Top 5 National Parks in Tennessee

March 10, 2023

national parks in Tennessee

Tennessee is one of the most historic states in America and has a lot to offer in terms of cultural, natural and historical sites. The state is home to some of the country's best national parks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park draws millions of visitors each year to experience its wild mountain streams, thick forests and waterfalls. It's also home to Clingmans Dome, the state's highest peak.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Located in the Appalachian Mountains, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a natural break in the landscape and has served as a gateway for explorers and pioneers to expand the American frontier. Today, this natural wonder is one of the most beautiful and rugged places in Kentucky.

It is home to spectacular overlooks, unique rock formations, cascading waterfalls and an extensive trail system. Its 24,000 acres are a feast for the senses and provide a backdrop for countless outdoor adventures.

In the park’s spelunking caves, nature’s story is written in dark and wet worlds where fantastic dripstone formations, strange animals, and geologic structures abound. Rangers lead tours that introduce visitors to the fascinating history of Gap Cave.

Explore the wilderness along more than 70 miles of trails, walk in the footsteps of Native Americans, early settlers and Civil War Soldiers, and view a variety of historic sites. A visitor center staffed by rangers offers hands-on exhibits, a museum and HD movies.

Stones River National Battlefield

Stones River National Battlefield is a historic 570-acre park and cemetery with a visitor center & marked trails along a Civil War battlefield. The battlefield commemorates the Battle of Stones River, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the Civil War, that produced significant political and military gains for the Union.

The battle opened the way for Union advances to Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Savannah, a three-pronged strategy to trisect the Confederacy and boost Northern spirits. It also changed the lives of people who lived and fought here.

Visitors can learn more about the history of this incredibly important event at the battlefield through ranger-led programs and other interpretive programming. Living history programs use Civil War era weapons and equipment to recreate events from the battle as well as other aspects of life in the wartime period.

Reelfoot Lake State Park

Located in northwest Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake State Park is a top-rated fishing, boating and wildlife viewing destination. This 15,000-acre shallow lake was formed by a series of earthquakes in 1811 and 1812.

The flooded forest-like landscape is home to a number of rare plant and animal species, including bald eagles. The park also hosts an annual eagle festival and offers hiking trails, two campgrounds with water and electricity, and a 400-seat auditorium.

Fishing is a popular activity at Reelfoot Lake, and anglers can catch bass, crappie, bream, catfish, and other species with an appropriate Tennessee license. Piers and boardwalks are available for fishermen, and fish cleaning stations are also available.

Reelfoot Lake State Park is home to a visitor center and nature museum. This complex features a number of interesting exhibits and audio-visual programs that explore the area’s history, ecology and culture. Behind the visitor center is a cypress boardwalk nature trail. Visitors can also visit the park’s auditorium for small banquets and meetings.

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

In 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought in a battle near Chattanooga that marked a turning point in the Civil War. Their stalemate on Chickamauga Creek gave Union troops a path to Atlanta and the Deep South.

Today, this military park preserves five major points of interest from the Civil War. Among towering oaks, hundreds of monuments and markers invite visitors to take a moment to remember this historic battle.

At the visitor center, you can view exhibits and learn about the events of September 1863. There is also a large collection of military weapons.

The Fuller Gun Collection is one of the best displays of military small arms in the country. Many families visit just to see this collection.


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