30 of the Best Places to Go Camping in Tennessee

Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Camping in Tennessee is a great way to explore the staggering amount of natural beauty the state has to offer.

With a wide variety of campgrounds to choose from, from rustic tent sites to RV parks with full amenities as well as free dispersed areas, there’s a little something available for campers of all needs and preferences. 

Whether you want to camp in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the eastern edge of the state or along the Mississippi River on its western border (or anywhere in between), the Volunteer State has you covered.

Although summer is the go-to season for the best camping in Tennessee, spring and fall or even winter are all excellent times to enjoy the countless camping opportunities.

Here are 30 of the best places to go camping in Tennessee.

Index

  1. Tent Camping
  2. RV Camping
  3. Free Camping
  4. Winter Camping
  5. Gear You’ll Need

Best Tent Camping in Tennessee

Interested in tent camping in Tennessee? Rest assured that you have plenty of options to choose from. The state is filled with dozens of tent campgrounds in the mountains, near rivers and lakes, in the middle of dense forests, and more.

Here are 10 of the best places to go tent camping in Tennessee.

1.     Cades Cove Campground

Cades Cove Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee

It’s hard to beat a stay at Cades Cove Campground when exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Home to some of the best frontcountry camping in the national park, Cades Cove boasts 159 camp sites that are open year-round. It’s suitable for trailers up to 35’ and RVs up to 40’, although it doesn’t have any RV hookups (a dump station is available).

But the real reason to camp at this Tennessee campground is to take in the scenic beauty of the surrounding Cades Cove valley. Take in historic structures, like the John Oliver Cabin and the John Cable Grist Mill, and don’t forget to tour the 11-mile Cades Cove loop road.

2.     Abram’s Creek Campground

Abrams Creek Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Abram’s Creek is another excellent Tennessee campground for camping in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Located in one of the more remote sections of the national park, a stay at Abram’s Creek is relatively private and secluded. In addition to its remote location, this campground has just 16 total campsites and only allows RVs up to 12’. Despite its rustic nature, modern flush toilets and drinking water are available.

The Abram’s Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is notable for its excellent fly fishing opportunities. The nearby Abram’s Waterfall, accessible via the 8-mile roundtrip Little Bottoms Trail, is also worth a look.

3.     Edgar Evins State Park

Edgar Evins State Park in Tennessee

Camping at Edgar Evins State Park on the Eastern Highland Rim is a Tennessee outdoor experience unlike any other.

Set on the edge of beautiful Center Hill Lake, the state park is notable for its varied outdoor activities, including boating and fishing, in addition to its camping. It boasts a single campground with 60 sites suitable for tents and small trailers/RVs. Hookups are available as well as wooden tent platforms. Bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers are offered at three locations through the campground.  

Another lodging option is to rent one of 34 modern cabins. Also design and layouts vary slightly from room to room, most have a bathroom, full kitchen, and comfortable sleeping area. 

4.     Harrison Bay State Park

Harrison Bay State Park in Tennessee

Camping at Chickamauga Lake doesn’t get much better than a stay at Harrison Bay State Park.

At nearly 60 miles long, Chickamauga Lake is one of the most popular places for water recreation in Tennessee. Popular activities include boating, fishing, paddling, swimming, and more. Fans of golfing love the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

Although dozens of campgrounds are available in the area, Harrison Bay State Park is notable for its lakeside location. It spans nearly 40 miles of Chickamauga Lake’s shore. The campground only has 27 tent campsites but making a reservation is well worth it. There are also 128 additional RV campsites with full hookups.

5.     Frozen Head State Park

Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee

You’ll be hard-pressed to find better primitive camping in Tennessee than the campground at Frozen Head State Park.

Located in the Crab Orchard Mountains, this expansive state park is a hotspot for hiking and backpacking. It’s also recognized by the National Autobahn Society as one of the best places for birding in Tennessee.

Camping is scattered throughout the Big Cove area of the state park. There are 20 tent sites plus two group camping areas. Although the location and the sites are primitive, a modern bathroom with hot showers, flush toilets, and drinking water is available. There are also 10 backcountry campsites reserved for overnight backpackers.

6.     Backbone Rock Recreation Area

Backbone Rock in Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee

Take a trip to the Backbone Rock Recreation Area of the Cherokee National Forest for some of the best primitive camping in Tennessee.

It might be small with just 10 campsites, but Backbone Rock Campground is well worth a visit. The shady forested area is located just steps from Beaverdam Creek. Flush toilets are available onsite for an added layer of comfort despite the wilderness location.

