Tennessee—also known as the “Volunteer State”—is as generous as its nickname suggests, especially when it comes to scenic camping. From the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the depths of the Fall Creek Falls gorge in West Tennessee, there’s plenty of journeying to be done in this elongated state. And for the outdoors-minded, these places to camp in Tennessee are the best way to see it all.

The Dyrt Campers Share Their Favorite Places to Camp in Tennessee

We could wax poetic all day about the stunning natural beauty of Tennessee. But don’t take our word for it, here’s some of the favorite places to camp in Tennessee, reviewed straight from the first-hand experiences of campers on The Dyrt.

1. Natchez Trace State Park 

a pier in tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains are a major draw for East Tennessee camping, but the west side of the state has a natural beauty all its own. At Natchez Trace State Park, you can choose from 206 campsites and five cabins. Each campsite has a grill, fire ring, and table. Backcountry camping is also an option with a permit.

The 10,154-acre park is home to four lakes, a swimming beach, and a wrangler campsite, all shrouded in preserved woods. You can hike, bike, boat, swim, or horseback ride through the pristine natural wilderness of West Tennessee.

“We loved this little area – we had it all to ourselves! There is so much accessible water to take a dip in or even kayak if you had the time. We were just looking for a place to relax between Johnson City and Hot Springs.” –The Dyrt camper Molly G.

2. Cosby  Campground

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park had a record year in 2017, welcoming over 11 million people. It’s little wonder why the Smokies are such a popular camping and hiking destination, but with its growing popularity it can be tough to get away from the crowds and actually commune with nature.

Until you find a spot like Cosby Campground. It’s tucked away, and mostly only visited by locals. But that doesn’t mean it sacrifices on views and activities. You can access trails to Hen Wallow Falls, Sutton Ridge Overlook, or for more advanced hikers, the 10.6-mile hike to Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower, and the 13-mile Low Gap - Appalachian Trail - Snake Den Trail Loop.

Cosby is 157 developed sites of front-country camping with a backcountry feel. Each campsite includes a fire grate and picnic table.

“Cosby is the by far the most secluded and private campground in the Smokies. While there is lack of waterfront sites it is much more peaceful than any of the others … Also the best hidden jewel nearby is Carver Orchard and Applehouse.”  – The Dyrt camper Monica P.

3. Piney Campground – LBL

a tent on a lakeshore campground in Tennessee

Image from Shutterstock

As one of the many places to camp in the Tennessee side of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Piney Campground is part of the conservation effort to preserve natural fish and wildlife habitats. You can camp lakefront or in the company of the forest at one of their 384 designated sites, with options for RV hookups.

At Piney, campers journey along the same trails as Civil War soldiers, shoot at the archery range, and take a breather at the fishing pier, among other activities. Mid-September is the perfect time to plan a trip that coincides with the campground’s annual Camper’s Fair.

“I have camped at this camp ground since I was a little girl. I now have a family of my own and this is where we go camping at. It is very family oriented and they have activities thru out the camping season for the kids and adults. It is always clean and well maintained.” —The Dyrt camper Windy W. 

4. Watauga Dam Tailwater

Watauga Dam Tailwater campground is at the convergence of the Cherokee National Forest, Watauga River, and the Appalachian Mountains, each home to some of the best campgrounds in Tennessee. The campsite is managed by Recreation Resource Management and offers 29 plots that have electric hookups, as well as on-site bathrooms and showers.

Just below the dam, you can take a rare glimpse at wintering fowl at the wildlife observation area. All kinds of bass, trout, and catfish swim the Watauga River for some of the best fishing in the region. It’s also along the Appalachian Trail, so expect a few weary hikers to stop by.

“This is a quiet campground on a small reservoir lake between two dams. The water is crystal clear but runs between 45-55°, so swimming is not an option. It’s stocked with trout and I always have good luck fishing there. The campground has canoes and kayaks if you don’t have your own.” —The Dyrt camper Danna F.

5. The Walls of Jericho Primitive Camping

Trek in the same footsteps as Tennessee folk hero Davy Crockett on the Tennessee-side of the Walls of Jericho. But to walk amongst the legend, you’re going to have to rough it. Only primitive camping is available along The Walls of Jericho. The name comes from a 17th century preacher who was so in awe of the place that he gave it a biblical title, and performed baptisms in the water. Spend a day walking along the rugged seven mile trail of canyon, river, and waterfalls, and you might get a little inspired too.

It’s a bit of a lengthy walk to get back to the campsite from the trailhead, but it’s absolutely worth it. The campground is flat & has enough room for a couple tents. There are also good trees for hanging hammocks & clotheslines. There are two fire pits so you can have your pick depending on where you set up camp.” —The Dyrt camper Emily B.

6. Fall Creek Falls State Park

a split image of a circular canyon with waterfall and people climbing a rock wall near a swimming hole

Image from The Dyrt camper Brittany S.

Redundancies aside, Fall Creek Falls is a site to behold. The water cascades in a spectacular 256-foot drop into the gorge, making it the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River (and one of the most scenic places to camp in Tennessee.) The 26,000-acre terrain sprawls across the Cumberland Plateau, the longest forested plateau in the world, and its trails can take you to staggering drop-offs and overlooks.

The largest of campgrounds in Tennessee holds 222 campsites with grills, water, and electricity, and prepared food is available at The Village pool snack bar. RVs are welcome at the 92 sites that have sewer connections. If you’re looking to get a little closer to nature, there are 16 primitive campgrounds around the site.

This is hands down one of my favorite camp grounds. The entire area was super relaxed and was also a great place to hike. All the trails where very family friendly and the views were all breath taking. The staff was great and very helpful to find activities.” —The Dyrt camper Joshua G.

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