RVer's Guide to Tennessee

RVer’s Guide to Tennessee: Discover Top Destinations and Must-See Attractions

Contents

Tennessee is a treasure trove of scenery, history, and music, making it a top destination for RVers in search of adventure. With its stunning landscapes, ranging from the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains to the shores of the mighty Mississippi River, the Volunteer State has a wealth of natural beauty sure to delight even the most seasoned traveler. Whether you’re a history buff or a fan of outdoor activities, this RVer’s Guide to Tennessee has got you covered.

As you plan your RV trip through Tennessee, there are countless attractions and destinations to add to your itinerary. For some incredible views, head to the Gatlinburg Sky Lift, which takes you up to a 1,800 ft. overlook of the Smoky Mountains. Or, if you prefer a more adrenaline-fueled experience, pay a visit to the famous Dollywood amusement park, offering a mix of thrilling rides, live entertainment, and a taste of Appalachian culture.

No road trip in Tennessee would be complete without a stop at some of the state’s iconic music landmarks. Explore the rich musical heritage of places like Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, which have been instrumental in shaping genres like country, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll over the years. So pack up your RV, get ready to hit the open road, and immerse yourself in the captivating sights and sounds of Tennessee.

Why Tennessee?

So, you’re planning your next RV adventure and considering Tennessee as your destination. Great choice! Tennessee has a lot to offer RVers, from lush outdoors to rich history and culture. Let’s explore what makes this state a perfect spot for your next road trip.

When it comes to the great outdoors, Tennessee is packed with stunning landscapes for you to discover. Hop in your RV and tackle the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 5.5-mile loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of waterfalls, forests, and wildlife. Trust us, these sceneries will make you fall in love with this state.

If you’re a city lover, you won’t be disappointed. Tennessee is home to Nashville, a vibrant cultural hub. No RVer should miss the opportunity to immerse in the famous music scene, art galleries, and museums this city has to offer. Be sure to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, a true pilgrimage for music enthusiasts.

But it’s not just about Nashville. Tennessee is a treasure trove of charming small towns and off-the-beaten-path places that will undoubtedly capture your heart. What better way to explore them than from the comfort of your RV? Drive along the picturesque Natchez Trace Parkway or the smoky Appalachian plateaus to fully appreciate the raw beauty of this state.

Last but not least, let’s not forget about Tennessee’s endless outdoor adventures. Hiking, biking, rafting, and fishing – you name it, Tennessee has it. From the Appalachian Trail to the lively waterfront cities, your RV will give you the freedom to experience all of these activities at your own pace.

Boating and Fishing in the Smokies

As an RVer exploring Tennessee, you can’t miss the boating and fishing experiences in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. With over 25 years of local experience, the Smokies Angling Adventures Guide Service offers guided fishing trips year-round in the Smoky Mountain Region of East Tennessee, giving you the chance to fish some of the best lakes, streams, and rivers.

One amazing spot for fishing is Douglas Lake, a Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir with 555 miles of shoreline and 30,600 acres of water surface. The shoreline is a mix of agriculture and residential areas, surrounded by picturesque rolling hills. There are 12 marinas and around 16 boat ramps on this Smoky Mountain reservoir.

Of course, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also home to almost 70 species of fish. The most popular catches among anglers are the trout species. Enjoy the serene environment surrounded by nature as you take part in this relaxing pastime.

Not to be missed are the Top 5 Fishing Spots in the Great Smoky Mountains which include Abrams Falls at Cades Cove. This peaceful area not only offers great fishing, but also provides the perfect backdrop for your RV trip.

While enjoying your boating and fishing adventures, make sure to stay informed about Tennessee’s boating laws and responsibilities for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Planning Your RV Trip Through Tennessee

So, you’ve decided to take an RV trip through Tennessee! Good choice. There’s so much to do and see in this beautiful state, from the lively city of Nashville to the breathtaking Great Smoky Mountains. Let’s break down some of the must-see spots and attractions to help you plan the perfect trip.