Many campers enjoy fishing in the nearby creek. It’s stocked with trout every year so there are plenty of fish to go around. The famous Appalachian Trail passes nearby. It’s a popular place for a day hike while camping at Backbone Rock.

7.     J. Percy Priest Lake

J Percy Priest Lake Fishing in Tennessee

Formed by the J. Percy Priest Dam, J. Percy Priest Lake is a popular place for camping near Nashville.

Three campgrounds are located near the lake, all operated by the Natural Resources Management Office. Anderson Road Campground has 36 campsites, Poole Knobs Campground has 88 campsites, and Seven Points Campground has 60 campsites. Although all three campgrounds offer a combination of tent and RV camping, Anderson Road is best for tent campers that desire a primitive camping experience.

Most area activities are built around the lake. For instance, J. Percy Priest Lake is popular for boating, fishing, and swimming. But there are also plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking, and horseback riding in the area.

8.     Elkmont Campground

Elkmont in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Elkmont Campground is notable as the largest campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Not only is it the center of national park activity, it’s also the closest campground to the bustling town of Gatlinburg (home to popular tourist attractions like the Gatlinburg Space Needle). The Little River and Jakes Creek meander through the campground with riverside campsites among the most sought after of all. 

Even though it has over 200 total campsites (suitable for trailers up to 32’ and RVs up to 40’), Elkmont Campground fills up fast – so make reservations well in advance.

9.     Tims Ford State Park

Tims Ford State Park in Tennessee

Tent camping in Tennessee doesn’t get much better than Tims Ford State Park on the Cumberland Plateau.

Located between Nashville and Chatanooga near the small town of Winchester, this Tennessee state park is situated along the shore of Tims Ford Lake. Much of the park is mountainous and hilly except for the region near the shore of the lake. In addition to boating, hiking, and fishing, many visitors like to play a round of golf at the Bear Trace at Tims Ford, a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

Tims Ford State Park has two campgrounds to choose from. The main campground has 52 sites suitable for both tents and RVs while the Fairview Campground has 82 sites that are best suited for RVs although tent camping is allowed. Additional camping is available at six paddle-in sites on nearby islands, 10 sits in a primitive tent camping area, and a backcountry site that requires a six mile walk to reach. Modern cabin rentals are also available.

10.  Greenbrier Campground

Greenbrier in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Not everyone that visits the Great Smoky Mountains wants to stay in the national park itself – that’s where Greenbrier Campground comes into the picture.

Just minutes from the Greenbrier Entrance, Greenbrier Campground is still an excellent homebase for exploring the park as well as Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. Within the campground itself, opportunities for fishing, hiking, and horseback riding and bountiful.

Although it’s primarily a RV campground with 120 full hookup RV sites total, tent camping at Greenbrier is a truly unique experience. 15 tent sites are spread across two forested camping areas, including six on a small island completely surrounded by the waters of the Little Pigeon River. Several cabin rentals are also available.


Best RV Camping in Tennessee

Tent camping isn’t for everyone. Luckily, Tennessee is also an excellent place for RV camping whether you prefer a full-fledged RV park or simply an RV site in a more secluded setting.

You don’t even need an RV of your own. Rent an RV from our partners at Outdoorsy or RVshare and take to the roads of Tennessee in style. Our RV rental tool will help you find the best RV rentals near you. Don’t forget to check out our guide to renting your first RV’ while you’re at it!

Here are 10 of the best places to go RV camping in Tennessee.

1.     Smoky Bear Campground & RV Park

Smoky Bear Campground in Tennnessee

The Smoky Bear Campground & RV Park is one of the premier places to go RV camping in Tennessee, bar none.

Thanks to its convenient location in Gatlinburg, this Tennessee RV park is an ideal place for exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It boasts 46 full hookup RV sites with plenty of pull-thru spaces. Tent camping and cabin rentals are also available.

Additional amenities include bathrooms with hot showers, free cable and Wi-Fi, and a clubhouse that’s perfect for family reunions. Kids love the heated pool and playground. An on-site dog park is perfect for those RV camping with dogs.

2.     Nashville KOA

Nashville Skyline

The Nashville KOA is an ideal RV campground for exploring Nashville and surrounding Tennessee.

The incredibly convenient location is just three miles from the famous Grand Ole Opry and other unforgettable Music City attractions. An on-site concierge will help you make all of your sightseeing plans.

