Panther Creek State Park

One of the many great state parks in Tennessee, Panther Creek State Park is located in Morristown, TN in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains.  This park is made up of more than 1,400 acres and houses many opportunities for outdoor activities and lots of fun.  Water sports, camping, boating and little history thrown in to boot make this an extraordinary park to visit while you are in the Smoky Mountains on vacation.  Or maybe, you live in the area and you have never ventured out to the numerous state parks in the area – what are you waiting for?

Panther Creek and Panther Springs have an interesting story behind their names.  Supposedly, the area was originally scouted by one Colonel Bradley of Virginia.  While he and his men were exploring the area, he spied a panther or a mountain lion near the spring.  He took careful aim and shot the animal which fell into the spring.  Thus he named the creek and the spring after the animal that he shot on the banks of the river.

Panther Creek State Park borders the Cherokee Reservoir.  This man made body of water was created by an impoundment of the Holston River on its way to its confluence with the French Broad River – where the Tennessee River is formed.  The Cherokee Reservoir provides a wonderful playground on the placid water.  Panther Creek State Park is about 35 miles from Knoxville and about 45 miles north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Panther Creek State ParkWhen you get to Panther Creek State Park you will find that many of the activities focus around Cherokee Lake.  Boating, boat rentals, a bait shop and more are located right on the shore of the lake.  While you are there, you might as well spend the night in one of the 50 campsites that are located around the lake.  The campsites are full service with electrical hookups, grills, picnic tables and more.  Many people come to Cherokee Lake looking to hook into a big fish.  Bluegill, catfish, crappie, bass and bream can be found in the cool waters of the lake.  Or maybe you want to go for a swim.  The campground has a swimming pool on premises with a high dive and a wading area for the little kids in your family.

If you are looking for a change of pace or just a great weekend excursion to the foothills of the Smokies, Panther Creek State Park has a lot to offer those looking for a day of fun around the lake or for a week long getaway.  Fish, camp, swim, boat and basically get outdoors spending plenty of time in the fun and the sun at Panther Creek.

North Carolina State Parks

North Carolina chooses to celebrate the land and the landscape of the mountains in the state parks that surround the Smoky Mountains.  From the peak of Mount Mitchell to the slowly flowing New River, the state parks of the state of North Carolina provide days of recreational opportunities for thousands of visitors each year.  Whether you are wanting a simple day playing in the mountains or a strenuous hike to the top of a miraculous rock formation, check out the state parks of NC to find all that your travel needs desire.

Blue Valley Experimental Forest – This experimental forest was established in 1964.  The purpose of this forest is to study the eastern white pine and other hardwood trees.  Through the research that goes on in this forest, the understanding of the eastern white pine and hardwood trees in the mountains and foothills of North Carolina has increased and researchers have been able to help keep these forests vibrant and healthy.

Chimney Rock State Park – Chimney Rock’s main feature is the 315 foot spire of rock that just from the landscape and shares its name with the park itself.  Once a privately owned park, the family that owned Chimney rock developed the stairway and elevator that give visitors access to the top of the spire and also hiking trails to other geological formations in the park itself, including the 404 foot Hickory Nut Falls.

Elk Knob State Park – This is one of the newest additions to the North Carolina State Park system.  Right now it has just the basics:  a park office, a contact station, a maintenance facility, picnic areas and a hiking trail.  The hiking trail provides a glorious walk to the apex of Elk Knob.

Grandfather Mountain – Grandfather Mountain was added to the state park system in North Carolina in 2008.  The acquisition of this property helps to continue the vision of the Horton family (the family that owned the area known as Grandfather Mountain and turned it into the destination that it is today).  On top of the mountain you will find hiking trails, a swinging bridge and breathtaking views of the mountains around Grandfather Mountain.  Add to that the events that take place on Grandfather Mountain each year, like the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and you have a destination that could monopolize your vacation for days at a time.

Mount Jefferson State Park – Mount Jefferson rises more than 1,600 feet above the surrounding area on the Ashe Plateau.  From the peak you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains and of course the Ashe Plateau which spreads out in front of the peak.  The lush forest on Mount Jefferson bring one of the widest ranges of plant and wild life that is to be found in the Southern Appalachians.

Mount Mitchell State Park – Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.  Rising 6,684 feet above sea level, Mount Mitchell dominates the skyline.  Though Mount Mitchell is often shrouded in mist and mystery, a hike to the top of the mountain provides the visitor with an amazing view of the surrounding valleys and mountains for miles around.

