Best Tent Camping Tennessee  by Johnny Molloy

Best Tent Camping: Tennessee Guide Book

by Johnny Molloy (Menasha Ridge Press)
Best Tent Camping Tennessee  by Johnny Molloy
Well-traveled outdoor writer and native Tennessean Johnny Molloy methodically set forth into his home state, searching for campgrounds to include in this new edition of Best Tent Camping: Tennessee. Having camped the state for decades, Molloy, with over 50 outdoor guides to his credit, uaed his wealth of experience and scoured the entirety of Tennessee -- choosing only the most pristine campgrounds that included not only a great locale for tent campers but with fun outdoors activities nearby, most as close as your tent door.

© 2016 Johnny Molloy/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Tent Camping: Tennessee" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 50.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 50.

Campers don’t just stumble into this well-kept secret, hidden at the end of a gravel road off a meandering valley road. But those who find it make it worth their time. Located at the extreme western edge of the Smokies, Abrams Creek Campground may be off the beaten tourist path, but nearby there are plenty of footpaths, as well as a few other activities. Located in a wooded flat along a tranquil section of Abrams Creek, this intimate campground provides a relaxing setting not found in most national park campgrounds. The 16 sites are usually filled only on weekends and holidays.
Tallassee, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Part of the Army Corps of Engineer’s Anderson Road Recreation Area, Anderson Road Campground is a wooded oasis in the fast-growing area near Percy Priest Lake. Not only is it a refuge, it is a darn good one, especially for tent campers! These lakefront sites, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, are in great shape, but on 10 have electricity. This keeps out the RVs and leaves the beautiful cedar-wooded peninsula for us alone. The 1.3-mile Fitness Trail is part of the Anderson Road Recreation Area complex. The recreation area also has a swimming beach that is popular with campers and day visitors.
Nashville, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Backbone rock is a narrow, tall sandstone spine around which Beaverdam Creek flows. The rising mountain ridges, geologic beauty, and mountain stream conspire to create a scenic setting. The small campground stands alongside bubbly Beaverdam Creek. A paved road makes a simple one-way loop through an attractive wooded flat, the kind of place you would want to camp. After being acquired by the Cherokee National Forest, Backbone Rock was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today we have a campground, picnic area, and fun trails to hike, with a historic theme.
Bristol, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
The National Park Service is catching on quite nicely. It realizes there are two divergent groups that use campgrounds: tent campers and RVers. Here at Bandy Creek Campground, the Park Service has designated a tents-only loop that places compatible groups together. This is a good thing, because having a recommended campground in the Big South Fork completes the outdoor package. Protected since 1974, the Big South Fork features wild rivers, steep gorges, thick forests, and human history set atop the Cumberland Plateau. A well-developed trail system departs directly from the campground, making an exploration of the Big South Fork easy. There are also opportunities for mountain biking, canoeing, fishing, and rafting.
Oneida, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Big Hill pond state park is the best-kept secret in West Tennessee. The park was created in part because of its wetlands, which lie in the floodplain of the Tuscumbia River. But this park is not all about wetlands, for Big Hill Pond mostly has steep hills broken by rock outcrops hovering over sharp, wooded ravines. A walk on any of the 30 miles of trails here will testify to that. The entire trail system, with loop possibilities ideal for day hikers, is special enough to have been designated a National Recreation Trail. And when darkness comes, you will find that the campground was seemingly designed with tent campers in mind. The 30-site campground is set on a ridge above Dismal Branch. This rolling backdrop offers vertical variation to your camping opportunities.
Selmer, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Bledsoe Creek is a wooded refuge from the ever-escalating pace in Nashville. Life was far different two hundred years ago. At Bledsoe Creek State Park, you can explore what it was like back then while enjoying the modern recreation of this state park set on the shores of Old Hickory Lake. The campground has been completely revamped. What once was a hodgepodge of crowded sites has been turned into an organized affair. Nearly half the old campsites were removed. A ramp at the campground makes it easy to launch a boat. Fish Old Hickory, or ski. Most anglers go for the crappie, bluegill, bass, and catfish. You can also fish from the campground’s dock.
Gallatin, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
If Cardens Bluff were private land it would go for big, big bucks-the scenery is that outstanding. Luckily for us tent campers, we can overnight here for ten bucks a shot. Tall mountains rise from the clear blue-green water of Watauga Lake. The camping area stands on a peninsula jutting into the dammed Watauga River. To make a good thing even better, the forest service has improved the campground by revamping old sites and adding walk-in tent sites and a new bathhouse with showers. To make a good thing even better, Watauga Lake offers a swim beach, boat ramp, and hiking trails that meander through the nearby Pond Mountain Wilderness. However, Cardens Bluff is such an appealing campground that you may not even want to leave your site.