The campground itself has plenty of RV sites with full hookups, a large tent camping area, and cabin rentals. A large pool plus an activity park with playground, lawn games, sports court, and more is ideal for people of all ages. Summertime brings with it additional activities like ice cream socials and outdoor movie nights.

3.     Chattanooga North/Cleveland KOA

Chattanooga Skyline

Make the Chattanooga North/Cleveland KOA your homebase for exploring Chattanooga in the southeastern part of Tennessee.

This RV campground has the standard mix of KOA campsites: RV spots with full hookups (including pull-thru sites), a tent camping area, and cabin rentals. The shaded forested location is surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau.

While enjoying your stay at this Tennessee RV park, don’t forget to check out nearby Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls. Many visitors also head to the Ocoee River for some of the best whitewater rafting in the state.

4.     Anchor Down RV Resort

Douglas Lake Near Anchor Down RV Campground in Tennessee

Anchor Down RV Resort is one of the best places for RV camping in Tennessee for discovering Douglas Lake and beyond.

Well under an hour to Knoxville and less than an hour to Great Smoky Mountains, this Tennessee RV park is ideal for all travelers. It has 170 RV sites with full hookups, including plenty of pull-thru spaces.

Not only is there plenty of space for even the largest RVs, but Anchor Down RV Resort is among the most modern RV campgrounds in Tennessee. It’s one of the newest RV parks in the state with sparkling clean facilities. And that’s not to mention the amenities and visitor activities galore.

5.     Fall Creek Falls State Park

Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee

Not all RV campers want a full-blown RV park experience. Many prefer a more rustic and secluded style of RV camping.

That’s where Fall Creek Falls State Park enters the picture. As the most visited state park in Tennessee, it boasts over 200 campsites spread across 5 camping areas. In addition to dozens of primitive tent sites, at least half of the sites accommodate RVs. These have full utilities with other amenities (including modern bathrooms) on site. Some of these RV sites are suitable for RVs up to 65’ in length.

But that’s not all. Fall Creek Falls State Park also has a swimming pool and snack bar specifically for campers. Other area activities include hiking, fishing, rock climbing, golfing, and more. There’s even an inn (Inn at Fall Creek Falls) as well as cabin rentals.

6.     Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

A stay at Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA is a great way to start your Great Smoky Mountains camping trip.

This top-rated Tennessee KOA is conveniently located close to everything that Pigeon Forge has to offer. Although there are over 70 attractions in town, the highlight is definitely Dollywood, a bustling theme park and water park. Of course, there are also plenty of outdoor centric activities in the area as well, such as bicycling, hiking, and fishing.

As for the KOA itself, it boasts a huge selection of RV sites with full hookups, a grassy tent camping area, and cabin rentals. Wi-Fi is available throughout the campground. A swimming pool, snack bar, dog park, and playground are all located on site.

7.     Townsend/Great Smokies KOA

Sunrise Near Townsend in Tennessee

Another top-rated KOA for RV camping in Tennessee, the Townsend/Great Smokies KOA is nestled in a peaceful, rustic outdoor setting.

It has dozens of RV sites with full hookups. Many of these are pull-thru. Upgraded RV sites are also available with spacious patios. Other options include a grassy tent camping area and cabin rentals. Like most KOAs, there are plenty of additional amenities, including a swimming pool and summertime campground activities, to keep you comfortable.

In addition to nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, don’t forget to check out the nearby tubing on the Little River (tube rentals are available at the KOA) and the Laurel Valley Golf Course during your stay.

8.     Deer Run RV Resort

RV Camping in Tennessee

Enjoy visiting the Cumberland Plateau while staying at Deer Run RV Resort in Crossville, Tennessee.

At over 200 acres total, this RV campground has plenty of room to spread around. It contains 75 RV campsites with full hookups as well as cabin rentals. A 25-acre lake is the perfect place for fishing.

Many past visitors consider Deer Run RV Resort to be one of the best RV parks in Tennessee thanks to its family-friendly atmosphere, picturesque location, and countless amenities (including Sunday Chapel Service!).

9.     Riverside RV Park and Resort

Sevierville in Tennessee

Located in east Tennessee near the town of Sevierville, Riverside RV Park and Resort is a popular RV park for those visiting Great Smoky Mountains.

It has over 300 RV sites with full hookups. These consist of a good mix of back-in and pull-thru sites. A large grassy tent camping area as well as cabin rentals are also available. Most of the RV sites are shaded and some even come with patios.

In addition to Great Smoky Mountains, Riverside RV Park and Resort is located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from word-class golf courses, fishing holes, and hiking trails.