New River State Park – Camping, picnicking, fishing and best of all canoeing and flat water kayaking are just a few of the reasons to visit the New River State Park.  Beautiful scenery and a pastoral landscape surround what may be the oldest river in the United States.  You can drive through this beautiful area, taking in the natural beauty or you can jump in a canoe or kayak and float gentle down this slow moving river form one of the four river access points.

Fort Loudon State Park

Fort Loudon Garrison DaysFort Loudon was built during the French and Indian War in hopes that it would act as a bridge between the people of South Carolina and the Cherokee.  Now, the fort is a state park and historic site that offers plenty of amenities to the people that visit the park throughout the year and it is also a place of living history where people from all over the country can come and learn about the French and Indian War and that time period in history.

Fort Loudon was built by the British Colony of South Carolina in 1756.  It was named for the Earl of Loudon and the people of South Carolina hoped that it would strengthen the ties between the Cherokee people and South Carolina during the French and Indian War.  Though that bond was beneficial to begin with the talks with the Cherokee broke down and on August 7, 1760, the fort fell.  The Cherokee razed the area to the ground and the site was forgotten for years.  In fact it was not until 1917 that a memorial marker was established in the place that was once the site of Fort Loudon.

Fort Loudon Garrison DaysIn modern times, you can visit a Fort Loudon that has been rebuilt to what it might have been like in its heyday.  You get to experience the time period and through living history you get to talk to the people that worked the fort.  The reenactors and volunteers make this an amazing visit for people of all ages.  They not only appear in the clothes that the people of the 18th century would have worn but they are conversant on the topic so f the day, showing crafts and skills that the people of the garrison and the communities around the fort would have possessed.  If you are really interested in that time period then you might want to plan your visit to the historic site for one of the Garrison Weekends that they have throughout the year.  On those weekends, they have crafters and vendors come in with 18th century materials and they also have a mock battle between the British from the fort and the French and Indians that would raid the fort sometimes on a daily basis.

Fort Loudon Garrison DaysOf course, this is also a state park so there is plenty to do here besides learn about the fort.  You can also play in the beautiful countryside that is East Tennessee.  Most of the Fort Loudon State Park is located on an island in Tellico Lake.  A boat dock, picnic areas and trails are only a few things that you will find to do.  The access to Tellico lake is one of the highlights and the fishing could not be better.  They even have a fishing pier that is fully handicapped accessible.

Get out in the open, spend some time outdoors.  Bring the kids to the fort and let them learn about history in a whole new way.  Explore the fort, do some hiking and get closer to history.  Experience Fort Loudon Historic State Park.

New River State Park

The New River State Park celebrates one of the oldest rivers in North America and the people and cultures that grew up around it.  The New River is one of the few rivers in the US that flows northward and adding that to its age, you have an unique area that is fun to explore.  The New River State Park has lots of amenities and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure.

The New River is in the northwestern corner of North Carolina.  Potentially, scientist think, this might be one of the oldest rivers in the US.  It was in place before the Appalachian Mountains grew up around it.  For 10,000 years or more the native people of the Smokies and the Appalachians used the New River as a waterway to transport goods back and forth between their communities.  Over the years, as the European settlers moved into the area, the New River area became a hotbed for new communities and settlements.  The easy flow of the river, the farmland surrounding the river and of course trade routes that the river provided made it a no-brainer when people were looking for a place to set up a farmstead.

New River State ParkWhile you are at New River State Park, don’t think you are going to be at a loss for things to do.  Hiking, fishing, camping and picnicking are only a few of the activities that you have to choose from .  Canoeing is probably the number one activity for people coming to the New River area.  The gently flow of the river, the gorgeous scenery around the valley that it has created and of course the relaxation that you experience as you canoe down the New River are just a few of the reasons that people flock to this area. And for flatwater kayakers, there might not be a more picturesque place to get out and play.

If the idea of the number of people that have lived in the area intrigues you, you should spend some time learning about this interesting tract of land around a truly ancient river.  The exhibit hall in the visitors center of the New River State Park houses a hands on interactive museum about the New River and the cultures that grew up around it.  From the science of the river to the native people and even modern times, you will get a look at the history and make-up of the river.  Also, they have a video on canoeing the New River.

The New River State Park in North Carolina makes for a great stop while you are on your vacation in the Smokies.  Spend a day or a weekend hanging out in one of the oldest rivers in North America.  Play in the great outdoors.  Canoe or kayak the river and experience the thrill that it has provided to people since the dawn of time.

