The BEST 7 Tennessee National Parks You Should Visit Today

Tennessee is a state known for its scenic beauty, and one of the best ways to experience it is by visiting its national parks. There are several national parks in Tennessee, each with its own unique character and attractions.
Tennessee’s national parks offer a diverse range of landscapes, from the rugged mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the rolling hills and pristine rivers of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, Tennessee’s national parks have something for everyone.

Discover Tennessee’s Majestic National Parks

Let’s take a closer look at the national parks in Tennessee, including their opening and closing times, ticket prices, and what you can expect to see and do when you visit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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PERFECT FOR: Exploring the beauty and wilderness of Tennessee
Beautiful mountains at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Photo by NATHAN MULLET on Unsplash

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular and visited national park in Tennessee. Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the park is known for its scenic beauty, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural history. It is a popular destination for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching.

The park has over 800 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging backcountry hikes. One of the most popular trails is the 2.6-mile Alum Cave Trail, which leads to the summit of Mount LeConte. Another popular hike is the 6.2-mile Chimney Tops Trail, which provides stunning views of the park.

In addition to hiking, the park also offers a range of other activities, including camping, fishing, and horseback riding. There are several campgrounds within the park, but reservations are recommended, especially during peak season. The park is also home to several historic sites, including Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley, which offer a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural history.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 365 days a year, and admission is free. However, there is a small fee for camping and other activities within the park. The park is busiest during the summer months, so plan your visit accordingly.

Another must-see attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove. This historic valley is home to a number of well-preserved log cabins and churches dating back to the early 19th century, as well as breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Visitors can take a leisurely drive or bike ride through the valley, or explore on foot via one of the many hiking trails in the area.

Finally, no trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would be complete without a visit to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park. From the top of the observation tower, visitors can take in stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, making for a truly unforgettable experience.

After visiting this park, you can also head over to some of the best waterfalls in North Carolina.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

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PERFECT FOR: Camping and hiking in the wilderness
Big South Fork National River
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area – Photo by Clayton Clark

Located in northeastern Tennessee, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is a lesser-known national park that offers stunning scenery and a range of outdoor activities. The park is known for its rugged terrain, deep gorges, and scenic rivers, making it a popular destination for whitewater rafting, kayaking, and hiking.

The park has over 150 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging back-country hikes. One of the most popular hikes is the Twin Arches Trail, which leads to two massive sandstone arches. The park also offers a range of other activities, including camping, fishing, and horseback riding.

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is accessible all year round, and entry is free of charge. However, certain activities and camping facilities in the park may incur fees. It’s worth noting that the summer season is the peak period of the year, so it’s advisable to plan your visit accordingly.

If you’re looking for a beautiful outdoor adventure, then the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area should be at the top of your list. This incredible park, located in the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee and Kentucky, boasts over 125,000 acres of rugged wilderness and breathtaking natural beauty.

If you’re looking for a more adrenaline-fueled experience, then rock climbing and whitewater rafting are also popular activities in the park. The Big South Fork River, which winds its way through the park, offers a variety of rapids that range from gentle Class I to thrilling Class IV. Meanwhile, the park’s towering sandstone cliffs provide a challenging but rewarding climbing experience for both novice and experienced climbers.

For those interested in history and culture, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is also home to a number of fascinating historic sites, including the Blue Heron Mining Community and the Oscar Blevins Farm. These sites offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history, from its mining roots to its agricultural heritage.

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Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

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PERFECT FOR: Visiting the sites of historic Civil war battles
Beautiful green field in Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park – Photo by Mary Swalla Holmes

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is a must-see destination for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Located in the state of Georgia, the park commemorates two significant Civil War battles fought in 1863. Spanning over 9,000 acres, the park offers a wide range of activities for visitors of all ages.

The park has several hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging backcountry hikes. One of the most popular hikes is the 9-mile Lookout Mountain Trail, which provides stunning views of the surrounding area. The park also offers a range of other activities, including camping and ranger-led tours of historic sites.

You can explore the historic Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park any day of the year without paying a dime! But keep in mind that camping and other activities may have associated fees.