First off, you can’t visit Tennessee without exploring its music scene. Nashville should definitely be on your itinerary. Known as Music City, Nashville is home to numerous famous music venues and museums. While you’re there, be sure to check out Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum.

Another city to consider is Memphis, which has an amazing array of museums and attractions, such as the Memphis-Graceland RV Park & Campground. While you’re there, make time to visit the top 30 Things To Do In Sevierville, TN.

Next up, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This stunning park is not only a fantastic place for hiking and enjoying nature, but it’s also close to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, two charming towns worth visiting.

To experience some of the region’s finest outdoor areas, make your way to Land Between the Lakes near Dover, Tennessee. This 170,000-acre playground offers campgrounds with RV hookups, as well as bike and canoe rentals – perfect for enjoying some quality time with nature.

While exploring Tennessee, you might also want to take a detour for a thrilling Gatlinburg Sky Lift ride. This open-air chairlift will take you up to a 1,800 ft. overlook and provide stunning views of the Smoky Mountains. Note that it’s not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights.

Now that you have a better idea of what to expect in Tennessee, you can start planning your dream RV trip. Remember to take your time and enjoy the journey – there’s a wealth of experiences just waiting for you in this fantastic state.

Highlighting Major Cities and Their Attractions

Exploring Nashville

Ah, Nashville, the heart of Tennessee and the famous Music City. As an RVer, you’re in for a treat. While you’re here, make a stop at the historic Ryman Auditorium, known as the “Mother Church” of country music. Don’t forget to explore the vibrant streets of downtown, where you’ll find live music venues, delicious food, and a lively atmosphere.

Getting the Best of Knoxville

Next stop on your Tennessee journey: Knoxville. This city has so much to offer, from the stunning Sunsphere tower to the Knoxville Museum of Art. Stroll through Market Square for shopping and dining, or wander around the University of Tennessee campus. With rich history and entertainment, you’ll cherish your time in Knoxville.

Why Visit Sevierville

Sevierville is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. As an RVer, you can find excellent campgrounds and RV parks to unwind after your day trips. Nearby, you’ll discover the gem of Tennessee – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This world-class scenery and adventure-friendly destination offer mesmerizing hikes, wildlife, and breathtaking views.

The Charm of Pigeon Forge

With excitement and fun for the entire family, Pigeon Forge won’t disappoint. Home to the renowned Dollywood, an amusement park with thrilling rides, shows, and festivals. But that’s not all – this vibrant town boasts one-of-a-kind souvenir shops, malls, and ample entertainment for all ages.

Unwinding in Gatlinburg

Last, but not least, set your RV sights on Gatlinburg. This charming city is nestled within the eastern Tennessee’s section of the Great Smoky Mountains. Discover the nearby national park, explore local arts and crafts, and take in the beautiful mountain views. After a day of adventure, unwind in the cozy town atmosphere and indulge in some delicious food.

Camping and RVing Tips for Tennessee

Hey there! So, you’re planning a camping or RVing trip in Tennessee, aren’t you? Great choice! This beautiful state has a lot to offer, from majestic mountains to serene lakesides, and we’re here to help with a few tips to make your experience a memorable one.

First off, scope out some of the fantastic RV parks and campgrounds that Tennessee has to offer. With over 35 state parks featuring RV camping, you’ll have plenty of rustic and scenic spots to choose from. Many of these parks are big-rig friendly and offer partial hookups, so don’t worry about fitting your rig in.

While you’re enjoying the Tennessee outdoors, don’t forget to mingle with your fellow campers and RVers. Being approachable and neighborly can lead to lasting friendships, shared experiences, and insider tips on the area. Plus, isn’t it always more fun to explore with friends?

Now, when it comes to activities and sightseeing, Tennessee is absolutely packed with things to do. Don’t miss out on the Land Between the Lakes area in Dover, where you’ll discover wildlife, bike and canoe rentals, and electrical outlets in the campgrounds. It’s a perfect spot for a day trip or an extended stay.

