Visitors to Cove Lake State Park in East Tennessee find lovely settings among its 106 campsites that are equipped with water and electrical hookups. Photo Cathy Summerlin
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Take Your Pick This Summer of Tennessee Campgrounds

If you’ve been hit hard by skyrocketing temps and a full blown case of “dog days” doldrums long before they arrive, maybe you should head for the hills in East Tennessee where summer temps won’t climb nearly as steeply as the mountains do.

Or beat the heat along the shores of one of our lovely lakes where a cool dip is just seconds away. Maybe a snooze under the stars is just what you need this summer.

Luckily, Tennessee’s state parks, state and national forests, national parks and recreation areas and corps of engineers campgrounds have shady RV and tent camping spots ready for rent from east to west, north to south.

First up: campgrounds in the mountains and along the lake and river shores in East Tennessee.

East Tennessee

David Crockett was born on Aug. 17, 1786, along the banks of the Nolichucky River outside present-day Greeneville. He became one of our country’s best-loved historical figures, often portrayed as larger than life due to his skills as a teller of tall tales. Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park has 88 campground sites, including 54 with full hookups that can handle any size RV, 17 with solely water and electric hookups, 17 primitive tent sites, a swimming pool, a playground, Nolichucky River access, a reconstruction of Crockett’s birthplace and a museum in the visitor center telling the story of the colorful frontiersman’s life.

Elkmont, the largest of the developed campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is also one of the prettiest with lush second-growth forest that has reclaimed the virtually denuded slopes since lumber cutting ceased in 1938. Photo Cathy Summerlin

More than 1,000 improved campsites, 100 primitive campsites and 800 miles of trails, including a 68-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, offer exploratory opportunities to 9 million annual visitors along the half-million acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ten developed campgrounds have restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets but there are no showers or electrical or water hookups inside the park. The largest, Elkmont, is located off Little River Road where Jakes Creek joins Little River. Elkmont sites may be reserved online or by calling 877-444-6777.

Known for its dramatic gorges, bluffs, and rock formations, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the Cumberland Plateau contains five developed campgrounds in its 125,000 acres. Bandy Creek and Station Camp are on the Tennessee side. Bandy Creek has 96 trailer sites with water and electric hookups and 49 sites for tent camping. All campsites include picnic tables, fire rings, and access to restrooms and showers. A dump station is located near the registration kiosk. Station Camp Horse Camp has 24 individual camp sites with water and electricity, tables, grills, tie-outs for 4 horses, access to modern restrooms with hot showers, a dump station and access to miles of horse trails.

Frozen Head State Park

Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area encompasses more than 24,000 acres of wilderness area and takes its name from a 3,324-foot peak that is often covered with ice or snow in winter. Twenty rustic campsites are scattered throughout the Big Cove Camping area equipped with picnic grill, lantern hanger and fire ring. There’s also drinking water available and a modern bath house with hot showers but no water or electrical hookups. Take a hike and a break from hustle and bustle at one of their back country campsites that requires a free permit.

Middle Tennessee

Land Between the Lakes or LBL, as it has become known, lies about one-third in Tennessee and offers hiking trails, a 65-mile long trek along the Trace (the road that traverses the peninsula north to south), bicycle trails, off-road vehicle trails, horse trails, hunting, and fishing. It has more than 300 sites with electric hookups for RVs and lots of options for everyone else interested in camping. Back country camping requires a permit but is available with just a few limitations.

Image 6 PineyCampgroundCabins LBLThe 6,000-acre Edgar Evins State Park on Center Hill Lake, one of my favorite spots, has 60 platform-type camping sites built on steel and concrete reinforced platforms with water and electrical hookups. They are tucked into the hillside overlooking the lake. Some are designed to hold a camper or a cabin tent up to 33 feet in length.The campground has three bathhouses with hot showers and a sewage dump station; nine primitive sites are available. The park has a large onsite marina with a restaurant. Among the planned summer activities are sunset cruises beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings.

Bledsoe Creek State Park on Old Hickory Lake has 57 level campsites, paved sites, new borders and fire rings, grills, lantern holders, picnic tables, and a bath house. There are 43 campsites that have 50/30-amp service and 14 have 30-amp service.

Image 3 Bledsoe Creek camping copy

Tims Ford State Park located on the Tims Ford Reservoir covers nearly 11,000 acres and has 241 miles of shoreline, in the shadows of the Cumberland Plateau. Its campground has 52 sites with water, electric (30-amp) service, picnic tables, and fire ring with grills at each site, a playground, two centrally-located bathhouses and a dumping station available at the entrance to the campground. The campground can accommodate RV’s up to 40 feet long on several sites. More-off-the-grid camping is permitted on six islands in the lake.

Image 5 Natchez Trace SP

Natchez Trace State Park was named for the famous Natchez to Nashville Wilderness Road, an important route during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It has 145 campsites and most sites are equipped with a table, grill, water and electrical hookups. There is a campground specifically for campers who bring their horses and miles of equestrian trails.

West Tennessee

Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park’s Happy Hollow camping area has 37 sites, each equipped with tables, grills, a playground, water and electrical hookups and a central bathhouse with hot showers. A dump station is available.Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park offers options for primitive camping overlooking the western shore of Kentucky Lake that has water and a central restroom available. Photo Cathy Summerlin

Tennessee offers camping from do-it-yourself backpackers to luxury RVing. Pick your favorite spot for a summer vacation in the great outdoors.

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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