A lot of people think of country music, Elvis, or whiskey when considering Tennessee. But I think of waterfalls. The lush green landscape rolling into the Smokey Mountains on Tennessee’s far East border is full of waterfalls and river carved rock features. This curious water carved geography as also translated into many caves to explore.
While most travel guides will direct you to Graceland and the Blue Bird Cafe. Let me entice you to explore the wild side of the Volunteer State.
One quick, practical note: it can be easy for those unacquainted to the state of Tennessee to group locations such as Graceland, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Dollywood into one cognitive and geographic box. The state of Tennessee may account for a small block from North to South, but it is a very wide state. A drive from Graceland to Dollywood will take the better part of a day. When planning a trip, be sure to allow for enough travel time.
Tennessee has a wide and wonderful collection of parks all the way down to the county level. Smokey Mountains National Park comes easily to mind and deserves a visit but so do many less known parks throughout the state.
Tennessee is a wonderful state for hiking, though finding a trail with a view can be a challenge.
The regular rainfall and humidity on this relatively flat state means that most potential vista points are obscured by trees. So, rather than looking for mountain hikes, we tend to focus on waterfall hikes.
When hiking, keep in mind that a lot of the rock you will encounter is sedimentary and can easily crumble. Stay away from cliffs. While much of the state is developed, stay aware of black bears, rattle snakes, and the brown recluse. It’s generally a good rule to not reach into things that you cannot see.
The lush geography of Tennessee means that many sites come with lots of shade and often can offer a fare bit of privacy. Grounds do tend to be more built out than their western cousins, catering more to large RVs than smaller rigs and tent campers.
Unlike a many states out west, there is relatively little federal land to camp on. Boondocking options are much more limited. In most cases, you will need some kind of developed camp ground to stay in.
Visiting the Smokey Mountains can be a little more complicated than many other National parts given the lack of boondocking options in land outside of the park, making competition for the limited spaces in the park more fierce.