If you’re planning a visit, consider the park’s popularity during the summer months and plan ahead to avoid any crowds. Trust us, you won’t want to miss the chance to immerse yourself in the rich history and natural beauty of this incredible park!

One of the main attractions of the park is the Chickamauga Battlefield. It’s the site of the bloodiest two-day battle of the Civil War, resulting in over 34,000 casualties. Visitors can explore the battlefield on a self-guided driving tour or participate in a ranger-led tour to learn more about the history of the battle.

For those who prefer to explore on foot, the park offers a variety of hiking trails. The most popular trail is the 6.2-mile Chickamauga Battlefield Loop Trail, which takes visitors through the heart of the battlefield and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Additionally, the park has over 50 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry hikes.

According to the National Park Service, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park received over 1.2 million visitors in 2019. The park also has several annual events, including living history demonstrations and ranger-led programs, that provide visitors with a unique and immersive experience.

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Obed Wild and Scenic River

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PERFECT FOR: Water activities including Kayaking and Canoeing
Obed Wild and Scenic River
Obed Wild and Scenic River – Photo by Phil Cagney

The Obed Wild and Scenic River is a hidden gem tucked away in Tennessee that offers a plethora of activities for nature enthusiasts. The river is a popular destination for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and camping. The river is a designated National Wild and Scenic River, and it is easy to see why.

The Obed River has over 45 miles of waterways that are perfect for kayaking and canoeing. The river is known for its pristine waters and stunning rock formations. The river is also home to a variety of fish species, including smallmouth bass, rock bass, and catfish. Fishing in the river is a popular activity, with many anglers coming to the river to catch trophy fish. In fact, the Obed River is one of the top 100 trout streams in the country.

The park also has over 20 miles of hiking trails that offer stunning views of the river and surrounding landscape. The trails range from easy to difficult, so there is something for everyone. The most popular trail in the park is the Point Trail, which offers a breathtaking view of the river from a 500-foot-high bluff.

Shiloh National Military Park

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PERFECT FOR: Visiting the site of a historic Civil war battle
Shiloh National Military Park
Shiloh National Military Park

Located in southwest Tennessee, the Shiloh National Military Park is a must-see destination for history buffs. This park preserves the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War, where Union and Confederate forces clashed in a two-day battle that left over 23,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing. Today, visitors can explore the park’s many historical monuments and markers, as well as the Shiloh National Cemetery, where thousands of soldiers are buried.

The Shiloh National Military Park is open year-round, but some facilities may be closed during the winter months. The park’s visitor center is open daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission to the park is $10 per person or $20 per vehicle, and the admission fee includes a seven-day pass to the park. Ranger-led tours and other programs are also available for an additional fee.

In addition to exploring the park’s many historical sites and monuments, visitors can also enjoy a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking and wildlife watching. The park’s two hiking trails, the Shiloh Battlefield Trail and the Pittsburg Landing Trail offer a chance to explore the park’s natural beauty while learning about its rich history.

If you’re looking for a unique and informative trip, Shiloh National Military Park is a must-visit destination. Located in southwestern Tennessee, this park commemorates the Battle of Shiloh, a major Civil War battle fought in April 1862. The park spans over 3,000 acres and features various exhibits, monuments, and activities that are perfect for history buffs and nature lovers alike.

One of the most popular activities at Shiloh National Military Park is the self-guided driving tour, which takes visitors through the battlefield and provides informative markers along the way. The tour covers over 20 miles and includes stops at key points of interest, such as the Bloody Pond and the Hornet’s Nest.

Shiloh National Military Park is also home to a museum and visitor center, which features exhibits that explore the history of the battle and the surrounding area. The museum houses over 20,000 artifacts, including weapons, uniforms, and personal belongings of soldiers who fought in the battle.

So, whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a unique and informative trip, be sure to add Shiloh National Military Park to your list of must-visit national parks in Tennessee.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

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PERFECT FOR: Exploring the great outdoors with scenic hiking trails
Big trees in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a picturesque destination for anyone looking for an adventure in the great outdoors. Located in Middlesboro, Kentucky, the park covers an impressive 24,000 acres, making it a perfect spot for hiking, camping, and exploring nature. The park’s rich history, breathtaking views, and a range of activities make it a popular destination for families and nature enthusiasts alike.

