The Most Beautiful Camping Spots Around Nashville
From glamping to roughing it.
If your soul has been craving the chance to get away from it all for a little while, Middle Tennessee fortunately offers plenty of opportunities to sleep out under the stars and breathe some fresh air. Or if you are one of the many who got into the RV life as a way to take your pod on the road over the past year, there are lots of lots where you can park your family truckster, plug in, and tune out for a long weekend. Get out there and show Mother Nature a little love!
Distance from Nashville: 33 miles, 41 minutes
This 900-acre park takes its name from a unique set of rock gardens where cedar trees grow seemingly out of limestone beds, creating a desert-like look to the glades which also support all sorts of other rare plant species. Scattered among the park are more than 100 campsites glammed up with picnic tables and grills, electric, and water hookups. The park is also known for extensive equestrian trails, which you’d be wise to avoid as “getting trampled by a horse” isn’t very cleansing.
Distance from Nashville: 34 miles, 44 minutes
Whether you’re looking for a spot to park a 60-foot RV or you’ve got a hankering to stay in cabins built in the 1930’s as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps project, Montgomery Bell State Park has options. Available outdoor activities also run the gamut from hiking and biking to golfing and fishing. Or, you know, just kick back in a folding chair, crack open a beer, and tell yourself no less than 20 times that you could get used to this.
Distance from Nashville: 83 miles, one hour and 27 minutes
You may know this park’s namesake as “Davy,” but he was a lot more than just a coonskin cap-wearing frontiersman. This park is located on his former homestead where he operated a powdermill, a grist mill, and a distillery before a flood washed all his businesses away in 1821. A museum displays artifacts and describes the history of the former congressman and martyr of the Battle of the Alamo. Two campgrounds in the park offer RV hookups and primitive camping sites with centralized bathhouses offering hot showers and restroom facilities.
Distance from Nashville: 141 miles, two hours and 22 minutes
Built as a project by the Civilian Conservation Corps under FDR’s New Deal, this park is actually a part of the enormous Pickett State Forest. The trails that the hard-working CCC workers carved out of the wilderness are still great places to observe the wildlife of the forest, including the occasional bear, so be alert and be sure to store your food securely. That’s also the reason why the campground has no trash cans lest they turn into bear buffets. Bring your own trash bags and carry your refuse home with you. The remote park was also the first park in the South to earn Silver-tier International Dark Sky Park designation, meaning that star gazers can enjoy unparalleled views of the night sky.
Distance from Nashville: 25 miles, 34 minutes
Oriented along the shore of J. Percy Priest Lake, Poole Knobs is a playground for lake lovers. With hookups and pull-through spaces available for RVs plus primitive sites for setting up your tent, you’re never more than a few steps from the water if you want to swim or fish from the shore. Launch a boat from the campground’s boat ramp for the chance to explore the entire 14,000+ acres of the reservoir or explore thousands of acres of public land surrounding the shore. Amenities include multiple shower houses, restrooms, and a laundry room.
Distance from Nashville: 40 miles, 49 minutes
Tucked into a peninsula jutting into Old Hickory Lake, this small park offers a bit of seclusion just a short drive from downtown Nashville. If you’re not careful, you might actually learn something as Bledsoe Creek has a history as a prime hunting ground for the Cherokee, Creek, Shawnee, and Chickamauga Native American tribes. More than 50 campsites offer access to six miles of trails plus two boat launching ramps (but one is reserved strictly for registered camping guests).
Distance from Nashville: 26 miles, 32 minutes
Cage’s Bend is on the north shore of Old Hickory Lake, a long and winding lake that stretches almost a hundred miles over two counties. It’s a smallish campground that offers an escape from the crowds, with only a handful of pads available for motorized vehicle camping along with lots of sites for tent campers. Families love Cage’s Bend for its playground and two fishing docks, and the nature photography opportunities are numerous thanks to all the deer, songbirds and waterfowl that call the area home. Bring your good camera, because it’s hard to get close enough to a whitetail to get a good photo with your phone.
Distance from Nashville: 51 miles, 52 minutes
Named after a former governor of Tennessee—on whose land the park was established in the 1960’s—Henry Horton State Park offers access to the Duck River, which teems with fish masochistically waiting to be your food later. Camping options range from an inn or cabins to tent, primitive, and backcountry campsites. In addition to an 18-hole golf course, there’s also a trap and skeet range where you can shoot for a different sort of birdies: clay pigeons.
Distance from Nashville: 63 miles, one hour and two minutes
European settlers, most of which never took AP history, often miscalled old structures “forts.” They were wrong. And archaeologists have dated the mysterious stone formation that gives the park its name at between 1,500 and 2,000 years old. The main hiking trail skirts the walls of this magnificent edifice, now thought to be a ceremonial gathering spot for ancient Native American tribes. Although the campsites are fairly luxurious with water and electrical hookups, grills, picnic tables, and paved pads, they are tucked deep into the woods to offer plenty of privacy. You’ll feel like you’re miles away from civilization, and when that inevitably scares you, you can take a short hike to the bath house or a 10 minute drive to get some fast food.