Safety first! Tennessee’s weather can be unpredictable, so make sure you’re prepared for anything. Bring layers and rain gear, and don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray too. It’s always better to be over-prepared than to be caught in a storm without the proper gear.

Lastly, leave no trace. When you’re out camping and RVing in Tennessee, your responsibility is to preserve the beauty of the places you visit. Clean up after yourself, respect wildlife, and leave the area as pristine as you found it. This way, future visitors can enjoy it just as much as you did.

Free Camping in Tennessee

Tennessee has plenty of free camping options for you to explore and enjoy during your RV adventure. From national forests to wildlife management areas, the Volunteer State offers a variety of beautiful landscapes perfect for camping and outdoor activities.

One popular spot for free camping is the Cherokee National Forest, specifically the Paint Creek Corridor. This area features a warm water fishing pond, day hike trails, and scenic overlooks. Be sure to take a drive around the area to fully appreciate the stunning views.

Another great location is the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Although it’s not entirely free, you can find low-cost camping options at Wrangler’s Campground for equestrian adventures or the more primitive Cades Cove Campground. Both offer a unique outdoor experience surrounded by trails, wildlife, and endless opportunities for outdoor activities.

If you’re more into riverfront views, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is an excellent choice. There are several free and low-cost camping sites within this area, perfect for exploring the majestic river and its surroundings.

For those seeking an escape into Tennessee’s diverse wildlife, consider camping at the Cheatham Wildlife Management Area or the Cordell Hull Wildlife Management Area. Both areas provide an immersive experience into local habitats and ecosystems, allowing you to truly connect with nature.

Historical Sites in Tennessee

The Hermitage

As an RV traveler in Tennessee, you should definitely visit The Hermitage, the former home of President Andrew Jackson. You’ll get to explore the beautifully restored mansion, garden, and original slave cabins while learning about the life of the United States’ 7th president.

Shiloh National Military Park

Another must-see site is the Shiloh National Military Park, where you’ll find preserved battlefields from the Civil War. While walking the park’s interpretative trails, you can learn about the fierce battle that took place here and its impact on the nation.

Belle Meade Plantation

Step back in time with a visit to the Belle Meade Plantation, an elegant Greek Revival mansion from the 1800s. Tour the grounds, taste the local wine, and learn about the history of thoroughbred horse racing and breeding in the region.

The Tennessee State Capitol

Located in Nashville, The Tennessee State Capitol is an architectural gem and the oldest working state capitol in the U.S. Discover Tennessee’s political history with a guided tour or admire its beautiful grounds and neoclassical design.

The National Civil Rights Museum

A trip to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis will teach you about the American civil rights movement and its impact on today’s world. The museum is housed in the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, adding to its historical significance.

The Carter House

Visit the Carter House in Franklin to learn about the Battle of Franklin, one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War. The house served as the Union command post during the battle and still features battle scars in the form of bullet holes and damaged walls.

The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville allows you to explore the life of the 17th U.S. president. Discover his humble beginnings as a tailor and his controversial presidency following Lincoln’s assassination.

The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Discover early American history at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The park marks the famous passageway used by settlers, Native Americans, and even animals to travel through the Appalachian Mountains. Hike the scenic trails and visit the historic Hensley Settlement.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

Train enthusiasts will enjoy the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, where you can ride a vintage train and explore the area’s railroad history. Experience the past as you travel through scenic Tennessee landscapes on a restored steam or diesel train.

The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

Finally, don’t miss the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum to learn about the birth of rock and soul music. The museum tells the story of musical pioneers who overcame racial and socioeconomic barriers to create the soundtrack of a generation.