Hiking is one of the most popular activities at Cumberland Gap, and it’s not hard to see why. The park offers over 85 miles of hiking trails that wind through the Appalachian Mountains and past waterfalls and historic sites. One of the most popular trails is the Tri-State Peak Trail, which leads hikers to a point where they can view Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee at once.

In addition to hiking, the park also offers camping opportunities. With over 160 campsites available, visitors can set up camp and enjoy the park’s natural beauty. The park also has several picnic areas and a playground for families to enjoy.

With over a million visitors each year, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for an adventure in the great outdoors. Fun fact: Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is home to over 70 species of trees and 160 species of birds.

Natchez Trace Parkway

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PERFECT FOR: An outdoor adventure
Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace Parkway

If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a great option! This scenic route stretches 444 miles through three states and offers a range of activities for visitors to enjoy. According to the National Park Service, the parkway sees an average of 6 million visitors per year, and it’s not hard to see why.

One popular activity is hiking. The parkway offers over 100 miles of trails, ranging from short nature walks to longer, more challenging hikes. In addition, there are over 60 designated picnic areas, making it the perfect spot for a family outing.

Cycling is another popular activity, with 72 miles of designated bike trails available. Additionally, the parkway offers opportunities for horseback riding, fishing, and camping.

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Things to Consider Before Visiting a National Park in Tennessee

If you’re planning a visit to a National Park in Tennessee, there are several things to consider before embarking on your adventure. Here are a few key factors to keep in mind:

  • First, be aware of the park’s hours of operation and any entrance fees that may apply. Many national parks charge an entrance fee, which can range from a few dollars to upwards of $35 per vehicle. Some parks also have limited hours of operation, so plan accordingly.
  • Second, consider the weather and terrain. Tennessee’s national parks offer a variety of landscapes, from the lush forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the rugged terrain of the Cumberland Plateau. Be prepared for changing weather conditions and bring appropriate clothing and footwear.
  • Third, familiarize yourself with the park’s rules and regulations. These may include restrictions on camping, hiking, or wildlife viewing. Additionally, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the park’s ecosystem.
  • Finally, consider your own fitness level and experience when choosing activities. Some hikes or activities may require more skill or physical exertion than others. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits, and always put safety first. By keeping these considerations in mind, you’ll be able to make the most of your visit to a Tennessee National Park.

How Do We Pick Our Recommendations?

Our recommendations are carefully crafted using a variety of sources, including feedback from fellow park-goers. You can trust us to provide you with the top options that will ensure you have the best experience possible. We know that your peace of mind and enjoyment are key, so we’ve analyzed all the information to help you make the right choice. Our team especially took certain factors into consideration before picking these recommendations including comfort, facilities, rules and regulations, and even the popularity of the parks.

Conclusion

There are many varieties of National Parks available in the beautiful state of Tennessee and it makes for a perfect getaway or trip for your family. These parks have a lot to offer, from great hiking trails to stunning wildlife, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Get ready for an unforgettable adventure in one of Tennessee’s beautiful National Parks!

National Parks in Tennessee - FAQs

How many National Parks are there in Tennessee?

There are 13 National Parks in Tennessee and they receive around 10 million visitors each year.

What is the best National Park in Tennessee?

The best National Park in Tennessee is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most scenic park and receives the most annual visitors of any National Park in Tennessee.

What national parks are near Nashville Tennessee?

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park are the major national parks near Nashville, Tennessee.

Sara Anwar
Sara Anwar is hopdes' US director and a globetrotter. She joined the Hopdes team in July 2022. She has done more than 300,000 miles back and forth. She's been to more than 80% of the world, and her passion for understanding different cultures has only grown stronger with time. A traveler at heart, she loves to experience new cultures and learn new languages. Sara's wealth of travel experience makes her the perfect person to oversee a travel website – after all, who knows better what travelers want and need than she does?

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