Hampton, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Cedars of Lebanon State Park doubles as a recreation getaway and a preserve for a unique remnant of cedar forest native to Tennessee. As nearby Nashville grows, these 9,000 acres will become even more valuable. Tent campers will value this campground , which has a loop that allows tents, pop-ups, and vans only; RV campers have their own area. Developed recreation, such as a pool and game courts, lie near the campground. Campers can also explore the cedar forests that caused this area to be preserved in the first place. There are many recreation facilities at this park, including an ultra-large swimming pool just a short walk from the campground and a disc golf course.
Lebanon, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Chickasaw state park and the surrounding Chickasaw State Forest comprise more than 14,000 acres. Part of the acreage has been developed for intense recreational use, and it is in this segment that the three state park campgrounds lie. Fortunately for us, the tent camp area is located in a picturesque, hilly section along the park’s Lake Placid. Lake Placid offers water activities just a short walk from the campground. Horse, hiking, and motor trails spill out from the state park into the adjacent state forest, offering plenty of paths to roam.
Henderson, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
The Chilhowee experience starts on the road to the campground. Forest Service Road 77 is a Forest Service–designated scenic byway that climbs 7 miles to the campground. Don’t rush the trip— pull off at one of the cleared overlooks and enjoy the view of Parksville Lake below and the mountains and valleys undulating in the distance. Once you’ve made the pull to the top and seen the campground, it’s the nearby activities that will keep you up there for a while. This mountaintop campground is a cool retreat on hot summer days. Popular with families, many of whom return year after year, Chilhowee fills up on weekends and holidays. Although there are 25 sites with electric hookups, tent camping is the norm here; the steep drive up the mountain discourages most RVs and trailers. The campground itself is spread across three distinct areas.
Benton, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Set on a slight incline in what once was pioneer farmland, this attractive terraced campground is surrounded on three sides by mountains. The large camping area is situated between the confluence of Rock Creek and Cosby Creek. A small store specializing in campers’ supplies is located nearby. Now beautifully reforested, this area is rich in Smoky Mountain history. Cosby was one of the most heavily settled areas in the Smokies before Uncle Sam began buying up land for a national park in the East. Cosby Campground is a real winner. Where else can you set up your tent in the middle of history? In the summer, naturalist programs in the campground amphitheater offer campers a chance to learn more about the area from rangers and other park personnel.
Gatlinburg, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
It seems that few of David Crockett’s real-life adventures and accomplishments overshadow the “myths” imparted by the Disney television show of the early 1960s about our Tennessee hero. The primary myth is that he was called “Davy” Crockett. In fact, he went by David, and Mr. Crockett may well have been put off by being called Davy. That was just one of the many things I learned while visiting the museum at this park that also offers outdoor recreation and some pretty decent tent camping. Crystal-clear Shoal Creek is the centerpiece of the park. It was along this creek that Crockett had a gristmill, a powder mill, and a distillery. Where you camp at this park has seen a lot of changes through the years. A flood in 1821 washed away Crockett’s creekside “empire,” and he left for West Tennessee. Developed park facilities include an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a park restaurant that overlooks 40-acre Lake Lindsey, where anglers can catch bass, bream, and catfish. If you don’t want to fish from shore, rent a park paddleboat or johnboat. Private boats and motors are not allowed.
Lawrenceburg, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Camp here to enjoy the delightful national forest that surrounds this fine campground. It can be busy on weekends, but no busier than other national forest campgrounds. There are fishing and hiking opportunities at Dennis Cove that will help you recoup some of the investment you’ve made in these public lands. They are, after all, yours to enjoy. The intimate campground is set in a small flat alongside Laurel Fork. A steep, sloped ridge and thickly wooded creek hem in the campground. There is no mistake, you are deep in the bosom of the Southern Appalachians.
Hampton, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
