Beautiful places in Tennessee: Road trip ideas and destinations

As the late Charlie Daniels said, “Isn’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee! This is because Tennessee is truly a special state filled with beautiful places. If you’re in the mood for travel, here are some of the most breathtaking sights and landmarks in the state.

Big South Fork, Tennessee
Anthony Heflin / Shutterstock

Named after the main tributary of the Cumberland River, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area covers nearly 200 square miles along the border of Tennessee and Kentucky. Boasting numerous natural formations of bridges and arches, an extensive network of hiking trails and five serviced campgrounds, Big South Fork has something to offer adventurers of all experience levels who wish to get out into the wilderness. nature.

Fall Creek Falls
Alisha Bube / Shutterstock

The Magnificent Cataract is the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi. Gorgeous from above, the 256 foot high falls are even more awe-inspiring after you hike to the pool at its base. Worth walking up to the parking lot afterwards, I promise

Smoky mountains
Weidman Photography / Shutterstock

The most visited national park in the United States attracts more than 10 million tourists a year to marvel at nearly a thousand square kilometers of dense forests and mountain ranges that exhibit remarkable biodiversity. Drive or hike through the park to one of the many scenic lookout points to observe the magnificent fog-shrouded peaks that gave the ancient mountains their name.

Bluegrass underground
Bluegrass underground

This cave complex outside the small town of Pelham just off Interstate 24 is a double threat. Not only does it run daily cave tours with a single room longer than three football fields, giving the attraction its old name of Big Room Cave, but it’s also a top-notch performance venue. Currently, the spot has set up a series of concerts in an above-ground amphitheater where music fans can purchase groups of socially distant headquarters overlooking the panoramic views of Payne’s Cove below.

Oleg Shpyrko / Flickr

Tellico Plains
The Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile stretch of elevated highway connecting Tennessee to North Carolina and features multiple vantage points offering views of the Unicoi Mountains and the two national forests it traverses, the Cherokee and Nantahala Forests. which combine to give the skyway its name. A favorite with motorcyclists, the Cherohala is one of the region’s greatest scenic drives.

The walls of Jericho
Michael Hicks / Flickr

Once hidden away on private land, the walls of Jericho are still rarely visited as it is quite a grueling hike in and out of the 8,900 acre wilderness area. Those who do the hike are rewarded with multiple waterfalls and rippling streams along the way to their final destination, a spectacular natural amphitheater with sheer 200-foot rock faces that ooze water from Turkey Creek to create a water feature. spectacular.

Clingman Dome
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Town of Bryson
Visitors can literally gaze out at the state of Tennessee from this peak, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The observation tower is surrounded by rare evergreen forest and offers panoramic views that reach 100 miles on a clear day. As an added bonus, there aren’t many mountain peaks where you can drive to the top and park your car a short walk along a paved trail to find breathtaking views like these.

Flickr / Guillaume Capron

Reelfoot Lake

The only large natural lake in Tennessee (you can thank TVA for all those great reservoirs), Reelfoot Lake formed when a series of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault in 1811-12 actually caused rolled back the Mississippi River and filled in the land in northwest Tennessee that had subsided due to the tremors. Known for its magnificent bald cypress trees, Reelfoot is known as a fisherman’s and duck hunter’s paradise. Bird watchers may also spot many bald eagle nesting pairs.

Flickr / Joël Kramer

The lost sea

Pure water
Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, The Lost Sea is the country’s largest underground lake at nearly five acres. Beautiful underground features such as stalactites, stalagmites, and delicate crystalline anthodites can be seen on glass bottom boat tours called The Lost Sea Adventure. Wild cave tours are also available for more intrepid cavers who wish to go even deeper into the cave.

Wayne Silver


Known as “The Peaceful Side of the Smoky Mountains,” Townsend is the least traveled entrance to the national park. Even if you never walk through the park, the view from Townsend, where the Cumberland Plateau meets the Tennessee Valley and the Smokies, is breathtaking.

Flickr / HD_Vision

Twin falls

Rocky island
Rock Island was created when the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam on the Caney Fork River in the early part of the 20th century to help supply hydroelectric power to Nashville. The resulting reservoir has steep forested shores leading down to the lake with many multi-generation vacation homes making full use of the floating boat docks and water activities. Twin Falls is a striking waterfall near the power plant where water drains from an underground cave before falling 80 feet into a pool below.

Flickr / Matthieu Paulson

Sometimes the valley can be as beautiful as the mountains, and Cades Coves at the foot of the Smokies is a prime example. An 18 km one-way loop circles the creek, providing the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and abundant wildlife of the verdant valley without ever leaving the comfort of your car. There are also a few cool historical sites along the loop, including three churches, a working flour mill, and other restored century-old structures. Take a self-guided tour booklet at the entrance and take a walk through history.

Flickr / LP

Crystal Sanctuary Cave

A true oddity, Crystal Shrine Grotto is the largest man-made crystal cave in the world. Made in the 1930s by artist Dionicio Rodriguez (a self-taught sculptor from Mexico), Crystal Shrine is a sort of kitsch / sort-of-beau tale of scenes from the Bible illustrated in carvings made of rock and quartz crystal. of semi-precious stones. . Once you cross the hole of a large concrete stump, you will enter a magical world.

Flickr / JP Lu

Tellico Plains

Tellico Plains
Located where the Tellico River emerges from the Appalachians, Tellico Plains is a prototypical sleepy little mountain town with picturesque landscapes of rolling fields, ancient barns below, and spectacular mountain views looming from above. high. With easy access to the Cherohala Skyway and the nearby Cherokee National Forest, Tellico Plains is a lovely base for a weekend of outdoor adventures.

Flickr / Tim Moore

Natchez Trace promenade

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile drive from Nashville to Natchez, MS. While speed is slow thanks to a 55 mph speed limit, it’s worth taking your time to enjoy the pastoral scenery and historical markers along the way that trace the history of the area’s first inhabitants and settlers. . Particularly striking is the concrete double-arch bridge crossing Highway 96 near Fly, near the north end of the promenade. Acrophobes may want to close their eyes when crossing. (But not if you drive …)

Flickr / Brent Moore

Falls Mill

Although the latest round of health regulations forced the more than 140-year-old mill to cease trading, the waterwheel is still spinning at this historic facility near Belvidere. Along with a bed and breakfast and water-powered antique museum and even a dog-powered butter churn, Falls Mill is worth a visit just to sit in the picnic grounds. Placid nick along the creek to listen to the stream cascading through the wheel and into the pool below. The spring foliage is particularly spectacular in the woods surrounding the mill.

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Chris Chamberlain is a writer from Nashville – follow him on Twitter at @CeeElCee.

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