As the weather cools off and the leaves begin to change color, there is no better time of year in Tennessee to make a trek to one of the state’s most breathtaking parks. While Nashville contains many green spaces and parks that are perfect for a quick daytime getaway, if you have a little bit more time to spend, consider journeying outside of Music City to discover the gorgeous swaths of land that the rest of the state has to offer.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located on the edge of the Tennessee/North Carolina border, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the entire country; in 2010 alone, over nine million tourists and 11 million non-recreational visitors took a trip to the park, which was over twice as many visitors than at the Grand Canyon. This 500,000-plus acre park is full of a wide range of different plant and animal species in addition to a dizzying array of activities and sights to see. Spend a day hiking the crests of the park’s mountains, weave your way through the park to find one of its many waterfalls, or visit one of the many historical buildings preserved within the park. No matter what you do, you can guarantee an unparalleled view of autumnal Tennessee.
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The most visited state park in Tennessee, Fall Creek Falls, encompasses over 26,000 acres of land atop the Cumberland Plateau. In addition to the acres of land filled with towering timber trees, the park is also home to Fall Creek Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the entire eastern portion of the country. The park offers numerous daytime activities (from hiking and golfing to horseback riding) as well as overnight options for more adventurous travelers. Submerge yourself in nature by embarking upon one of the park’s two overnight hiking trails or camp out at one of the park’s 222 campsites for a truly immersive retreat this fall.
Located on the northeastern edge of Tennessee, Roan Mountain State Park is nestled in the Blue Ridge portion of the Appalachian Mountains and contains over 2,000 acres of beautiful hardwood forests. In addition to the park’s 30 cabins and over 100 different campsites, visitors to Roan Mountain can enjoy 12-plus miles of hiking trails and 2.25 miles of biking trails (as well as outdoor swimming in the warm summer months and cross-country skiing in the winter). The park is also home to the Miller Farmstead, a historic farm built over a century ago that can still be visited today.
Established in 1974 as both a National River and a National Recreation Area, Big South Fork is one of the most scenic spots in the entire state of Tennessee. In addition to the miles of gorges and sandstone bluffs, Big South Fork also boasts numerous winding hiking trails, an abundance of whitewater paddling options (along the Cumberland River and its tributaries) and five developed campgrounds for overnight stay. In addition, the park partners with the University of Tennessee to offer periodic stargazing astronomy programs for a different (but equally magnificent) type of natural view.
While at just 841 acres, Paris Landing State Park is smaller than many of its other Tennessee state and national park counterparts, but this northwestern Tennessee green space is full of spectacular natural views and outdoor activities that are perfect for any fall getaway. Located on the western shore of the Tennessee River, at Paris Landing you can make the most of the last bit of warm weather before the temperatures dip for the year by engaging in one of the park’s many available water sports (such as fishing, boating and swimming), in addition to a wide array of inland activities including golf, hiking, and indoor or outdoor camping.