This park is set on the shores of Center Hill Lake, where innumerable steep, folded hills offer outstanding scenery. There is very little flat land, and this forced campground designers to construct some very unusual campsites, which ended up being the most unusual, by far, of those in the book you are reading. When glancing at the accompanying campground map, you will see that Edgar Evins State Park’s campground looks like a mere series of loops. What the map does not show is the extremely steep terrain from which large, level, wooden camping platforms supported by concrete and metal poles extend from the sloping terrain. So, you literally pitch your tent on a level platform notwithstanding that the ground recedes below you. The picnic tables are on the platform, but the upright grill and fire rings are on the land, by the platform. No smart camper would want to have his or her fire ring or grill on a wooden platform! This platform setup literally has campers hanging out in the trees. Low wooden fences border the platforms to keep you from falling off them. The experience is akin to camping on a deck looking out on the land below.
Silver Point, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Elkmont Campground is big, but so is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated at the confluence of Jakes Creek and the Little River, deeply ensconced in the bosom of the Tennessee Smokies, Elkmont has been a destination for visitors since well before the park came to be. Pre-park visitors stayed in cottages and camped where they could. Now we can camp in the park’s official campground where a national park–level experience awaits. Restrooms and water spigots are smartly spread throughout the campground. Elkmont fills during the summer months, especially holiday weekends. If you go when school is out, get reservations. October is busy too. Other than that, campsites are easily had.
Gaitlinburg, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
It is only fitting that Fall Creek Falls— considered by many to be not only Tennessee’s best state park, but one of the finest in the Southeast—would have some of the best walk-in tent campsites around. This 20,000-acre preserve is more widely known for its natural features: verdant old-growth forests, rock outcroppings, and sandstone bluffs overlooking steep gorges, and of course clear streams that fall to circular pools that give this park atop the Cumberland Plateau its name. Within this park are activities galore—if you can’t do it here, you probably can’t do it anywhere.
Pikeville, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Simply put, I love this campground. Why, you ask? It has everything that a tent camper could desire: the sites are in an attractive wooded setting and are well designed; campsite spaciousness and privacy is above average; the camp rarely fills or is even crowded; and there are many outdoor activities nearby in which to indulge. Furthermore, the campground received a complete makeover—each site was renovated and upgraded, along with the bathhouse. Enter the campground, which is divided into three loops. The upper loop occupies the highest spot on a hill. It is heavily wooded, yet is the least wooded of the three loops. Hickory, maple, and oak trees shade the spacious and well-spaced sites. Grass covers much of the loop. The apex of the loop has sites that look out over the Mississippi River through the trees. A fully equipped bathhouse stands in the center of the loop.
Covington, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Franklin state forest is one of those quiet, out-of-the-way places that seem to stay out of the public eye and are used only by locals. However, word is spreading about this mountain biking and hiking mecca where the Cumberland Plateau drops sharply into Swedens Cove to form an escarpment with far-reaching views from the trail system running along its edge. Tent campers will find the campground here quite rustic, even down to the homemade picnic tables. The Tennessee Division of Forestry will be the first to tell you they aren’t in the campground business. However, they do maintain this pretty little camp beside a small lake for those who want to explore the 7,000-acre slice of plateau country near the Alabama border.
Sherwood, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
Frozen Head is a little-known jewel of a state park tucked away in the Cumberland Mountains, a mountain range west of the Smokies. Steep, forested peaks and deep valleys pocked with rock formations characterize this area, settled in the early 1800s by farmers. But the land, so rich in coal and timber resources, was sold to the state for the establishment of the now infamous Brushy Mountain State Prison, and the resources were extracted using prison labor. If you don’t feel like hiking or relaxing, there are many other activities. Play volleyball on one of the sand courts. Throw horseshoes in one of the three pits. Shoot some basketball at the outdoor court. Check out the free equipment you need at the park office. During the summer, the 240-seat amphitheater hosts many park activities, including interpretive talks, slide shows, movies, and music concerts.
Wartburg, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:
This is a boater’s campground, which is only fitting for a camp located at Land Between The Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area. Gatlin Point Campground overlooks two lakes—Bards Lake and Lake Barkley. However, only a low dam over which a paved road is laid separates these lakes. A north-facing wooded hill overlooking both impoundments is the setting for this campground. Bards Lake, at 320 acres, is divided from Lake Barkley by the dam visible from the campground. This is a no-wake lake with a primitive gravel launch at the low point of the campground. Canoers and kayakers will especially enjoy smaller Bards Lake, which is less windy than Lake Barkley and has no current to battle.
Dover, TN - Campgrounds - Trail Length:

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