My family enjoys camping. We love the sounds, we love sitting around a fire, and we love escaping the busyness of life. We have an old pop-up camper that keeps us dry from the rain, cool from the heat, and off the ground. Poncho (that’s the camper’s name) has taken us on some grand adventures, and I imagine will continue to do so until we take the plunge and upgrade to something nicer.
Since summer is going on forever, we may still have two full months of camping time! Shoot, we might be camping all the way through the holidays at this rate. The good news is that you don’t have to be an avid outdoors person (I’m most certainly not) to venture out and try something new; many of these places have cabin rentals!
In case you’ve got the urge to camp with your people, here’s a list of places to check out that are fairly close to home (mileage is based off of a downtown location):
Cloudland Canyon State Park (27 mile/45 minute drive)
Located on Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon is a gorgeous place to visit (for camping or day trips). As far as camping options, Cloudland Canyon has the widest variety of ways to stay: they have cabins, yurts, and RV and tent campsites (walk-in and backcountry). Sites can be reserved a year in advance and as of this year, you can reserve spots site-specific (you can pick your exact spot rather than what’s available). Cloudland Canyon has great activities available, with beautiful hiking trails that lead to a picturesque waterfall (lots of stairs), geocaching, fishing, horseback riding, and a great disc golf course.
Chester Frost Park (15 miles/30 minute drive)
Chester Frost Park is located in Hixson, TN. It is located on the water, so the view is nice and it’s breezy year round. There are a variety of RV campsites as well as primitive tent camping sites from which to choose. For kids, Chester Frost has a beach, several playgrounds, and regular educational activities from the park rangers. Even if you’re not camping, Chester Frost is a great place to spend the day!
Chilhowee Campground (55 miles/1 hour 15 minute drive)
The Chilhowee Campground is located in Benton, TN, near the Ocoee River. The drive itself is beautiful (don’t follow GPS directions, use the ones on the website), and there are many scenic overlooks to view the beautiful valleys below. There are a variety of camping spots in this area as well, many of them shaded and rather private. There are hiking trails, bike trails, and a lake for swimming and fishing. It’s a quiet, tucked away little spot that my family loves!
Fall Creek Falls State Park (65 miles/1 hour 15 minute drive)
Fall Creek Falls sits on the Cumberland Plateau and is a highly visited Tennessee State Park. My guess is that its beautiful waterfalls, variety of hiking trails, and proximity to the East Tennessee area are part of the appeal. Much like Cloudland Canyon, Fall Creek Falls has cabins and camping spots, so if roughing it isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the great outdoors for the weekend! Aside from hiking, Fall Creek Falls has lots of family friendly things: biking, a nature center, playgrounds, and a great general store.
Cumberland Mountain State Park (80 miles/1 hour 15 minute drive)
Cumberland Mountain State Park is located near Crossville, Tennessee, so close in fact, that I was surprised to find a state park right off the highway! One of its many benefits is the proximity to civilization; on our weekend stay, we hit up the Dollar General twice and Dairy Queen, without trekking too far from our campsite. Cumberland Mountain State Park has cabins (some of which are undergoing beautiful renovations) and various campsites from which to choose. They have beautiful hiking trails and bridges, and one of the trails is paved and ADA compliant. They are home to Byrd Lake, which is great for fishing or boating (the park rents kayaks, pedal boats, and canoes for a reasonable fee).
Even if it’s just for the day, any of these places is well worth a drive for a new adventure, and there are so many other places close by that we haven’t explored, like Indian Boundary, Fort Mountain, and Harrison Bay.