Distance from Nashville: 65 miles, one hour and three minutes
Center Hill Lake may be one of the most beautiful bodies of water in Tennessee, with steep bluffs and cliffs running straight into the deep lake—the outcome of intentional TVA flooding decades ago to create a reservoir for power production and flood control. The result is a combination of woodlands, verdant hillsides, and a postcard-worthy lake with excellent opportunities for fishing and waterskiing. The campground at Edgar Evins consists of 60 tent and trailer campsites, complete with electrical and water access. Each was built on wooden platforms reinforced with concrete and steel, and it’s like camping on a private deck over Center Hill.
Distance from Nashville: 85 miles, one hour and 39 minutes
Camping underground? Hell yeah! This historic cave complex offers what they call “caveman campouts” for groups of 10 or more that book in advance. In return for your smart planning, you’ll receive an easy walking tour of the cave plus the more strenuous “Rocky Topper'' spelunking experience. After an evening sleeping in the massive 10-Acre Room, groups enjoy a catered breakfast in the magnificent Volcano Room while viewing the colorful cave formations surrounding them. There’s even a cave art exhibit by noted Neanderthal painter Norman Rocks-well. Thank you! That’s my time. Is this thing on?
Distance from Nashville: 85 miles, one hour and 40 minutes
Johnny Cash sang that “The Rock Island Line she’s a mighty good road,” but she’s also a fantastic state park that covers almost 900 acres of the Caney Fork River Gorge where the Caney, Collins, and Rocky rivers come together at the head of Center Hill Lake. The surrounding gorge features sweeping scenic overlooks, waterfalls with swimming holes below, hiking trails, fishing, and even the opportunity for whitewater kayaking. Two campgrounds contain 60 campsites with a third of them available year round. For campers who just can’t bear to completely disconnect, there’s even free Wi-Fi availability at the main campground. But c’mon. Don’t be that guy.
Distance from Nashville: 92 miles, one hour and 30 minute
This massive park stretches over four counties and encompasses nine distinct recreational areas. It also contains some of the greatest backcountry hiking and camping opportunities in the state. Whether you’re a fan of waterfalls, rock climbing, rare plant identification (HELL YEAH), or birdwatching, there’s something for you in the South Cumberland. Primitive campsites are scattered along the miles and miles of trails, but you’ll need to make an advance reservation online before leaving on your hike to hold your spot by the campfire. The stunning scenery and sheer variety of terrain you’ll encounter on a hike through the South Cumberland make the extra level of planning well worth it.
Distance from Nashville: 94 miles, one hour and 44 minutes
Tucked between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake (duh), this huge natural area offers a wide variety of camping options from primitive cabins where you bring your own bedding to campgrounds for RVs and wilderness camping available all year round. The bonus of 300 miles of trails and roads looping around the two lakes means you’re never too far from a beautiful waterfront view, but also a short retreat away from the crowds to your own solitude.
Distance from Nashville: 108 miles, one hour and 53 minutes
Not only a fun place to pronounce if you tend toward whistling sibilant s’s, Standing Stone State Park is an easily accessible wilderness area with eight miles of hiking trails through the forest and a cozy campground where travelers can stay as long as two weeks enjoying most of the comforts of home. Although backcountry camping is not allowed, you can use your campsite as a home base for day hikes or boating and fishing trips on Kelly Lake.
Distance from Nashville: 113 miles, one hour and 58 minutes
While some of the other parks on this list are perfect for the casual hiker or feature “glamping” in comfy cabins, Virgin Falls requires a level of fitness and planning that draws serious backwoods experts into the woods. A strenuous nine-mile roundtrip sojourn to the falls, it’s a rigorous day trip, so planning for an overnight stay is the move. Intrepid campers will be rewarded with the opportunity to encounter several caves (remember Norman Rocks-well? The laughs we had.) along the route, the chance to cross a cable bridge over Big Laurel Creek and some awe inspiring scenery, highlighted by the 110-foot tall Virgin Falls that flow out of a cave, over a cliff and into another cave. There are five dedicated campsites along the route to the falls, but you’ll need to register in book at the trailhead kiosk to make sure there will be room to lay your weary head.
Distance from Nashville: 151 miles, two hours and 39 minutes
Encompassing more than 125,000 acres in both Tennessee and Kentucky, Big South Fork contains five developed campgrounds with amenities like RV parks, some campsites dedicated to campers traveling with horse trailers to take advantage of the many equestrian trails, and a few primitive campsites for those looking to rough it. A bonus is that much of the recreation area is located just across the dividing line between the Central and Eastern time zones, so if you’re on the east side of the park, it can stay light enough to read until almost 10 at night during the summer.
Distance from Nashville: 89 miles, one hour and 30 minutes
No, it’s not named after your buddy Timothy’s pick-up truck, but instead for the shallow area where early settlers forded the Elk River near Winchester. That river was dammed in 1970 to create a lovely lake that offers all sorts of fishing, boating, and camping opportunities. The main campground is well-appointed with pads for campers or tents plus a stocked camp store to pick up whatever supplies you forgot to pack in your pack. Even more intriguing are seven paddle-in campsites on islands around the lake. You’ll have to bring everything you need with you across the water and carry out all your trash, but the chance to camp in the secluded wilds is worth the extra effort.