Search here...
TOP
Best of TN

The Best National Parks in Tennessee to Visit

Sharing is caring!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park are two of the most widely known and visited national parks in Tennessee. But there are even more national parks in the Volunteer state where visitors can enjoy stunning mountain vistas, learn about the Civil War, and hike scenic trails.

I may be biased, but I think Tennessee is a state of natural beauty and diversity. You can find a different landscape within just a few miles and the views are amazing. One of the best ways to experience my state’s unique beauty is by visiting its national parks.

Did you know that Tennessee has 13 national parks? Each one is unique and in this blog post, we’ll explore all 13 Tennessee national parks and what they offer visitors. Whether you’re interested in hiking, wildlife, waterfalls, or history, Tennessee has something for everyone.

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The national park that’s most associated with Tennessee, especially for those of us that live in the eastern part of the state, is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The park is located on the eastern border of Tennessee and western North Carolina and is the most visited national park in the country, attracting more than 14 million visitors each year.

The park is known for its stunning mountain vistas, abundant wildlife, and rich cultural history. Visitors can hike more than 800 miles of trails, including the Appalachian trail, fish in clear mountain streams, or take a scenic drive on the Newfound Gap Road. The park is also home to historic structures, including grist mills, churches, and cabins, which provide a glimpse into the region’s past.

One of my favorite places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove. If you’ve never been, please make it a point to visit. It is a scenic valley surrounded by mountains, offering a glimpse into the region’s past. Visitors can drive or bike the 11-mile loop road that winds through the valley, passing historic structures such as churches, log cabins, and barns.

The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bears, and wild turkeys. Cades Cove is a must-visit destination within Great Smoky Mountains National Park for those who want to experience the natural and cultural beauty of the area.

There are also several hiking trails within Cades Cove, including my favorite, Abram’s Falls, and a wonderful Visitor Center with even more activities and items to see.

2. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is located in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia. The park was established to preserve and commemorate the Civil War battles that were fought in the area.

Visitors can explore the battlefields, historic structures, and monuments that tell the story of this pivotal moment in American history. The park also offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and interpretive programs for visitors of all ages.

3. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is located in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky. The park is known for its rugged natural beauty, including sandstone bluffs, natural arches, and clear streams.

Visitors can explore the park’s more than 150 miles of hiking trails, go horseback riding, or take a scenic drive on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and elk.

4. Obed Wild and Scenic River

Obed Wild and Scenic River is located in northeastern Tennessee, west of Knoxville. The park is known for its deep gorges, clear streams, and towering rock formations. Visitors can hike more than 20 miles of trails, go fishing or kayaking on the river, or take in the scenic views from one of the park’s overlooks.

The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including river otters, bald eagles, and black bears.

Despite it being relatively close to my hometown, I’ve never visited this park. We’re planning to visit in the next year.

5. Stones River National Battlefield

Stones River National Battlefield is located in central Tennessee, just outside of the city of Murfreesboro. The park was established to commemorate the Civil War battle that took place there in 1862.

Visitors can explore the battlefield, historic structures, and monuments that tell the story of this pivotal moment in American history. The park also offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and interpretive programs for visitors of all ages.

6. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is located in northeastern Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia. The park is known for its natural beauty, rich cultural history, and important role in American history.

Visitors can explore the park’s more than 80 miles of hiking trails, visit historic structures and museums, or take a scenic drive on the Cumberland Gap Parkway. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and elk.

7. Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site is located in eastern Tennessee, in the town of Greeneville. The site preserves the home and tailor shop of President Andrew Johnson, as well as several other historic structures.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the site and learn about Johnson’s life and presidency, as well as the history of the region.

8. Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Fort Donelson National Battlefield is located in Dover, Tennessee, near the border with Kentucky. The park commemorates the Battle of Fort Donelson, a key moment in the Civil War that took place in February 1862.

Visitors can explore the battlefield, including the historic fortifications and gun emplacements, as well as the visitors center, which offers exhibits and interpretive programs about the battle and its significance.

The park also offers hiking trails and picnic areas, making it a great destination for families and history enthusiasts alike.

9. Shiloh National Military Park

Shiloh National Military Park is located in southwestern Tennessee, near the border with Mississippi. The park was established to preserve and commemorate the Civil War battle that took place there in 1862. Visitors can explore the battlefield, historic structures, and monuments that tell the story of this pivotal moment in American history.

The park also offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and interpretive programs for visitors of all ages.

10. Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail stretches across nine states, including Tennessee. It commemorates the forced removal of thousands of Cherokee people from their homeland in the southeastern United States to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the 1830s.

Visitors can follow the trail, visit historic sites and museums, and learn about this tragic moment in American history.

11. Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area

The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area is a partnership between the National Park Service and local organizations, established to promote and preserve the region’s Civil War history.

The heritage area covers 38 counties in central and western Tennessee, and includes historic sites, battlefields, and museums. Visitors can explore the region’s rich history through a variety of interpretive programs and events.

12. Manhattan Project National Historical Park

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and tells the story of the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. The park includes several sites, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Y-12 National Security Complex, and the former K-25 site.

Visitors can take guided tours of the facilities, learn about the science behind the development of the bomb, and explore the history of this important moment in American history.

13. Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail

The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail is a 330-mile trail that commemorates the journey of the Overmountain Men, a group of Patriot soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. The trail passes through Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, and includes historic sites, battlefields, and museums.

Visitors can hike the trail, take guided tours, and learn about the history of this important moment in American history.

In conclusion, Tennessee is home to a diverse range of national parks that offer something for everyone. From the stunning mountain vistas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the rich cultural history of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, these parks provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the natural beauty and rich history of the state.

Natchez Trace Parkway

While not a national park, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a national parkway – a scenic road that runs for 444 miles through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. It follows the historic Natchez Trace, a trail used by Native Americans and early settlers to travel between the Mississippi River and the Tennessee River.

The parkway offers stunning views of the region’s natural beauty, including forests, fields, and waterways. Visitors can also explore historic sites along the way, including Native American mounds, pioneer cabins, and Civil War battlefields.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a great destination for a leisurely drive, as well as for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

So many of these Tennessee National Parks offer camping areas at a relatively low cost. If you enjoy camping, I encourage you to take a look at each of them on the National Park Service website to plan an outdoor overnight adventure.

Whether you’re interested in hiking, wildlife, waterfalls, or history, there is a national park in Tennessee that will suit your interests. It’s time to pack your bags and plan your visit to one of these beautiful national parks today.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *