeks to a prominent geological cliff-top.
6. Sparta, TN
Stop in Sparta to take in the view at Sunset Rock, grab something to eat, or explore Historic Liberty Square.
This park is home to some of the most scenic and significant overlooks along the Eastern Highland Rim. Don’t leave without visiting the 30-foot Great Falls, located below the 19th-century cotton textile mill that it powered over 100 years ago. Book a cabin, grab a campsite or stay at Edgar Evins a little longer.
End your trip by visiting the tallest waterfall in Tennessee along with three other magnificent falls. Book a cabin on the lake or a campsite. Explore the views at Millikan’s Overlook, cross the swinging bridge at the Cane Creek Cascades, fish on Fall Creek Falls Lake, and more.
3Nature To Memphis
220 miles, 7 less-trafficked parks, 5 lakes, and Memphis BB
Take a day trip to visit this archaeological site that features at least 15 Native American Mounds. Make the 100+ step climb to the top of Saul’s Mound and visit the museum’s exhibits on Tennessee’s prehistory.
Pack up and head southeast to the newly renovated Lodge at Pickwick Landing on the shores of Pickwick Lake. Grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, rent a pontoon boat, enjoy great sport fishing, play a round of golf, and take in the view from your room’s private balcony. The park also offers villas on the water, standard cabins, and lakefront campsites.
Take a day trip or camp under the stars at Big Hill Pond. Climb up the fire tower to get a 360 view of the area, fish and paddle on Travis McNatt Lake, and hike the boardwalk through Dismal Swamp.
Drive east all the way to Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, where you can cozy up in a lake-front cabin or set up camp for the night. Tulip Poplar Lake offers paddling, boating, and fishing and the park’s hiking trails are some of the most popular near Memphis.
On your way to T.O. Fuller State Park, make a pit-stop in Memphis for some famous BBQ or to see some of the historical sites.
Explore the history of T.O. Fuller State Park, just 15 minutes from downtown Memphis. Located along the shores of the Mighty Mississippi River, the park is located on a site where American Indians flourished. Visit the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa to celebrate and discover the vibrant and sophisticated culture of these ancient people. RV and tent camping is available.