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The Best State Parks in Tennessee

by Mary Krzesicki
Fall Creek Falls in Spencer, Tennessee

Fall Creek Falls in Spencer, Tennessee. Photo by @1honeyspider via Twenty20/Envato Elements

Tennessee is the land of the great smoky mountains, boisterous honky tonks, and the infamous Graceland.

While these things have made the southern state famous, there is so much more to Tennessee than meets the eye. There are not only spectacular lakes and rivers, but many more waterfalls to explore than you may realize. Luckily, all of these sites are well preserved by Tennessee’s fantastic State Park system.

With 56 parks to choose from, you’ve got plenty of options. If you have limited time, however, this list might of the best state parks in Tennessee should help you narrow it down.

Cummins Falls State Park in Cookeville, Tennessee

One of Tennessee’s newest additions to the state park system, Cummins Falls is a long-time favorite destination for the locals. This 75-foot high waterfall may not be the tallest in the state (stay tuned for that), but it is stunning nonetheless. Its wide, multi-tiered falls can be explored by those willing to do some climbing, and there is nothing like jumping into the cool, refreshing water at the base.

While the actual falls are exciting and a fantastic relief on those hot, southern days, the hike in is an adventure in itself as well. One hike is about a mile one way, and the other is about a mile and a half. Both trails are steep and you will get your feet wet on the way. But that’s all a part of the adventure!

Note: A Gorge Access permit is required to visit the base of the waterfall, so plan ahead.

Fall Creek Falls State Park checks in as Tennessee’s largest state park, and it features one of the highest waterfalls in East of the Mississippi, Fall Creek Falls which stands at 256 feet.

But that’s just the start. There are several other waterfalls in the park to visit and snap a few photos of as well. Check out Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades while you’re there.

With many options for camping and cabins, it’s worth staying a while to ensure you have enough time to properly explore this fantastic park.

Located on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, Roan Mountain State Park covers more than 2,000 acres of beautiful southern greenery!

A highlight of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the views are guaranteed to be stunning. With a large campground, Roan Mountain State Park is a great home base for exploring the surrounding area.

As one of the closest parks to Nashville, it’s no secret that Nashvillians love hanging out in this beautiful place. Radnor Lake may be the heart of the park, but it is the surprisingly tranquil hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities throughout this 1,200-acre park that really draw in the crowds.

Radnor Lake State Park’s close proximity to the Nashville is also a plus; it’s roughly a 20-minute drive from downtown. The park is a welcoming oasis away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Music City.

One of the most underrated parks in the state, Harpeth River State Park is a dream for those looking to spend a day on a river. With over nine river access points over 40 miles, it’s no wonder that this is such a popular canoeing location.

Worried about difficulty? Don’t be! The Harpeth is a Class I river, designating it suitable for beginners.

If water activities aren’t your thing, there are hiking options in the park as well. The Narrows of the Harpeth is a short, half-mile hike along a bluff overlooking the valley below. A mushroom-shaped rock at the top offers a perfect place to sit and watch the sunrise over the rolling hills to the east.

At about 40 miles outside of the city of Nashville, it doesn’t get much better than this.

It’s very difficult to pick favorite state parks from the impressive roster that Tennessee boasts, but state parks listed here are some of the best around. Do not hesitate to plan a trip to any of these parks. You will not be disappointed by Tennessee’s best state parks.

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