Best Hiking Trails in Tennessee

Hiking The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Embark on an adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you’ll find the picturesque Alum Cave Trail. This trail leads to Mount LeConte, showcasing stunning views and unique geological features. For a more family-friendly hike, traverse the Laurel Falls Trail, which features a breathtaking 80-foot waterfall.

The Fiery Gizzard Trail

Challenge yourself with the Fiery Gizzard Trail, a 12-mile track that takes you through diverse terrains, including waterfalls, rocky cliffs, and picturesque overlooks. Hikers can expect to encounter rugged trails and some stream crossings, along with several campsites for overnight stays.

The Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Your journey continues to the Savage Gulf State Natural Area, featuring over 50 miles of trails, captivating waterfalls, and breathtaking vistas. The Stone Door and Greeter Falls are two popular highlights within this area, offering a scenic retreat into nature’s beauty.

The Virgin Falls State Natural Area

Discover the Virgin Falls State Natural Area, home to a variety of hiking trails that lead to enchanting waterfalls. Virgin Falls, the park’s namesake, is a stunning 110-foot waterfall that emerges from a cave, cascades into a sinkhole, and eventually reemerges downstream.

The Cumberland Trail

Explore the Cumberland Trail, a long-distance trail stretching across 300 miles of Tennessee’s beautiful landscapes. Offering a mix of easy to strenuous hikes, you’ll encounter scenic overlooks, cascading waterfalls, and lush forests.

The Ocoee River Gorge

Venture into the Ocoee River Gorge, an area of exhilarating beauty and adventurous trails. You’ll be treated to spectacular river views, impressive rock formations, and serene woodlands. Don’t forget to check out the famous Benton Falls while you’re there!

The Fall Creek Falls State Park

Experience Fall Creek Falls State Park, a top destination for hiking enthusiasts in Tennessee. This park boasts the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States, standing at 256 feet. With over 56 miles of trails to choose from, you’ll find something for every skill level.

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Immerse yourself in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, offering over 150 miles of scenic trails amidst gorges, waterfalls, and sandstone cliffs. One notable spot is the Twin Arches Trail, a moderate hike suitable for most ages, showcasing impressive natural arches.

The Natchez Trace Parkway

Finally, walk along the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile route presenting a blend of nature and history. The parkway features several hiking trails, including the beautiful Old Trace Drive, where you can enjoy a leisurely stroll surrounded by natural wonders.

Parks to Visit in the State

Tennessee is a beautiful state full of unique natural wonders and historical sites. If you’re planning an RV trip, you’re in for a treat with numerous parks to choose from. Here are some must-visit parks you should add to your itinerary.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

America’s most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers endless opportunities for scenic drives, hiking, and wildlife spotting. Don’t miss the stunning Cades Cove and the Clingmans Dome observation tower for breathtaking views of the park.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

This massive park spans 125,000 acres and offers numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and white-water rafting. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is home to unique sandstone bluffs and gorgeous gorges which shouldn’t be missed.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

A must-see for history buffs, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park spans both Georgia and Tennessee and preserves important Civil War battlefields. Explore the historic sites, monuments, and even take a ranger-led tour.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Learn about the Civil War at the Fort Donelson National Battlefield where the Union’s first major victory took place. Make sure to stop by the visitor center, and explore the fort’s well-preserved earthworks.

Shiloh National Military Park

Another important Civil War site, the Shiloh National Military Park protects the battlefield where the Battle of Shiloh took place. You can explore the park on your own or take a guided tour by bike or car.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park marks a significant pass through the Appalachian Mountains used by Native Americans and pioneers. Hike the beautiful trails, and marvel at the views from Pinnacle Overlook.

Stones River National Battlefield

This battlefield commemorates the Battle of Stones River and contains over 600 acres of preserved historic land. You can walk or drive through the park to experience the history and natural beauty of the area.

Obed Wild and Scenic River

A true gem for outdoor enthusiasts, the Obed Wild and Scenic River offers pristine waterways for rafting, kayaking, and fishing. Additionally, it provides incredible rock climbing spots and scenic hiking trails.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Following the path of the Cherokee forced removal, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail takes you through important historical sites and beautiful landscapes. Be sure to stop by the interpretive centers along the way for educational exhibits and information.