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

Sycamore Shoals State Historic ParkSycamore Shoals is more than just a state park, it is a state historical area that celebrates the frontier spirit and the courage of the early settlers of the United States.  Now, this area lets you relive that era in history and explore the outside areas that the settlers of this region of the country fell in love with, in the 18th century.

The historic significance of Sycamore Shoals is twofold.  Number one, it was the site of the first major land purchase in the US.  In 1775, this land purchase – called the Transylvania Purchase – added 20 million acres between the Cumberland River and the Kentucky River.  Later, during the Revolutionary War, the Overmountain Men of the Sycamore Shoals area defeated the Loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain.  The victory of this militia from the Tennessee area over the British at King’s mountain is considered by many scholars to be the turning point of the Revolutionary War.

Sycamore Shoals State Historic ParkTo celebrate the history of Sycamore Shoals, they put on a number of special events throughout the season.  Here are just a few of the events that the put on each year at this great historic site:

Colonial Kids at Fort Watauga – Designed for kids of all ages, this gives you an idea about the life of small children during the heyday of Fort Watauga and Sycamore Shoals.  Games, kid’s activities and of course some black powder fun will be had by all.

Annual Siege at Fort Watauga – During the Revolutionary War the community that existed around Fort Watauga prepared for war.  This event allows you to see that preparation and even a few skirmishes throughout the weekend.

Sycamore Shoals Native American Festival – This is a two-day celebration of the people that called this place home before the European settlers arrived.  There are demonstrations of Cherokee arts and crafts, discussions and guest speakers.

Liberty: The Saga of Sycamore Shoals – this is the presentation of Tennessee’s official outdoor drama.  Come see this taste of the life of Tennessee during the pioneer days, as the saga of the Sycamore Shoals area unfolds in play form.

Civil War Camp at Carter Mansion – Visit the recreation of a Civil War camp as it might have existed in the Sycamore Shoals area in the 1860s.  Walk around the camp see demonstrations of weapons and camp life.

Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival – Celebrating the Celtic heritage of the people that settled this area, the Celtic festival at Sycamore Shoals has been going on for over a decade, drawing in thousands of visitors each year.

Overmountain Victory Trail – Two events that celebrate the muster of the troops that made up the Overmountain Men and their march through Sycamore Shoals toward the battle of King’s Mountain.

Fort Watauga Knap-In – learn how the Native Americans that called this area home made their stone tools before their introduction to steel and iron.  Demonstrations of these primitives toold take place throughout the day.

Tennessee State Parks

The state parks in Tennessee range from the historic site to the recreation center located on the shore of a reservoir.  Museums, historic buildings, educational opportunities, living history and much more await you in the state run parks of the state of Tennessee.

Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park – This is not only a great state park but it is a historic site as well.  One of the homes that Davy Crockett grew up in is located inside the state park.  It has been restored and gives you a glimpse into the man and the life of Davy Crockett.  This state park contains, a small museum about Crockett, pavilions that can be reserved down by the Nolichucky River, a campground and a pool.  Wonderful stop  if you are touring historic sites in Tennessee or just a nice place to spend the weekend.

Fort Loudon State Park – Fort Loudon State Park is built on the site of the original Fort Loudon that protected the wilderness from Native American attacks and from the British during the Revolutionary war.  Along with a fort that represents some of the best living history you will find, it also has lots of recreational activities.  Boating, fishing, hiking trails, picnic areas and much more await you at this great state park.

Hiwassee / Ocoee State Park – At the southern tip of the Smokies is a park with some of the best kayaking and rafting you will ever find.  One of the first rivers managed by the State Scenic River Program, this area offers all your summer water fun activities in one place.  Also, you get to visit the Ocoee Olympic site.  If you are a ‘yaker,’ this means that you can test your skills on a class 4 rapid called the Humungous.

Indian Mountain State Park – Located at the base of Indian Mountain, this state park has been developed on a piece of reclaimed mining land.  A truly multiuse park, Indian Mountain is lush and verdant throughout most of the year.  Boating, camping, hiking and much more draw thousands of visitors each year.

Panther Creek State Park – Panther Creek and Panther Springs are named for a legend.  Supposedly, Colonel Bradley of Virginia shot a panther in the area and said panther fell into the spring.  Fast forward to the 21st century and you have a state park named for Panther Creek and sitting on the banks of the Cherokee Reservoir.  Boating and camping are the activities that bring people to the area to explore this 1,435 acre state park.