10.  Clarksville RV Park and Campground

Elderly Couple in Front of their RV

Another one of the best RV campgrounds in Tennessee, Clarksville RV Park and Campground is extremely clean and convenient for exploring Tennessee as well as nearby Kentucky.

It has over 65 RV sites with full hookups. The vast majority of these are shaded thanks to large, leafy trees planted throughout the park. A pool, clean bathrooms with showers, free Wi-Fi, and an on-site general store are additional amenities. Shaded tent camping sites and modern cabin rentals are also available.

While enjoying your stay at Clarksville RV Park, don’t forget to check out nearby Mammoth Caves and Lake Between the Lakes Recreation Area, both just minutes away in Kentucky.


Best Free Camping in Tennessee

Camping for free isn’t only about saving money (although that’s nice too), it’s also about privacy. The best free camping in Tennessee is often more secluded than many modern campgrounds if you know where to look.

However, know that most free campsites are located in dispersed camping areas. Most are very primitive with no toilets, running water, or other amenities available. Some even require 4-wheel drive to access (although others are accessible by all vehicles as well as RVs). Our free camping guide has even more free camping tips!

Here are 5 of the best places to go free camping in Tennessee.

1.     Laurel Hill Lake WMA

Rain on Rocks nEar Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

Laurel Hill Lake is a wildlife management area that spans nearly 15,000 acres near the town of Lawrenceburg.

A free campground is located near the small pond by the store. Do note, however, that because this campground is geared towards fishermen, a fishing license is required. These are available for sale (three-day or full-season pass) at the nearby store. Although this negates the “free” aspect of this campground, it’s still worth a visit if you plan on fishing anyways.

As for the campground itself, Laurel Hill Lake is quiet and peaceful. The forested setting is popular for hiking, horseback riding, and ATV riding in addition to fishing.

2.     Paint Creek Corridor  

Beautiful Red Barn in Tennessee

Another one of the best free campgrounds in Tennessee, the area around Paint Creek Corridor has several dispersed sites.

Even though this is dispersed camping, it’s important that you only camp in designated sites (typically a pull-off with a fire ring). Because of the popular location and small number of sites (around 6 total), it’s important to arrive early, especially on weekends, to secure a camp spot. This free camping area is not suitable for RVs.

The drive in to the campground is just as beautiful as the campsites themselves. The nearby creek is excellent for swimming during the summer. This is a good location for exploring Great Smoky Mountains as well as Hot Springs, North Carolina.

3.     Prentice Cooper State Forest

Prentice Cooper State Forest Lookout in Tennessee

Prentice Cooper State Forest is located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Chattanooga.

A very popular place for outdoor recreation among residents of Chattanooga, there are also several options for free dispersed camping. The entire camping area is basic with nothing in the way of amenities. Most of the actual campsites are only suitable for tents, although there is a large gravel area for RVs and campers to park.

Don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes when you stay at Prentice Cooper. Miles of fantastic hiking trails are available. The 6-mile out-and-back trail to Snoopers Rock is one of the most popular (and the view from the end just can’t be beat!).

4.     Meriwether Lewis Campground

Waterfall in Natchez Trace in Tennessee

The Meriwether Lewis Campground is located near the Meriwether Lewis Site on the Natchez Trace.

Part of the Meriwether Lewis National Monument, this area is notable as the place where the famous explorer is buried. Visit the gravesite during your stay. You’ll also enjoy roaming around in the woods on miles of nearby hiking trails.

The campground itself is home to some of the best camping in Tennessee – free or otherwise. There are about 32 well-kept sites, suitable for small RVs and tents. No hookups are available although most campsites are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings. Best of all, there are modern restrooms, running water, and trash services at the campground!

5.     Citico Creek

View at Sunset in Cherokee National Forest

Located in the Cherokee National Forest near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Citico Creek is yet another top-notch place for free camping in Tennessee.

The entire Citico Creek Area is set aside for dispersed camping, although you must camp only in designated areas. Most of the free campsites are small and private. Arrive early to score a campsite near the creek. No amenities are available but bathrooms and running water can be found in nearby modern campgrounds.

The Citico Creek portion of the Cherokee National Forest is also very popular for hiking, birdwatching, horseback riding, and more.


Best Winter Camping in Tennessee

As a southern state, Tennessee winters are relatively mild. Yet there’s still the chance of snow (especially at higher elevations in the mountains) as well as temperatures well below freezing at night.