While you’re enjoying these incredible parks, don’t forget to explore East Tennessee, known for its stunning views of the Tennessee River and picturesque lakes like Douglas Lake. Every stop on your RV adventure through Tennessee will leave you with lifelong memories and a deeper appreciation for this beautiful state.

Natural Wonders in Tennessee

Ruby Falls

As an RVer exploring Tennessee, you’ll want to visit the awe-inspiring Ruby Falls. This stunning underground waterfall is in Lookout Mountain and is a must-see for any nature lover. Exploring the caverns, you’ll be amazed by the astounding rock formations and the beauty of the 145-foot-high waterfall.

Cumberland Caverns

While on your adventure, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Cumberland Caverns. As one of the longest cave systems in the United States, it offers unique sights like the Volcano Room, a remarkable space where you can enjoy concerts in a surreal setting. Get ready to be amazed by the incredible underground world.

Fall Creek Falls

Next on your list should be Fall Creek Falls. As Tennessee’s most magnificent waterfall, it boasts a 256-foot drop that will take your breath away. The surrounding state park is just perfect for a day of hiking, with its gorgeous trails and diverse wildlife.

Lookout Mountain

Take your experience to new heights at Lookout Mountain. At its summit, you can admire panoramic views of the surrounding area while exploring the historical and geological wonders. Don’t forget to snap a memorable picture of the awe-inspiring vistas!

Rock Island State Park

Rock Island State Park promises a delightful day out for RVers. With its towering waterfalls, lush forests, and limestone bluffs, it’s a haven for nature lovers. Be sure to take advantage of the numerous outdoor activities available, such as hiking, swimming, and birdwatching.

Reelfoot Lake

At Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee’s only natural lake, you’ll encounter a fascinating origin story tied to the New Madrid Earthquakes. Immerse yourself in the diverse flora and fauna that call the lake home. It’s a perfect spot for fishing, birdwatching, or simply soaking in the serene atmosphere.

The Lost Sea

Discover the mysteries of The Lost Sea, the largest underwater lake in the United States and the second-largest in the world. Found in Sweetwater, it’s a remarkable natural wonder you wouldn’t want to miss. Delve into history with a guided tour through the underwater caves and marvel at the unique ecosystem that surrounds you.

The Tennessee River Gorge

Lastly, cruise through the scenic Tennessee River Gorge, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Tennessee.” This 26-mile-long canyon is an ideal spot for kayaking, paddleboarding, or even taking a leisurely boat tour. The stunning views and vibrant wildlife make it a must-visit natural haven in Tennessee.

Conclusion

As you plan your RV adventure through Tennessee, keep in mind that this diverse state has a little something for everyone. From the breathtaking beauty of the Smokey Mountains to the iconic music scene in Nashville, there’s no shortage of sights and experiences for you to enjoy.

Get your adrenaline pumping with thrill rides at Dollywood or soak up the sun at Dolly’s Splash Country in Pigeon Forge, offering many attractions for both adults and children alike. Tennessee truly has it all, so don’t forget to pack your sense of adventure and your camera to capture those unforgettable moments. Safe travels, and have an amazing time on your RV journey through the Volunteer State!

Charley Waters

I've traveled to 49 states and 3 provinces in Canada living in my RV full-time over many years. I've stayed just about everywhere possible. National parks, state parks, parking lots, BLM land, Independent RV parks and friends and family's driveways. I lived through a crazy Derecho windstorm in Iowa. I got stuck in a winter freeze in Texas.

Living on the road in your RV can be challenging at times. But the good times make up for the bad. I'm here to share my experience and help fellow RVers good decisions while enjoying the great outdoors and vast camping opportunities this country has to offer.

View stories

Leave a reply

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

Scroll Up