Roan Mountain State Park – Roan Mountain provides some of the most beautiful views in the Southern Appalachian mountains.  Cover in rhododendrons, exploring this mountain and this state park during the spring provides amazing color and photography opportunities that you will not find anywhere else. Add to that camping and cabins and much more and you have a beautiful place to spend the day or a weekend.

Tennessee State ParksSycamore Shoals State Park – Historic sites, a museum and a theater depicting the history of the area are just a few of the reasons to visit Sycamore Shoals State Park.  Open from dawn to dusk every day, this quaint little park provides hiking trails and picnic areas along with tours of historic buildings.

Warriors’ Path State Park – Located on the trail that the Cherokee used for war and trading, Warriors’ Path State Park has lots of history and plenty of recreational activities for the people that visit it every year.  Biking and camping bring in the visitors but in 2007, the park opened a new opportunity for those individuals with special needs:  Darrell’s Dream Boundless Playground.  This playground is designed for those children with special needs that get left out of the excitement in some traditional playgrounds.  Warriors’ Path is a great destination when you are vacationing in the Smokies.

Roan Mountain State Park

Roan Mountain State Park (RMSP) sits at the base of Roan Mountain.  Roan Mountain rises 6,285 feet above sea level and there is no better way to see all of Roan Mountain then by sending a weekend at Roan Mountain State Park.  Swimming, hiking, fishing, camping or staying in a cabin, all of this and more await you in one of the most beautiful state park on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains.

Roan Mountain is the big draw for this state park.  The twisting mountain road that gets you to the top are only part of the fun.  The hiking trails at the top of Roan Mountain offer spectacular views of the mountains to the east and the valleys to the west.  Also at the top of the mountain, in the spring, visitors are welcomed by a covering of pink from the blooming of the catawaba rhododendron that inhabit the rhododendron garden.  This garden has one of the best collections of rhododendrons you will find in the Smoky Mountains.  People come from all over the country to see the rhododendrons that bloom in this garden above 3,000 feet.

Roan Mountain State Park gives you plenty of options if you would like to stay overnight.  Many people choose to stay in the campground that includes 107 camp sites.  Or if you want a few more amenities, they also have 30 cabins in the park.  These cabins sleep up to 4 people, have a fully outfitted kitchen, full bath, a wood burner stove and a heater.  You can stay out in the wilderness without having to break out the tent or pull in an RV.

While you are at the RMSP you can fish, hike or swim (during season).  Or you can take part in one of their many special events:

Roan Mountain State ParkWinter Naturalist Rally
Easter Egg Hunt
Spring Naturalist’s Rally
Jr. Trout Tournament
Memorial Day Celebration
Diamond Jubilee
Rhododendron Festival
Independance Day Celebration
Jr. Ranger Camp
Xtreme Roan Adventures Youth Rally
Fall Naturalist’s Rally
Chili Cook-off
Autumn Harvest 
Halloween in the Campground
Old Time Yule

Make sure that you visit Roan Mountain State Park, the next time you are in the Smoky Mountain area.  Depending on your visit, you may want to take the time to drive to the top of Roan Mountain and check out the rhododendrons when they are in bloom.  Spend some time at the base of the mountain exploring the many activities that RMSP has to offer people that visit the area.

State Parks

Around the Great Smoky Mountain area there are numerous state parks that offer hours of recreational activities and educational opportunities.  Whether the state parks are dedicated to a natural wonder in the park itself or attached to a historic event that took place, the state parks on both sides of the Smokies are remarkable.

Tennessee State Parks

State ParksFrom Roan Mountain at the top of one of the highest points in Tennessee to the birthplace of Davy Crockett, the Tennessee state parks cover lots of history and lots of territory, from the northern part of east Tennessee to the area near Chattanooga.  The parks also range in size and activities that are offered – camping, historical monuments, hiking, swimming, fishing and much more.

North Carolina State Parks

State ParksCelebrating both the wonders of nature and historic people from Western North Carolina, the state parks on the eastern side of the Smokies are spectacular.  New River State Park celebrates the New River area which was labeled as one of the National Scenic Rivers during the country’s bicentennial.  Great mountain scenery and plenty of wildlife make this a gorgeous park.  Mount Mitchell celebrates something else all together.  Mount Mitchell, at 6,684 feet is the tallest point east of the Mississippi River.  Majestic and beautiful this is the best way to enjoy the wonder that is Mount Mitchell.

Spend some time at one of the state parks, either in North Carolina or Tennessee. Learn more about the area you are visiting, appreciate the natural resources that the government has set aside and protected for future generations and of course enjoy the activities and services that are added by these state parks.

