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Kayaking near Memphis, TN.

Adventure Awaits in West Tennessee

Explore more than 15,000 acres of state parks and other outdoor destinations, all within a day trip of Memphis.

Tennessee State Parks have been experiencing record-breaking numbers of visitors over the past two years – and the best is yet to come. 

West Tennessee parks, in particular, have been working hard to offer even more reasons to head outdoors. From kayaks to campsites (plus nearby places to grab a meal), here are some adventure travel ideas that you can look forward to in this exciting slice of the state.

Fort Pillow State Historic Park – Henning 

Sales of RVs and campers have soared since March 2020, and Fort Pillow State Historic Park in Henning, about 47 miles from Memphis, has added five more RV sites to accommodate those travelers (both RV sites and campgrounds are dog-friendly). Reserve one of the 11 RV sites on the family campground or get closer to nature with backcountry camping along the historic Mississippi River Bluff

You can also experience the Mississippi by renting a canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or pedal boat from the park or bring your own watercraft. For those wanting a quieter outing, the 27-acre Sullivan’s Pond stays stocked with bass, bream, and crappie for fishing – grab supplies at the Fort Pillow Grocery & Bait Shop in Henning on your way.

If you prefer your adventure with a side of history, Civil War-era fortifications are found throughout Fort Pillow State Historic Park. Walk in the footsteps of soldiers and learn more with interpretive displays and the on-site museum.

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park – Millington

Located about 60 miles south of Fort Pillow State Historic Park, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in Millington has over 12,000 acres of hardwood bottomlands, making for a stunning view along the trails or in the water. The park is ideal for virtually every kind of outdoor enthusiast, with endless opportunities for wildlife-watching, a disc golf course and 49 campsites with everything needed for a comfortable stay. 

A designated Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is a popular destination for birders hoping to spot cerulean warblers and other species (240 and counting!). 

Bikers and hikers can choose from moderate or more rugged experiences along the trails, while Piersol Lake and Poplar Tree Lake are the perfect setting for horseback riding and fishing. Poplar Tree Lake has a colorblind viewfinder, too, so no one has to miss the beauty of West Tennessee.

Planning to post some killer Instagram pics? Stop at the Shelby Forest General Store for lunch and ask the owner, Doug, for his tips on the best sightseeing spots. 

T.O. Fuller State Park – Memphis

Keep heading south about 30 miles and you’ll hit Memphis – and its glorious T.O. Fuller State Park. This park, which boasts 8 miles of trails (split evenly between hiking and multiuse), received a generous donation of 144 acres in 2021; the newly acquired acreage will expand the hiking trail to allow for a more challenging and scenic experience. Also in the works are a mountain bike trail and backcountry campsites for those wanting to really get away. 

Just 7 miles away from the glitz of Graceland you can reserve one of 45 RV-accessible campsites or spend a day taking in the sights and sounds of West Tennessee’s natural beauty. 

T.O. Fuller State Park is a popular spot for bird-watchers (rare, black-bellied whistling ducks and nesting black-necked stilts have been spotted here), and a new wildlife enhancement area is under development. Be on the lookout for wildflower valleys, grassy meadows and more.

Finally, T.O. Fuller State Park is home to Mississippian mounds dating back to 1000-1500 AD! Explore the prehistoric remains on the grounds or visit the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa to get to know the people who used to live here.

Where to Eat and Drink

Any kind of traveling will work up an appetite, and when you’re in West Tennessee, a good meal is never too far away. Fuel up for your day-tripping adventures at Wolf River Café in Rossville, Just Divine Tea Room in Halls or a classic barbecue joint like Bozo’s Hot Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason or Brad’s Bar-B-Q in Bartlett, just outside of Memphis. 

The charming town squares in Collierville and Covington are filled with quaint, independently owned restaurants that are enjoyed by visitors and locals alike. There are also more than a dozen farmers markets throughout the region where you can buy local produce and homemade goodies like honey and jams.

And east of Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park are two wineries where you can sip and savor the views. Swing by the family-owned Old Millington Vineyard and Winery, in Millington, for tastings and a bottle to go. Or settle in at Lakeland’s Delta Blues Winery, set on a scenic lake property, for wine, hard ciders and live music. 

For even more things to do in West Tennessee, including pre-planned itineraries, visit westtndaytrippin.org.
 

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