Must-Visit State Parks Near Memphis, Tennessee

Reelfoot Park was once a forest which has since flooded, meaning you’ll see cypress trees poking out from the water line
Reelfoot Park was once a forest which has since flooded, meaning you’ll see cypress trees poking out from the water line | © malgorzata litkowska / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Frank Lopez
Writer24 August 2020

The state parks of Tennessee offer green and wooded lands that have crystal lakes and tremendous waterfalls. Whichever way you wish to embrace nature, these green spaces have it covered. From biking to hiking and boating to fishing, you can choose to either visit for the day or to camp down in the woods or on the shoreline. The parks not only offer an escape from the city’s din but also an opportunity to learn about local history and the life within it. We at Culture Trip have chosen our favorite in the Memphis region for you to travel to.

John W Kyle State Park

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Only a one-hour drive from Memphis to the Sardis reservoir in Mississippi leads you to the John W Kyle State Park, where many from Memphis convene to enjoy the natural beauty and take part in all manner of outdoor activities. There is a choice of large campsites to escape to, an abundance of fish in the lake and a delightful beach area. The edges of the Sardis are a peaceful place to explore, skipping stones or looking for driftwood.

Fort Pillow State Historic Park

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Only 40mi (64km) north of Memphis lies the over 1,500 acre (607ha) Fort Pillow State Historic Park, that overlooks the Mississippi River and was a battleground during the Civil War. There is a fort found within it that was built in 1861 that is a must see as well as the accompanying museum which details its history. This is a very well-maintained park that prides itself on having a friendly park ranger presence. The campsites are of a high standard and kayaking and paddle boarding are also very popular in this peaceful setting.

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park

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Only 13mi (21km) north of Memphis, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is popular for its outdoors activities, with runners, hikers and bikers enjoying its many trails. Situated on more than 13,000 acres (5,261ha) on the Mississippi River the park is also popular with nature lovers as there is an abundance of wildlife. Bird spotters travel to see the many spectacular species that make this park their home and kids will love the nature center which is filled with all kinds of reptiles. A detailed history of local Native American history is another highlight.

Reelfoot Lake State Park

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Two hours north of Memphis is a fantastic lake that was formed by the force of the Mississippi river flowing backwards from earthquakes over 200 years ago. The bird watching here is second to none (you might even see bald eagles roosting) and, as the park itself was once a forest which has now flooded, you’ll see cypress trees poking out from the water line. This is a wonderful place to observe nature, but swimming is not allowed.

Trace State Park

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Just a two-hour drive southeast of Memphis takes you to Trace State Park, a quiet and secluded escape from the bustle of everyday life. It sits 120mi (193km) north of Tupelo, Mississippi which was the birthplace of Tennessee’s golden boy Elvis Presley, while Davy Crockett was born 350mi (563km) away in Limestone.

Pickwick Landing State Park

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Pickwick Landing State Park covers 681 acres (276ha) and is a 2.5-hour drive east of Memphis. In the 1930s, it was home to the construction workers who built the Tennessee Valley Authority dam but, now known as Pickwick Village, today it is at the center of the parks’ administration. The park has a golf course with beautiful views, but the real draw is the watersports, whether it be fishing or swimming. The sandy beaches are the best spot in the summer and the kayaking is a treat.

These recommendations were updated on August 24, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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