UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Sometimes you just need to get away from city living and get a little rugged. The noise, rush hour backups, and frequent cheers from the Pedal Tavern can get a little taxing after awhile. When you’ve reached your edge and city life’s got you down, check out these gorgeous camping spots for a slice of much-needed nature.
Easily one of the best parks in Tennessee, South Cumberland State Park is home to some stellar backcountry camping sites. An hour and a half from Nashville, this outdoor oasis is ideal for the active camper — from hiking the area's 90 miles of trails or trying your hand at rock climbing, you’ll be wiped by the time your head meets the pillow. Just don't use all your fuel exploring, the camping areas are all hike-in, so you'll still need to have some energy left in your tank to make it back to the tent.
Just under two hours away from the city, this park covers about 900 acres of the Caney Fort River Gorge, where three rivers come together at the head of Center Hill Lake. If you choose your spot wisely, you may be able to see waterfalls or have a great overlook of the gorge from your tent. The park offers 60 campsites, plus swimming holes, hiking, fishing, and whitewater kayaking, so you'll have plenty to see and do during your camping excursion.
Henry Horton State Park is about an hour from Nashville and offers access to Duck River, which is usually teeming with wildlife. And it doesn't matter if you're still getting the hang of this whole camping thing, this spot is for everyone, offering eight cabin escapes, along with 56 RV sites, 10 tent camping areas, and nine primitive and backcountry campsites. And when you aren't roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over an open flame, you can enjoy an 18-hole golf course, a trap and skeet range, and an on-site restaurant.
This park, just an hour from Nashville, is famous for its stone “fort” dating back 1,500 to 2,000 years. The main trail traces the stone building, which is thought to be a ceremonial gathering spot for ancient Native American tribes. After your history lesson, settle in for the night. The area's 51 campsites all have water and electrical hookups, grills, picnic tables, and paved platforms, but they’re still somewhat rustic, as each site is tucked back in the woods with lots of privacy.
Love the outdoors, but don’t like the idea of sleeping on the ground? Drive an hour from Nashville to the beautiful Center Hill Lake, surrounded by tall bluffs and cliffs. The campgrounds offer 60 tent and trailer sites that all come equipped with electrical and water access. And each spot is built on a wooden platform, it's like having your own private porch! Though, they do have primitive set-ups and even Wrangler Sites where you can camp with your horse.
Just under an hour away from Nashville, Bledsoe Creek State Park is situated on a peninsula on Old Hickory Lake with more than 50 drive-in campsites for you to pitch your tent. Spend the day hiking the six miles of trails throughout the peninsula, then head back to camp for kumbayas and a fire pit. Got a boat? Bring it! The park has two boat launching ramps. But if you don't, you can always bring your pole along and enjoy a leisurely fishing session.
Frozen Head is home to 20 primitive campsites, 50 miles of backpacking, and scenic trails set up over 24,000 acres of wilderness. Sure, the drive to Frozen Head State Park is a bit of a trek (it's just under three hours), but you’ll be rewarded with waterfalls, epic views, fishing, and tons of hiking options. Make it into a weekend getaway and take advantage of the fresh air and outdoor therapy.
Fall Creek Falls is home to one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States and it’s only two hours from the city. Naturally, this park has become a favorite among Nashville natives, especially lose looking to stay overnight — this spot offers 222 campsites, 16 primitive sites, and three backcountry sites. Once you rise, you'll have more than 35 miles of hiking trails and 24 miles of mountain biking trails to occupy your time.
Pile your friends in the van for this one; this state park is only 30 miles from Nashville, about a 45-minute drive, and features group campsites with rustic cabins dating back to the 1930s. You'll have to bring your own linens and all the essentials (food, toilet paper, firewood), but there is a kitchen complete with an oven, stovetop, and refrigerator. And no worries if you'd rather go it alone, Montgomery Bell State Park also offers a handful of smaller, eco-friendly cabins that you can rent. It also happens to be a spectacular place for hiking, biking, golfing, and fishing.
Drive about an hour and a half from Nashville and you can actually camp underground. Though, FYI: you’ll need a group of 10 or more, and you must book in advance. Upon arrival, you’ll go on a walking tour of the cave, and if you’re up for it, you can check out the strenuous “Rocky Topper” spelunking excursion. And for being underground, you’ll sleep with some comfort — count on zero rain and functional underground bathrooms. Maybe the best part, in the morning, you’ll enjoy a catered breakfast in the Volcano Room.
If you’re looking for something right in the city, head to Percy Priest Lake, which is spotted with more than 30 islands perfect for your next camping adventure. After you've secured your lakeside sleeping arrangements, you'll have hiking trails and 40-foot cliffs to jump off of (with caution, of course) during your stay. Fitt Tip: If you want a beach-like experience, try Luau Island — a small, sandy escape with space for just five tents.
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