That said, winter camping in Tennessee is 100% possible – not to mention a whole lot of fun if you have the right gear like a cold-weather sleeping bag and four-season tent. To keep your tent even toastier, a winter tent heater is also a must.

Here are 5 of the best places to go winter camping in Tennessee.

1.     Rock Island State Park

Rock Island State Park in Tennessee

Rock Island State Park is great to explore at any time of the year, but it’s a truly special place for winter camping in Tennessee.

It has two campgrounds but just 20 campsites (out of 50) in the main campground are open year-round. The year-round campsites all have full RV hookups, although they can also be used by intrepid tent campers. Several cabin rentals are also available for those that prefer glamping in the winter.

One of the best reasons to camp at Rock Island State Park in the winter is for the silence and solitude. In the coldest part of the winter, there’s even the chance to see frozen waterfalls.

2.     David Crockett State Park

David Crockett State Park in Tennessee

David Crockett State Park is another popular Tennessee state park open for year-round camping.

Named after American folk hero Davy Crockett, often called “the Kind of the Wild Frontier,” this state park is located in the southern part of the state. It has two main campgrounds with the second staying open for year-round use. Cabin rentals are also available.

The winter campground has 52 total campsites with full RV hookups. Both tent camping and RV camping are allowed at these sites during the winter.  

3.     Roan Mountain State Park

Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee

Roan Mountain State Park is high among the most beautiful places to camp in Tennessee during the winter.

Located at the base of soaring Roan Mountain (6,285’ tall), the state park is a forested wonderland spanning for nearly 2,000 acres. In the winter, most of the trees lose their leaves, opening up already breathtaking views to even great distances.

Roan Mountain State Park has 107 total campsites open for winter. 87 of these are RV sites with RV hookups while the remaining 20 are primitive tent sites. Modern cabin rentals are another popular way to enjoy this Tennessee paradise.

4.     Pickett CCC Memorial State Park

Snow on Fence in Tennessee

If you’re gearing up for winter camping in Tennessee, there are few better options than Picket CCC Memorial State Park.

Part of the larger Picket State Forest and adjacent to the expansive Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, it’s one of the best places to explore the outdoors in the entire state of Tennessee. In addition to much smaller crowds, winter also brings with it nearly unbeatable dark sky viewing opportunities.

Winter camping is available in 31 campsites in the main campground. These all have basic amenities, including water hookups. 20 of the sites also have electric hookups. A handful of cabin rentals are also available (usually at a reduced rate in winter).

5.     Natchez Trace State Park

Natchez Trace State Park in Tennessee

Enjoy a winter excursion into the great outdoors at Natchez Trace State Park.

This state park has three campgrounds plus a backcountry camping area. However, only two of the campgrounds remain open year-round. These are Pine Oak Campground and Wrangler Campground, offering a mix of tent and RV sites.

Like most state park campgrounds in Tennessee, you also have the option for winter cabin rentals. Natchez Trace State Park even has an inn for those that prefer the most comfortable lodging possible.  


Gear You’ll Need for Camping in Tennessee

The right gear and equipment are essential to the success of any Tennessee camping trip.

Start with our family camping checklist, hammock camping checklist, or backpacking guide depending on the specifics of your trip – if you’re bringing your four-legged friend along, our guide to camping with dogs is another must read!

Of course, you also need to pack the essentials. In addition to the 10 essentials, most campers need at least a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad for their trip. And don’t forget your camping lanterns!

As far as food storage and cooking goes, a quality camping cooler and a camping stove (or a backpacking stove) are essential. Our extensive camping food and recipe resources will further help point you in the right direction.

Among our most popular posts for cooking while camping are our best make-ahead camp meals, top backpacking meals, and guide to RV meal planning.

For more remote Tennessee camping trips, especially long-term stays, a camping toilet and a camping shower are nice to have. The same goes for a knowledge of camping hygiene.

You might even want to consider a camping solar power or portable power source for camping to keep all of your devices charged, whether you’re car camping or backpacking. Many RV campers even like to have a backup power source just in case of emergencies. 

Don’t want to buy all of this camping gear yourself? Our friends at Outdoors Geek offer a variety of different camping gear rental packages from just the basics up to a fully-fledged kit complete with everything you need for a week-long Tennessee camping trip.


Find Other Great Campgrounds Near You

Campfire Camping in Tennessee

Don’t limit your camping adventures to just Tennessee! Here are a few more of our best state camping guides for you to explore:

And, like always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions about finding the best campgrounds in Tennessee for your next trip!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here