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC is a North Carolina state park. It’s one of the highest peaks at 5,946 feet in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by the south side of the mountain.

Grandfather MountainGrandfather Mountain operated as a nature preserve and tourist attraction until 2008. Known for its mile-high swinging bridge, the bridge links the mountain’s two rocky peaks.

On September 29, 2008, the state of North Carolina Governor announced that it had agreed to purchase 2,600 acres of the undeveloped portions of Grandfather Mountain from the Morton family for $12 million. It has since been added to the North Carolina State Park system, becoming the 34th North Carolina state park.

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation was established by the Morton family to continue to operate Grandfather as an educational nature park. In addition, the Morton family agreed to form a new non-profit organization and transfer ownership of the attraction. This arrangement was made as an alternative to the state acquiring the entire mountain.

Grandfather MountainGrandfather Mountain rises 5,946 feet above sea level, and due to the considerable elevation gain the mountain boasts 16 distinct ecological communities. The mountain is famous for its rugged character, and is home to many hidden caves and significant cliffs.

Two rivers originate on Grandfather Mountain, the Linville River, flowing east, and the Watauga River, which flows west. Many lesser streams also originate on the slopes of Grandfather, including: Upper Boone Fork, Little Wilson Creek, Wilson Creek (North Carolina), Stack Rock Creek, and others.

Like many other mountain peaks above 5000′ in North Carolina, an “island” of Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest grows on top of Grandfather Mountain. Though once thought to be on the verge of dying out during the 20th century, the forest has flourished despite intrusion of a non-native species. You’ll notice that a number of fir trees have been permanently bent by the high winds. In addition to fir trees, these “mountaintop islands” are a valuable and threatened habitat for many other flora and fuana that grow and thrive in higher elevations like that found on Grandfather Mountain.

Besides the Mile High Swinging Bridge, numerous other attractions now make up the mountain is via an entrance road, marked at 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC 28646. To get in you must pay a fee at the main gate, and are as follows: adults – $18, seniors – $15, children 4–12 – $8, and children under 4 are free. On occasion, the park gives discounts due to certain activities and times of year.

“Backcountry” hiking and camping are FREE and can be accessed via areas marked with the state park sign. In years past when the whole mountain was privately owned, hikers and campers were required to pay fees and still are today.

Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park

Tennessee has some great historic sites.  Being a territory during the Revolutionary War, becoming a state soon after left Tennessee as a border state of a burgeoning country and many American heroes passed through the area.  From Sam Houston to Daniel Boone, these early American’s left there touch on the Tennessee side of the Smokies.  Another of those people that passed through the area was Davy Crockett.  In fact, he was born in the area that would become the town of Limestone, TN.  His birthplace has become the site of a great state park:  Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park.

The state of Tennessee has preserved this area and the cabin that sits in its heart as a legacy to the past and to the personage of Davy Crockett.  Limestone, TN is the closest town to the state park.  As you travel through East Tennessee along I-81 you will see an exit for 11E. Take that exit and you are going to wind through beautiful landscape back to the state park.  Follow the signs, it is easy to find and the drive to this state park is only part of the fun.

Davy Crockett was born August 17, 1786 in the Limestone community of Tennessee.  The cabin that is sitting on the site is not the original cabin but it is a replica of what the Crockett cabin might have looked like.  It is the same size and shape of the cabins that were customary during that time.  Crockett grew up in this area and of course would eventually go on to become a representative of the state of Tennessee and would even be touted in popular culture on the 1950s TV show that bore his name.

Davy Crockett Birthplace State ParkPart of the fun of coming to the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park is being in the setting, on the site where Davy Crockett grew up.  The Nolichucky River that he fished in when he was young is a stone’s throw from the cabin.  The gentle roll of the landscape is probably the same as what he helped his family farm on and part of the reason that his parents choose this piece of land to settle on.  When you are done exploring the cabin, go to the Crockett Monument located in front of the cabin.  Find the natural stone from your state of origin.  Go to the Davy Crockett museum and learn not only about Davy Crockett the man but Davy Crockett the legend.

Or maybe you are looking for a great place to camp for the night or the weekend.  The Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park has a great, full service campground.  The have a swimming pool complex that is open during the season.  A pavilion by the river and a boat ramp offer plenty of opportunities to play in the water or do some serious fishing.  Get out and explore the state parks of the great state of Tennessee, spend some time analyzing the past of our nation and the state.  Visit the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park.