The energy of the city can be invigorating, but enjoying the abundance of fresh Tennessee air and the quiet serenity of nature does the soul good. Tennessee is home to 56 gorgeous state parks, many accessible from Nashville. A walk in the woods or a swim in a lake is just a stone’s throw from downtown. Escape to the great outdoors with a day trip to one of the amazing state parks below, all within a 2.5-hour drive from Nashville.
Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville is about two hours from downtown Nashville. Head here for stunning views of Ozone Falls. The falls plunges 110 feet over a sandstone cap rock into a rock-strewn pool. The picturesque waterfall was even part of the filming scenes for the movie, "Jungle Book." A rock house "amphitheater" provides the backdrop for the falls. The state park has an on-site restaurant, mountain biking trails, paddling opportunities and cabins, tent camping and RV sites.
Tucked among more than 14,000 acres of state forest, Chickasaw State Park offers relaxing lake views, high viewing points, lots of bird watching and the chance to cultivate some serious inner peace. One of Chickasaw’s most treasured features is Lake Placid, which you can enjoy via rowboat or paddleboat. (Naturally, swimming is also part of the equation.) Another favorite activity at Chickasaw is horseback riding. Visitors can visit the park’s stables and take a horse out for a journey on a peaceful guided trail. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to exercise more, Chickasaw has more than 4 miles of hiking trails and plenty of bike-friendly roads to help you out with that. Chickasaw is a 2.5-hour drive from Nashville, making it the ideal destination for an active, outdoorsy day trip.
The easy-to-access Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown Nashville, next to the Farmer’s Market, is filled with Tennessee’s history, natural wonders and is a permanent monument to Tennessee’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1996. Here, you can walk the 19-acre park and discover the 200-foot granite state map, a Pathway of History, the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains, a 95-Bell Carillon and a World War II Memorial. Native plant species are planted in 11 planters along the Walkway of Counties. Check the state park’s calendar of events to see if your visit coincides with a concert in the 2,000-seat amphitheater that offers breathtaking views of the skyline or with an event that is hosted on the expansive green space.
This 353-acre park sits on the beautiful shores of Chickamauga Lake in Chattanooga, 2.5 hours from Nashville. Booker T. Washington State Park is a great place for water lovers, with an Olympic-size swimming pool, waterfront picnic areas, a boat launch ramp and a massive fishing pier. (It’s not uncommon to catch a 10-pound fish in these parts, so be prepared.) If you prefer to get your nature kicks on land, you’ll love the park’s walking trail or its 6-mile mountain biking trail. The trail is a bit of a challenge for some bikers, but if you’re up for it, it’s absolutely worth the rush.
Founded in 1945, Paris Landing State Park on the banks of the Tennessee River was a prime trading and delivery area in past centuries. The park, which is about two hours from Nashville, also provides access to Kentucky Lake, so it’s a wonderful destination for water sports aficionados. Paris Landing is a great place to spend a summer afternoon waterskiing, swimming, boating, fishing or floating in the pool. When you make it back to shore, you can enjoy the park’s beach volleyball court as you bask in the sun. Paris Landing also offers land-focused outdoor activities like hiking, camping and nature watching, but it’s especially known for its 18-hole golf course. If you’re new to golf, you can take a lesson here, and if you’re a regular golfer, the park offers all the supply rentals you’ll need to tee up the perfect afternoon escape from the city.
The city tells the story of King’s life, work and lasting impact through the churches where he organized local and national civil rights activism.