Get outside and find adventure in Tennessee’s natural surroundings. Hiking, fishing and a slew of water sports are the ideal way to spend your time in the sunshine. Here are a few places to check out:
Located outside of Memphis, T.O. Fuller State Park was the first park east of the Mississippi River and the second in the nation to be open to African-Americans. It’s named in honor of Dr. Thomas O. Fuller, who came to Memphis as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Memphis on Beale Street, and spent his life empowering and educating African-Americans. Explore the eight miles of trails that snake through the park. The four-mile Discovery Trail, for example, features towering trees and beautiful wildflowers. While navigating, you can see wetlands and the Chucalissa Native American Village that was discovered on site.
Reelfoot Lake State Park is home to Reelfoot Lake, a flooded forest, created by earthquakes in 1811-12. Now, it’s otherworldly with submerged stumps, standing trees and shallow areas. Boaters should navigate the waters slowly and cautiously. Canoes, kayaks and jon boats can be used to explore the waters. The park has five public boat launch ramps for fishing boats and small pontoon boats. There are a few local private businesses that rent out boats as well.
The Mississippi River is home to some trophy-sized catfish. Several fish have been recorded to have weighed 100 pounds! You’ll easily come across catfish that are 30-50 pounds and fish that are 60-80 pounds are pretty common in these waters. Cast your line with Asian carp or freshwater herring to reel in a big one. According to Tennessee’s famous fisherman, Bill Dance, the best fishing begins in July and runs through December. The river levels are normally low and predictable in late summer and fall.
Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness Area is a 1,157-acre natural area in the Upper Cumberland region. Virgin Falls was formed by an underground stream that emerges from a cave and drops over a 110-foot cliff before disappearing into another cave at the bottom of the sink. The trail, more than eight miles out and back, to Virgin Falls has multiple waterfalls on the way as well as elevation and scenery changes for a diverse hike. You’ll see beautiful flowers, birds and other wildlife. The trail is recommended for more experienced hikers and is accessible year-round. The area is known for its unique geological features and several other waterfalls.
With 42 miles and 14,000 acres of water, you have plenty of space on Percy Priest Lake for boating, wakeboarding, jet skiing, water skiing and sailing, Easily spend an entire day on the lake by utilizing the marinas and boat ramps throughout the lake that provide easy access to the waters. Paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, power boats, house boats and sail boats are welcome. Additionally, pontoon party boats, ski boats and more are available to rent at most marina locations.
Pick your ideal fishing spot on one of the cleanest lakes in the United States. Dale Hollow Lake hosts fishing tournaments each year and is perfect for a day of fishing. The Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery, located below the dam, is the largest federal trout hatchery east of the Mississippi. Every year, the hatchery produces 1.5 million trout. Because of the hatchery, you can guarantee the water quality is supreme. Average temperatures range from 45-80 degrees and the deepest area of the lake is 130 feet.
You’ll find plenty of trails to explore at Frozen Head State Park. Fifty miles of trails can lead you through beautiful woodlands and to gorgeous scenery. Take the Old Prison Mine Trail or the Old Mac Trail for an easy walk. Challenge yourself by hiking the two or almost seven miles of trails on the Lookout Tower Trail which leads you to the tower and views of outstretched mountains. Experienced hikers will want to navigate the difficult Bird Mountain Trail or the 6.6-mile Chimney Top Trail.
The Hiwassee River is divided into three sections on the Hiwassee River Blueway. The upper section has Class I and Class II whitewater rapids with the occasional Class III rapid. Outfitters along the section offer raft, tube and funyak rentals. The middle and lower sections of the river are calm enough for SUP, paddling and motorized boats. The waterway winds through scenic landscapes and several cultural heritage sites. The Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Birchwood and the historic town of Charleston, which was one of the most significant Trail of Tears sites in the eastern United States, aren’t too far from the waterways.
Douglas Lake is rated one of the top five crappie fishing lakes in the nation, and top 10 in the nation for large mouth bass. Located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Douglas Lake is about 28,000 acres full of great fishing opportunities. Besides crappie and large mouth bass, you can fish for sauger, white bass and bluegill throughout the year.
These activities are just some examples of enjoying your days in nature. Start planning even more ways to spend your time in the great Tennessee outdoors.