My family enjoys camping. We love the sounds, we love sitting around a fire, and we love escaping the busyness of life. We had an old pop-up camper that keeps us dry from the rain, cool from the heat, and off the ground. She took us on some grand adventures, and I was grateful to be able to upgrade to a travel trailer (real bathroom, mattresses, heat and air). All of the places listed are friendly to all types of camping, so you don’t need a camper in order to explore these great places in the area!
Camping is good no matter the season, as long as you’re prepared! 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):
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!
Harrison Bay State Park (17 miles/30 minute drive)
Harrison Bay is located in Harrison, TN. It is located on the Chickamauga Lake shoreline, so there are plenty of water opportunities! You can fish, hike, golf, or picnic for the day even! There are tent spots and camper spots, so you can choose what works best for your family. It’s very convenient and close to all sorts of stores if you need supplies.
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.
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).
Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park (74 miles/1 hour 15 minute drive)
Old Stone Fort is located near Manchester, Tennessee, and the camping sites are nice and wooded (my favorite). The main hiking trail for the park follows the wall of Old Stone Fort which was used by the Native Americans as a ceremonial gathering place. The trail threads through dramatic scenery where you can see the original entrance of the fort which was designed to face the exact spot on the horizon where the sun rises during the summer solstice. It has a rich history – one that I was completely unaware of until we visited!
Even if it’s just for the day, any of these places are 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 or Fort Mountain. There are plenty of state parks in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama to explore – pick one for a weekend getaway or a day trip!